Arts & Entertainment, Music

Melody Is Supreme

Carlos Santana

Lesson time 15:11 min

Learn Carlos’s strategies for writing a melody that moves listeners to their core.

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

Topics include: Slow Down • Write a Melody by Playing a Poem • Playing a Poem: "Samba Pa Ti" • Don't Be Afraid of Silence • Build Islands in the Song • Heroic Phrases


What I learned through my years is that I'm fascinated, again, with melody. Chord changes do not fascinate me. Someone said to Albert King, hey, we noticed that you don't play any chords, you just play lead. And he goes, what do you think I pay this mm-hm all this money for? Let the keyboard player play with chords, man. I just play lead, you know? And I started laughing, because there was something to that, because when he plays lead, oh, he plays lead. You know? Now, there's some people who play lead with chords. That's a whole other level of knowing. You know, Wes Montgomery plays chords. You know, he can play lead, but he played chords. I'm not excusing anything. I'm saying that both are good, but for me, melody is supreme. [ELECTRIC GUITAR PLAYING SLOWLY] If you want to get better at carrying a melody and making a melody present, with magnetism, the stuff that attracts the listener-- listener to-- to-- to-- to stay with you, you have to practice being present. And you practice being present by slowing everything down. It's amazing how, in your mind, you have to will-- will your mind. When you slow everything down, things become deeper, juicier, and obviously-- obviously, more meaningful. So slow it down. It was Wayne Shorter who said, you have to think faster to play slower. Those are for the, you know, the people who played really fast. You have to think-- you have to think slower to play faster, and you have to think faster to play slower, people who play a ballad. There's a lot of insight in that. This is the "Samba Pa Ti" melody, and it goes like this. [PLAYS "SAMBA PA TI"] Well, that's the first verse, you know? The second was like-- [PLAYS GUITAR] So you're putting a little bit more on it so to-- to-- so it-- it would be very different than the first time round. Now you're taking more liberties and you're-- you know, you're putting more garlic and more onions in it, you know, to give it more flavor. So again, slow it down. [ELECTRIC GUITAR PLAYING] It's going to be all right, you know? [SINGS IN SPANISH] It's going to be all right. (SPEAKING) You know? So though I'm not saying it in English, that's exactly what I'm saying. [PLAYS GUITAR] Though it's really hot-- [PLAYS GUITAR] --I'm next to this beautiful lady. [PLAYS GUITAR] It's going to be all right. [PLAYS GUITAR] I played "Europa" to help this lady, that she was having a bad LSD experience, because she didn't like what was going on inside her head, because it was all inside her head. "The Mushroom Lady." (SINGING) The mushroom lady's coming to town. And she's like, oh. All of a sudden, her craziness, and her fear, and paranoia wasn't important. She was like, oh, you're writing this song for me? Look at any poem by anyone that you love, and then try-- you know, nobody's grading you. Nobody's giving you grades or-- or marks. You know, just practice looking at the poem and pu...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Carlos Santana

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

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