Car­los San­tana

From blues to rock, from fu­sion to his na­tive Latin and be­yond, Les David­son looks at the Living Leg­end that is the mighty Car­los San­tana

Guitar Techniques - - LEARNING ZONE -

the gui­tar at age eight. the fam­ily moved from aut­lán de navarro to tijuana, on Mex­ico's bor­der with Cal­i­for­nia, on to san Fran­cisco.

It was here that Car­los heard ev­ery­thing from blues to jazz and folk mu­sic. Af­ter fin­ish­ing school he washed dishes and went busk­ing for small change, but was al­ways hon­ing his gui­tar skills.

Car­los came to promi­nence in 1966 when pro­moter Bill Gra­ham in­cluded him on a sun­day blues jam at the Fill­more west, re­plac­ing Paul But­ter­field who was in­dis­posed. But­ter­field’s gui­tarist Michael Bloom­field and Bri­tain’s Peter Green in­flu­enced Car­los greatly, as did BB King, and you can hear th­ese in­flu­ences even to­day. But he also de­vel­oped his own unique gui­tar voice. It was clear to all who heard him that a unique tal­ent was emerg­ing.

Car­los was al­ready in the san­tana Blues band along with or­gan­ist and singer, Gregg rolie, David Brown on bass, and Mar­cus Malone on per­cus­sion. they played for free when­ever they could in San Fran­cisco’s bay area. Bill Gra­ham gave the band its own spot at the Fill­more west in the sum­mer of 1968. san­tana's big break­through came at the 1969 wood­stock fes­ti­val where they gave a su­perla­tive per­for­mance which was recorded and re­leased on the sub­se­quent wood­stock film in cine­mas all over the world, es­tab­lish­ing san­tana as a pow­er­house of latin-rock in­fused with blues, un­like any­thing that had come be­fore it. The first two al­bums, San­tana and abraxas, were a main­stay in the al­bum charts around the world and could be found in most dis­cern­ing record col­lec­tions of the time.

Car­los also in­ves­ti­gated a more modal ap­proach, as can be heard on his col­lab­o­ra­tion with jazz gi­ant John Mclaugh­lin on love De­vo­tion sur­ren­der; he also lent his gui­tar skills to Kora player Mory Kante’s late-80s al­bum touma. He has since col­lab­o­rated with some of the top names from both the old school and the mu­si­cians of to­day.

the fol­low­ing two 16-bar ex­am­ples serve as an in­tro­duc­tion to Car­los’ melodic solo­ing style. First his late-60s ap­proach and then his late-90s. Use the ex­am­ples to ex­pand your vo­cab­u­lary and over­all tech­ni­cal fa­cil­ity.

Car­los tends to use his amp vol­ume turned up and his gui­tar vol­ume con­trol backed down, open­ing it up for so­los. He uses a con­ven­tional pick­ing tech­nique although both ex­am­ples are playable with pick and fin­gers ap­proaches.

san­tana tends to play a mix­ture of lan­guid lines in­ter­spersed with fast sprints. there are many ways to build up speed but the Gt

The most valu­able pos­ses­sion you can own is an open heart; the most pow­er­ful weapon you can be is an in­stru­ment of peace.

ap­proach is to sug­gest you learn the licks at a man­age­able tempo be­fore at­tempt­ing to play them at per­for­mance speed (un­less of course this presents no prob­lem to you). Do­ing things slowly and de­lib­er­ately al­lows you to fo­cus on where any prob­lems lie - is it your pick­ing let­ting the side down; or are your fin­gers sim­ply not used to the po­si­tions or shapes used? Us­ing a lit­tle pa­tience to nail the prob­lem area will reap huge re­wards later on, in terms of pre­ci­sion when tack­ling and over­com­ing spe­cific prob­lems, and in your over­all gui­tar tech­nique.

Car­los tak­ing one of his leg­endary top-of-the-neck ex­cur­sions

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