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Arts & Entertainment

Leading and Playing in a Band

Carlos Santana

Lesson time 10:22 min

Carlos teaches you his approach to building a passionate band, playing with vocalists, and participating in generous, fulfilling artistic collaborations.

Carlos Santana
Teaches the Art and Soul of Guitar
Carlos Santana teaches you how he creates a distinct, soulful guitar sound that moves the hearts of audiences.


The way to structure a rehearsal is based on respect for everyone in there, and at the same time, more than respect for the musicians and the humans in the room, more respect need to be needed to the song that we're about to play. Because to respect it is to take the time to honor the tempo, the groove, and the feel. When the tempo, the groove, and the feel is correct, you don't have to have a melody or words to it. You can just lay in there. You know, you can just lay in there. And it's like, oh, you know, you don't have to go anywhere. You're already there. The groove for "Light My Fire" is everything. [HUMMING BASS LINE FROM "LIGHT MY FIRE" BY THE DOORS] You can say there forever, you know, with that bass line. And rehearsals, for me, is a way of getting acquainted with the groove, feel, and tempo of this song. And then people would know by my eyes when we're far away, when we're closer to it, you know. If we're far away, then I'm giving someone a look like, why are you playing that, you know, or, why are you not playing this-- something, you know, something more-- I think that what I do in soundchecks is as always to remind the musicians, be present. When you're present, you never ask dumb questions, because you already know what it is because you're present, you know. So I do rehearsals and soundchecks basically to get everyone to have one breath. [INHALING SHARPLY AND EXHALING SLOWLY] Like a symphony, when-- when the conductor goes "doot doot doot doot doot doot doot," and he goes like this, and then they go. [HUMMING OPENING STRAINS OF BEETHOVEN "SYMPHONY NO. 5"] You're like, damn. You know, how they all hit it at the same time. It's astonishing to have a conductor know how to sculpture a sound with precision, and definition, and effectiveness, every single time. [RHYTHM GUITAR FIGURE WITH LATIN FEEL] In Africa, you can have probably 500 people play at the same time. Astonishing as it may sound, you have a whole city playing at the same time, and not one guy is playing another guy's part, because they'll give you a, hey, that's my part. Get your own part, man. I'll hurt you, you know. You know, so they tell you in Africa, hey man, get your own damn part. That's my part. I play that-- you know, that's my part, you know. So it should be the same thing, whether it's the symphony or heavy metal, you know. Each-- each part should be respected and-- and honored. And stay out of the way from that person's interpretation or-- or expression. Get your own. [DESCENDING BLUES GUITAR LICK] Listening is probably the greatest gift you can give anyone-- across the room, across a table, or on stage. Sometimes, just listening, you are like, wow, the way you were looking at me when I was playing. I say, yeah, I was really drinking from your well. The music makes you play that that you need to do with the person that's singing. And they always go, how do you know what to play with-- behin...

Find the heart of your sound

With 10 Grammys and almost 50 years on stage, Carlos Santana teaches you how to play guitar in his spiritual style. Learn how he weaves emotion, artistic expression, and musical genres from across the world to create a sound that transcends classifications and connects with audiences. Join Carlos in his studio as he breaks down his process note by note—so you can discover the soul of your sound.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Carlos is pure joy, he respects the hard work and fundamentals, but drives home the consistent theme - and truth that it's all about the best of humanity, and it's heart and soul that makes it whole. Thank you for blessing us with this master's class.

Lots of good stuff - particularly philosophical aspects of music.

Watched this with my son, who is learning guitar. Felt like we were sitting in the same room with Carlos.

OMG! The Golden Wisdom of a Life Journey on a transformational path and purpose as a vessel for pouring musical beauty into the World.


Mike D.

Great insight into the heart aspect of music. From a tone that resonates to feeling your way around what the musician or singing standing next to you is saying. The heart and soul of the language of song. Aspects I never gave anywhere near enough attention to. Unguarded and exposed... And vulnerable. Brilliant Mr. S...

A fellow student

My favorite line is when Carlos said, “the most important thing in the room is the song... everything should serve just that... the song... it is even more important than the humans that are in the room... I knew that as a young man... when my performances meant something... somewhere I became to aware of what everyone was thinking when I play... irony is... when I had to work really hard to preform a piece... work weeks on one song... my performances were better then... than when learning the songs came more easy... I became to aware of the room... when I was starting out I wanted to be the guy that could pick up songs easier... thought it would mean I had arrived as a musician ... I only created new problems ... thank you for helping me find my coarse again and reminding me it’s all one big journey... I NEEDED to hear what Mr. Santana was teaching.


Dear Masterclass: I didn't quit. I'm in school You told me I could keep the other classes I'd like to have access to them again. I'm waiting for school money in order to get more and Tom Morello too. PLease send my other classes back with Carlos Santana in them. Thanks Kamp Kamp

Paul R.

Mr. Santana, first time responding since taking the course, I have just been taking it in. Really great, and it resonates so much with what feels right for what I am trying to do. I am responding to this lesson since this is what I have been saying and trying to do with a project I call Do It Now, so it was great and made me laugh as I listen to you say what I have said to the "band", what we have said to each other as we go out with this project. Listening and the respect, who knows if you will ever see this or have time to watch it, but Here is one recorded live, If you find yourself Screaming over what you see happening to our world, this is a piece called Why are you always screaming with Jo Sallins, Tony Vacca, Joe Roderick, John Isaac Sheldon and Paul Richmond - Recorded live, at Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center. I think it is important to know Joe Roderick is blind and this was the first time he was playing with us.. fit like a glove, listening and respect, thanks very much for doing this class.

Ben P.

This is a metaphor for everything in life, not just music. Thank you Carlos. Privileged to hear this advice.

Allie G.

Thank you for having so much respect for ALL walks of music ! From ALL walks of life and culture. A true musician.

A fellow student

Here is the thing. I have written many songs with melodies but i have trouble singing the melody when i play the guitar chords. I can easily modulate my voice to sing the words with chords but i like my melodies. My question is can i simply pluck the melody notes and not play guitar chords at all? Otherwise the melodies become all arpeggios which i don't mind. They are easy to play. Can you help this? you are a master artist and i like your class. It makes me like music more.

Brett B.

Such good advice! I particularly appreciated the section Demand Precision. In fact, I took a little video of it and messaged it to my bandmembers. And they were like, "huh?"

Dan A.

I'm usually pretty hard on my band members when they don't practice or play sloppy and most importantly "not be present". But I always validate what they do right. It's just that they do a lot of things wrong and not do their own homework. Since we play progressive metal, technicality is something you need to get better at by yourself and not at band rehearsal. But since we're all pretty much best friends we just have to live with each other. sometimes even scream at each other hehe joke

Tom B.

This was absolutely an incredible lesson!!! I will watch it again and again! I lead a team of 20 sales people in my job and this lesson applies to leading any sort of band not only musical. I love the part on conversation and not interrupting, raise the level of expectation and they will rise to it! Respecting the song which can apply to a message and limiting improvisation because it will not be remembered as much as the song. Carlos, this lesson hit home with me!!! Tom Burton