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Arts & Entertainment

Opening Your Ears to Rhythm

Carlos Santana

Lesson time 13:09 min

Rhythm is the canvas for melody. Carlos teaches you what he learned from watching conga players and incorporating other rhythmic traditions into his music.

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.


My father taught me to play the violin first, so I played classical music like-- I started playing this-- [PLAYS CLASSICAL RIFF] That kind of music, you know? On the violin. But when I got to San Francisco, I went to this place called Aquatic Park, and there was like 20 conga players and one flute player, and they were playing-- they were playing jingle. Like, they were playing the-- [PLAYS ROCK RIFF] But no guitars, just [MOUTHS RHYTHM] And I was like, "oh my god, oh my god." You know, there's BB King, and I love BB King, but what the hell is this? This was all So yes, when I discovered congas-- and that was the difference between Santana and everybody else in San Francisco. You had Quiksilver, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and then you have, you know, the blues bands, Paul Butterfield, Michael Bloomfield, and Fleetwood Mac. Everybody. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Cream, they're all playing blues. Just a little louder, but it's still blues. We came out with, you know, this other stuff-- [PLAYS RIFF] People were like "what the hell is that?" Like-- [PLAYS RIFF] And people, well, the first thing that we noticed is that the females started dancing differently. You know, instead of dancing like they're catching butterflies, and like that, no, they're dancing like this, like I got something that you need, and here it is. You know, and then you go, oh, you know? Congas, electric guitars, and Hammond organ, that's Santana. [GUITAR MUSIC PLAYING] Watching how the conga players played, I wanted to recreate the patterns that they have, like-- [MOUTHS RHYTHM] [PLAYS RIFF] [MOUTHS RHYTHM] [PLAYS RIFF] So, yeah. There's so much to learn from congettos and drummers, they're very melodic. And yes, I-- I purposely learned more and more rhythm guitar from them, and the guitar players-- well, of course, James Brown. He had the most deadly, killer rhythm guitar players in the world, you know? They were like spider-- two spiders creating a web for James Brown music. And once you get into that web, you're caught, you know? You hear what-- what's being played, and then you want to play on top. Like Miles Davis used to say "if you hear something, don't play that. Play what's around it." So with congas, for example, once you hear [MOUTHS RHYTHM] And it stays. And then you hear another conga player [MOUTHS RHYTHM] See, one conga's a-- [MOUTHS RHYTHM] They just say there, and then the other one is like-- [MOUTHS RHYTHM] So it's like, so, guitar players can do the same thing. [PLAYS RHYTHMIC PHRASE] See, so I put the conga phra-- the conga-- the drum phrasing with a little bit of Albert King and a little bit of like uh-- [PLAYS PHRASE] To bring it to a conclusion, you know? All of these things are language that we integrate, to create multi-dimensional, yet so simple that a child can relate to. [GUITAR MUSIC PLAYING] Basic cla...

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.

I don't come from the spiritual point of view like Carlos does, but I'm totally with him on playing with passion. Does the motivation behind it matter? I don't think so. It's about feeling it deeply and making sure it goes back out to the listeners. His joy is infectious, and it has infected me.

I've acquired an appreciation for him that I didn't have before. Thank you!

Really liked Carlos Santana before, love him now. Great class.

Great class! Thank you for lifting us up, opening your heart and sharing your passion. Musician. Philosopher. Poet.


Jonathan P.

Didn't learn nothing, just saw Carlos hearing himself jam and explain his successful career.

Gabriel P.

I'm currently learning in college about classical musical structure and different chord progressions. And similar to your lesson on Musical Rolodex I use all my different musical tastes to try and create a unique voice for myself. I refer to this lesson a lot after being signed up for a year and unique rhythms are still stumping me. It's trying to build melody around rhythm. Still finding so much to learn

Pradeep P.

We seem to continue to feel our way to understand music. I liked the part where Santana shows the canvas and the story /color

Francois A.

Life is a canvas. What a generous offering Santana gives us starting at 11:55. You can hear in these rifts the roots of some of the best material from Supernatural. The Cuban inspiration. This is absolute pure gold. I'll try this with a repeater so I can have the harmonie on one track and play various Melodie on top. Fantastic! Thanks!

A fellow student

This lesson talks about Carlos Santana's influences. Carlos Santana's playing inspired me to become a guitarist and do it for a living. He is able to play with emotion and soul and to connect that energy with his audience. He created his own sound and it is recognized around the world. I've been playing since 1975 and I still get insight from these lessons. He sites his love of African Rhythms from other countries. He has THE SAME influences as Eric Clapton and the Rolling stones, Led Zepplin and the Beatles - who were greatly influenced by early American Blues musicians, Who all use the actual songs, riffs and styles of American Blues Artists to further their careers become what they are today. I've been teaching guitar now for over thirty years. For me - if I learn one concept, get one new idea or approach, or if am inspired by something it is well worth it. Not many musicians have ever achieved what Carlos Santana has so my hat is off to him! Hendrix, Jimi Page, Clapton, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles are all great in their own right. I agree with Santana, as any actual musician. Learn from the greats in different genres. Get out of your comfort zone and learn new things and incorporate and adapt what you love into your style. That's how music is made and born. Robert Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters and B.B. King are legendary musician and their music became the roots of Rock and Roll and todays basis for a variety of Blues, Rockabilly and Boogie styles.

A fellow student

This is the worst masterclass in the series. What is with this guy? He reminds me of the Spike and Chester Bugs Bunny cartoon - only he's Chester saying "Hey America! What do you think America"? All he talks about are American guitarists - and many obscure ones no one has ever heard of or would care to. Are there no other guitarists on planet Earth that are any good, or have influenced him in any way, or those who are budding guitarists should listen to? He actually dismisses Eric Clapton (AKA God!) and the Rolling Stones and the Who as "they were playing OUR music". WTF? Then he starts talking about Global music and Classical music - then he says people should listen to Miles Davis and Coltrane and Billy Holiday - great American classical musicians! I had to stop at that point - what a waste of time - very disappointing person.

Mark B.

Great lesson #7 ... hearing the approach and intellect when listening to any music. My ears have been opened.. it seems every week I’m finding myself diving deeper with a thirst for more.. I really enjoy the practice exercises too. Great class experience. Carlos Santana is Supreme!

Antoinette C.

Joan Sebastian and Brazilian women those two opened up my eyes to how limited we've come here in linking classical to pop music. It almost has to be covert. lol Thank you again, I am so grateful for you in general but even more grateful you put together a class for us. ONE REQUEST: Can you guys put together class materials. Like I would love to buy a box set of music based on your recommendations. As well as all the other classes, the bibliographies available to purchase or at least a sampling there of... would be an excellent way to escalate evolution in our busy worlds.

Allie G.

I'm in such awe of the experiences and knowledge of Mr. Santana.....what a blessing to hear from him.

A fellow student

In a silent way. Hey my all time favorite of yours In a silent way last days of filmore god bless Bill Gram