Samba Pa Ti – Full Version

As promised, my attempt to play Carlos Santana’s ‘Samba Pa Ti’……

What started out as something simple ( I wanted to show off my new guitar) turned into a three and a half month study. You see, I found a transcription of Samba Pa Ti in an old guitar mag. Perfect for my new guitar I thought, but when I tried the first few bars it didn’t seem quite right, and that’s where it all started. That’s where the journey to this youtube video began.

I searched youtube trying to find videos of Carlos Santana playing. However, when he plays live he varies his performance, and never plays it the same twice. There’s loads of cover versions, some are very good too, but then again, they’re all different. I wanted to stay close to the recorded version on the Abraxus album, use that as my benchmark. I listened to it morning noon and night. I began working my way through it phrase by phrase.

While I was doing this I carried on making regular searches on youtube for more versions. I’d also check every couple of days for newer versions. I found some really great ones. My favourites include the version by Al Mora, the accoustic version played by Mark Galloway, Mark Thompson’s version, and the inspirational version by Grandma Mary.

I had a bit of a breakthrough when I found a video of the man himself talking about Samba Pa Ti, how it came about, how to play it, including some excellent tips on how to get a suitable tone.

Samba Pa Ti started out as a poem…
“Through every step of life you find freedom from within”… Carlos Santana.

Samba Pa Ti appeared on Santana’s second album Abraxus, which is still regarded by many as his finest work. As a study piece it is one of the most rewarding I have ever tried. Not only is it a great study in guitar playing, but also a great study into the unique and totally fabulous playing of Carlos Santana.

Carlos style relies on a mystical feeling ‘Duende‘ found in flamenco music, a sensation described as ‘musical shockwaves in the soul’. He has a very fluid sense of timing, and will often play repeated musical phrases with sublty different phrasing. He rarely uses vibrato at the top of bends. Unison bends are another characteristic.

Like I said at the top, three and a half months. That’s three and a half months and still learning, because each time I hear the original I’ll hear some little thing that I’ve missed, some little inflection that I hadn’t noticed before. Sometimes I think I’m close, then other times I think I’m miles off. I asked one of my favourite players how long it had taken him to get his version as good as it was. He told me 38 years and still trying!!! So I’ve got a long way to go. However, I hope my version does the song justice. Yeah, I know it’s just a bloke playing to a backing track. I’d love to play this with a live band.

Many many thanks to all who gave me encouragement with this, especially Mrs Stratobiker who can now spot a fake Santana from the first phrase!!!!


Technical Shiz – I used my Gibson Explorer, through a Digitech RP6 for the overdrive, into an old Roland 1680 hard disk recorder. I got the backing track from the internet.

My camera can only cope with 2:40 mins recording, so I had to use two takes and stitch them together. I set the camera running, then set the recorder running. I used Windows Movie Maker to do the stitching and tidying. Once I had the video sorted I imported the sound track from the Roland, and ditched the sound from the camera. I took the liberty of overdubbing a second guitar for the unison bends at 1:42 as per the original, and also adding extra reverb for the lick at 1:09, again, like the original.

Update 18th Feb 2010 – I got such great compliments for my tone I thought I’d post some wise words on tone from the great man himself…..

“Just about any guitar will give you that tone as long as you’re not playing it really load………as long as you play it somewhere in the middle…..some guitars if you play them at very very low volume they get very thin, it’s like a baloon that is not inflated…..and if you play it too loud it sounds like you’re talking with you mouth full of food…..somewhere in the middle is where you get that pretty pristine tone.” …… Carlos Santana

I found these words on the video here

Then, a couple of days ago I got a message from my VanderBilly friend Wolf. He’d found a really interesting article on the Gibson website titled, “How Carlos Santana Refined and Defined his Sound with Abraxas”. It’s a great read, and it goes into some detail about the equipment that Carlos used, and the way in which he used it. Specifically talking about Samba Pa Ti it says….

“Although the cornerstones of Santana’s sound on Abraxas are his Gibson SGs, volume and the pureness and control of his touch, there are spots where he audibly used a wah-wah pedal to attenuate his tone. On “Samba Pa Ti” he left the pedal cocked to an open position throughout the song, achieving a sweet, warm distortion that produced the album’s most subtle guitar tone.”

You’ll find the full article here.

Thanks Wolf, a great find, and a damn good read.

It was a cold dark moonlit night…

It was a cold dark moonlit night, three men in a boat on the open sea, Captain, First Mate, and Cabin Boy. The Captain shouts, “Mate, tell us a story”. This is the story he told…..

It was a cold dark moonlit night, three men in a boat on the open sea, Captain, First Mate, and Cabin Boy. The Captain shouts, “Mate, tell us a story”. This is the story he told…..

Actually, it was a cold dark moonlit night back in April. I was trawling a few pages on ebay when I spotted a Gibson Explorer that I liked the look of. It had very little interest. I put in a half-hearted bid and thought no more of it. A few days later I got an email to tell me it was mine! Great, just the slight problem of how to get hold of it.

I asked my buddy JW at Pearce Cycles if he would collect it for me from the seller in Cheltenham. JW knows a bit about guitars so he’d know if it was OK or not. I bribed JW by telling him that he’d have to look after it for me until I could collect it, and naturally it would need playing. JW agreed. JW duly collected the guitar, and reported back to me that it was a little grubby, but apart from that was solid, and played well.

