Santana-style Central American flavour
Carlos Santana polarises opinion: some love him and others just don’t get it. Whatever your view, one thing is certain: you cannot mistake this man’s playing for that of any other guitarist on the planet.
It’s not that Carlos plays a load of weird and wonderful scales - he’s largely a minor pentatonic guy but loves to pepper it with added sixths and ninths for a more Dorian flavour.
But he also has a certain touch that’s all his own, and certain signature licks such as those triplet trills - sometimes legato and sometimes all picked - as well as a certain way with bends that’s hard to pinpoint but is instantly recognisable.
Then there’s that rich, thick sound laden with harmonic overtones and drenched in distortion. You can say it about Hendrix and BB King, and you can say it about Santana too - “one note from Carlos…”
Use these licks as a springboard for your own ideas.
Click onwards for the free tab, examples and backing track.
This is straightforward A minor pentatonic stuff (A C D E G). There are two points at which two different strings are played at the same fret.
For the major third interval (E to C) on the second and third strings, 15th fret, barre your first finger across both. For the fourth interval (D to A) at the 17th, use third and fourth fingers, as we want these as separate notes, not ringing together.
This is sort of lick one on steroids. It’s all about hammer-ons and pull-offs between two sets of three strings - first, second and third, and second, third and fourth.
Essentially each move is a four-note phrase with one picked string and three notes played legato. It sounds pretty quick, but is quite easy to play once it’s under your fingers.
A typical Santana lick, you’ll hear this in any number of his tracks. What makes it sound different is that every note is picked. And what makes it sound cool is the final note that adds a #5 (C) to the E7#9 chord beneath it - very Steely Dan!
Here’s the famous Santana triplet lick. We played it legato, but you could choose to pick every note.
It’s followed by a semitone bend with no vibrato added - another trait that Carlos sometimes employs - before tumbling nicely back down the A minor pentatonic in this order: C A G E D C A A G.
This is a slightly odd one that amalgamates various aspects of previous licks. Again, this is all A minor pentatonic and uses a mixture of picked notes and legato to give that Santana vibe with perhaps a bit of Hendrix thrown in.