This month Martin Cooper checks out the unique soloing style of Latin blues-rock-jazz maestro, the legendary Carlos Santana.
Martin Cooper goes south of the border for a lesson in Latin licks from Carlos Santana.
Carlos Santana formed the band that shares his surname in 1967 and has been guiding it towards sold-out tours and multi-platinum album sales ever since. It was in 1969 when Santana played at Woodstock that the band first came to the attention of music fans, partly because they provided a contrast to many of the other acts that played that weekend. The band and its leader have tried their hand at many styles of music, but always stayed true to their Latin roots. They have recorded with contemporary artists such as Jennifer Lopez and Chad Kroeger and scored a worldwide hit with the Rob Thomas fronted Latin pop song, Smooth.
Santana were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and have also won eight Grammy and three Latin Grammy Awards. They recently released the album Santana IV, which also features Journey guitarist Neal Schon who played with Santana as a young guitar slinger in the ‘70s. The band hasn’t always enjoyed success - the ‘80s and early ‘90s were lean in terms of commercial sales, but their success was re-ignited with Smooth from 1999’s Supernatural album.
Santana’s style draws from Latin rock, jazz, blues and salsa and the band has a unique sound. Carlos began playing guitar at age eight, learning from his father who was a mariachi musician. He is famous among guitar fans for his rich PRS tone, and fluid lead lines that infuse his songs, weaving around the vocal lines effortlessly. His influences include Jimi Hendrix and Peter Green, whose song Black Magic Woman is one of Santana’s most well-known recordings. He also used a Fender Princeton amp modified by Randall Smith, and upon remarking to him: “Man that little amp really boogies” actually caused Smith to create the name Boogie when he began to produce amps commercially.
This month’s track is Latin flavoured and is in the key of B Minor. B Harmonic Minor scale is B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A#, which is why there’s an F# chord in the song, giving it a distinctly Latin vibe. The parts aren’t difficult and there’s a lot of repeating progressions and harmony, but you’ll need to have confidence and authority. The rhythm guitar uses soul and blues ideas and the chart is just written for one guitar, as Carlos very often combines a rhythm part with some lead lines. Check out the Playing Tips and Get The Tone box for further information.
CARLOS REmARKED TO RANDALL SmITh, ‘mAN ThAT LITTLE Amp REALLY BOOGIES’ CAuSING SmITh TO CREATE ThE NAmE mESA BOOGIE whEN hE BEGAN TO mAKE AmpS.
Carlos Santana: original Mesa Boogie user and top PRS stalwart