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Arts & Entertainment

Melody Is Supreme

Carlos Santana

Lesson time 15:11 min

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

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.


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...

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.

Great inspiration from Carlos as always!! Thanks for sharing!

How to be a better person, and that it's the person behind the guitar that matters most of all. How important? All important.

How to bring light into darkness with the help of music.

Getting the best advice from the best in the business.


A fellow student

I wanted the philosophy I feel like mechanics you can get anywhere the thing you can only from the person.

A fellow student

I have always called music the language older than words and you expressed it.

Pradeep P.

I find Santana racing ahead - As a beginner I am finding it overwhelming but I understand he is going into the philosophy rather than the mechanics of the music in this lesson.

David H.

So enjoying this series! Carlos goes way beyond the technical aspects and takes us right 'inside'. It's a spiritual experience! Bravo!!

Francois A.

Everything is gonna be alright... You can hear it in the phrasing. Carlos talks to us with his guitar, shares stories of people's decisive moments. This is why the melodies are so vivid and attractive, powerful. Perhaps chord changes are interesting also, in that sometimes only a few notes change from cord to cord, creating a sort of inner melody inside the harmonic changes. Harmonic solos in balades, like the Wes Montgomery style, and octave double note solos (Wes, Benson) are very rich to. But melody IS supreme. Allow me to share a short moment with my last guitar teacher, Reg Schwager (by far the best guitarist in Toronto — I only had access to him because I'm best friends with his wife cello jazz artist Kiki Misumi, who just recently passed— a huge loss in the Toronto jazz scene). Reg would makes faces at me when I bend my strings. He would prefer I make clean and clear notes, and follow the time signature before I start doing fancy things around the melodies. He's more of a Wes Montgomery then a Jimmy Hendrix. But in between the two, I have Santana that gives us freedom and license to all the bending we want. I very much appreciate this lesson for all these reasons. Here is Reg caught in a moment:

Cesar M.

So happy that Carlos has become so much more verbally expressive in recent years...has so much to say and very deep insights. Gracias Carlos!!!

Mark B.

Told a friend of mine I was listening to Miles Davis when we were discussing music in general.. his reaction was like “ wow ..really.” Formerly big on r&b , rap..etc.. funny

Ellak E.

I love Samba Pa Ti song. Interesting to know the poem in it and the history of it. Though for me is like a place in time where I can trust in life and reminds me of my own softness of thought. Interesting to get to know the skills of Carlos Santana and his point of view of music. Very interesting MasterClass. I am enjoying it very much. EK

Emmanuel D.

just started reading “The Music Lesson” by Victor Wooten and have the impression to listen to Michael

Brett B.

This lesson gave me some great ideas to help me connect better to an audience. I perform a lot, and one of the reasons I signed up for this class is that I want to make a stronger emotional projection with my playing, and the idea of having a conversation with the listener or reciting a poem, and doing it with compassion is something I believe will work if I put it into practice. Yay! Samba Pa Ti is such a beautiful and moving piece, I spent some time learning to play the melody as Santana demonstrates in this video. Here is my offering. I also enjoyed riffing on the "Heroic" phrase he learned from Miles Davis at 13:14, and although the Tab is helpful, it still has a lot of errors as in example 8.3 =( Also, I am not sure what to do with the Practice Pieces at the end of the lesson. I wish there were some audio examples of how they should sound, or some instructions on what to do with them. Anyone else feeling this?