So, I’m running through all the scenarios of how I could get it to France, some of them involving it being sent part of the way, and ending up missing or broken. Plus trying to factor in the cost of fetching it. Weeks turned into months. Then I got an email from an old friend. He was driving down through France on his way to the Picos de Europa in Spain for a cycling holiday. He asked if I needed anything from Pearce Cycles as he would be calling in there a couple of weeks before leaving the UK, then driving down right past our doorstep.

Last weekend Duncan and Trish arrived with my guitar. Not only that, but they thought we might be missing a few things from the UK so they’d brought us some Marmite, some Heinz Baked Beans, some proper tea bags, Marmalade, and Famous Grouse whiskey. Flippin super heroes or what? They stayed for a couple of days, so I dragged them all over the trails of the Monts de Blond by way of a thank you.

Back to the guitar. Just like JW said, she was a little grubby, but she played well. I gave her a birthday clean up and a new set of strings. She plays just great. Now in case you don’t know, white Gibson Explorers are different, they have an ebony fingerboard, assuming that they’re not a refinished guitar, which this one isn’t. Explorers are great, I love them, your just 10 times cooler as soon as you strap one on, and they’re so much more than just a ‘Metal’ guitar. Though if you do a search on youtube that’s what most ‘players’ tend to do with them. So to redress the balance slightly I’ve posted a few bars of Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti” to show her gentle side. Here she is…

Trish, Duncan, if you’re reading this I hope you had a great holiday, and many thanks again for bringing my guitar.

A new axe to grind!

It had been raining for days. I’d played my guitar until my fingers were raw. Cabin fever was upon me!

I’ve been thinking about buying a new acoustic guitar for years! My old Jap built Epiphone FT135, that I bought in the late 70s is great for bashing out chords, but she’s hard work when it comes to finger picking. Actually, I’ve tried to buy a new acoustic before, tried 100s, can’t find one I like.

Après avoir accompagné des jazzmen célèbres (Bill Coleman, Stéphane Grappelli, Don Bayas, Albert Nicholas…), écumé les salles et usé ses cordes de gala en gala, Georges Suchod décide de raccrocher sa guitare pour créer le premier vrai magasin de musique limougeaud. savoir plus…

Anyway, with dreams of a new acoustic I set of in search of Suchod Musique in Limoges. Never been there before, but surely they’d have something. Little did I know what was in store…

As soon as I walked through the door I just knew it was gonna take some time. Just hundreds of gorgeous guitars, like an aladin’s cave. Electrics and acoustics, Yamahas, Takamines, Taylors Godins…..”Oh look Carla, that Fender Tele, lovely”… Strats, Teles, Arch top Jazz guitars from Ibanez and Gretch, birds eye maple, cool. Beautiful flame top Les Pauls……. and then, there she was, waiting for me…a Gibson Explorer!!!

I asked if I could try it. I’d dressed to try guitars, no zips, studs, or watch, only soft clothing, I pointed this out to the sales assistant. He goes off to get Monsieur Suchod, I dunno why. So, this old fella hands me this gorgeous guitar, and ushers me to a stool next to an amp. By the way, it’s a nice Fender tube amp, not some nasty transistor thing. As the amp warms up, the old fella is telling me what a great guitar it is, and how they’re so versatile and much more than just a rock machine. Yea, I know that.

My 68 Cherry Explorer - a peach of a guitar

It’s a great guitar that’s well set up. I’ve owned Explorers before, this is a good one. Monsieur Suchod is still extolling it’s virtues. I ask him if he plays, “a little”, he tells me. I get up and offer him the guitar, he declines, but I insist. He plays a few stiff notes. What happens next is amazing…

As we chat, Monsieur Suchod starts to play some fabulous jazz stuff. Super lines, and some chord inversions I’ve never seen before. I try to clock them for future reference but they’re gone in a flash. He stops for a second, asks if we mind him smoking, lights a cigarette and continues to play. He’s away now, playing with the casual style and confidence that only comes from years of playing. I wish I’d had my camera with me at that moment because the sight of this old jazzer, ciggy hanging from the corner of his mouth while he rattled out a few tunes on an Explorer was quite surreal. Yes, they really are a versatile guitar, and Monsieur Suchod sure can make it sing.

Turns out that the 79 year old Georges Suchod has been playing guitar all his life. He’s played with all the big names of the jazz world. There’s a picture of him backing Bill Coleman on his office wall. He opened his first music shop in 1968 the year that Carla was born! Oh yes Georges knows his way around a guitar alright.

A young Georges Suchod (on the left) backing Bill Coleman

I bought the Explorer. How could I not buy it. She was there waiting for me, the only one in the shop, a proper cherry one, and a peach of a guitar. It was meant to be, and sold to me by Georges Suchod. You can’t change destiny. I’ve been in hundreds of guitar shops and bought nothing. Tried hundreds of guitars and walked away. But this one, she’s mine, it was meant to be.

Georges Suchod and me.

If you are ever in Limoges, I reckon a visit to Suchod Musique is a must. Even if you’re not a player, go in and meet Georges, ask him to play. He’s a great bloke, a superb player, and you’d be in for a real treat. If you are a player, they’ve got everything you could possibly need. I recommend them highly.

You’ll find Suchod Musique at 6 rue du General Cerez, Limoges.

Gibson Explorer headstock