Music, 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.

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

Topics include: Building Melody Around Rhythm • The Rhythmic Pattern of Clave • Melding Clave and Blues • Grooving in 3/4 • Use Rhythm as a Canvas


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...

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.

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Carlos Santana

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

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