Skip to Content

Is Santana the Best Guitarist?

Is Santana the Best Guitarist?

Is Carlos Santana the best guitarist when compared to so many other talented guitarists? It’s a debate that often comes up among music fans. 

One thing is true, Santana’s guitar playing is unique and incorporates many different styles. Does this alone make him the best guitarist? 

Let’s take a dive into Santana’s music and figure out if he really is the best at what he does.

What is Santana’s Musical History?

Born in 1948, Carlos Santana started his musical journey at age five. His father, a Mariachi musician, taught him how to play the violin. The Santana family lived in a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, but moved three years later to Tijuana. 

Picking up the guitar at age eight, Carlos found his true passion. 

His early influences came from the local Norteño music and American blues artists like B. B. King and T. Bone Walker. As a teenager, Santana played shows with local bands in Tijuana strip clubs.

In the early 1960s, Santana moved with his family to San Francisco. This move proved to be a pivotal moment in his life. 

Around this same time, he formed the Santana Blues Band with bassist David Brown and keyboardist Greg Rolie. The band would soon be known simply as Santana. 

The band’s early success led them to play Woodstock in 1969. Their performance at the festival, especially Santana’s eccentric guitar playing, was one of the most memorable sets from that legendary weekend. It earned them an immediate recording contract from Columbia Records. Their first album, titled Santana, was released just weeks after Woodstock.

Santana’s musical career has been non-stop ever since then. He and various configurations of his bands have won numerous awards, including 10 Grammy Awards. While the musicians he plays with have changed, he has never stopped performing or recording his music. 

When Did Santana First Hit the Music Scene?

Santana first hit the San Francisco music scene in 1966. His band played a mix of Latin, rock, jazz, salsa, blues, and African rhythms. The emerging psychedelic music scene readily adopted Santana, and the band began playing regular club shows around the city. 

Black Magic Woman

Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac originally wrote Black Magic Woman. In fact, it appears on two of their albums released in 1969. However, the song didn’t become a hit until the following year, when Santana recorded it for their Abraxas album. 

The melodic yet shredding electric guitar playing on this song is a treat for the ears. It’s a great example of his unique style and why some music fans consider Carlos Santana the best guitarist. 

Oye Como Va

Heavy electric guitar, drums, and organ on this Latin rock tune make it a favorite among Santana fans. Tito Puente Initially wrote Oye Como Va in 1962. But, it only became a hit when Santana recorded their version in 1971. 

Oye Como Va translates to Listen to My Rhythm, which makes perfect sense for a song with intense rhythm. 

What Makes Santana’s Guitar Playing Unique?

Santana’s guitar playing showcases his early Blues and Latin music influences mixed with technical prowess. His style of playing melodic riffs mixed with complex rhythms creates a sound unlike many other guitarists. 

Santana’s technique has changed over the 50+ years he’s played music. His early days as a raw, somewhat unorthodox guitarist attracted fans drawn to a new sound. As he progressed, he developed a smoother, more controlled way of playing. 

Santana’s spirituality is important to him, and he incorporates it into his music. His most passionate fans mention this aspect of his music as part of what makes him a unique guitar player. 

Santana understands his role in the world and uses the guitar as a way to reach people. In his own words, “When you’re up on that stage or when you record, you want to be a tool that light shines through to everybody.”

Are There Guitarists Considered Better Than Santana?

When debating whether Carlos Santana is the best guitarist, inevitably, people will discuss other well-deserving guitarists. Names such as Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Prince, and Keith Richards share top-tier status with Santana. 

It comes down to personal preference. Technique and uniqueness of style all play into who technically may be the best. But many music lovers feel that Hendrix is the best guitarist ever. At the same time, others give Santana that status.

So, yes, other guitarists may be considered better. But it depends on who you ask. 

Can You Still See Santana Perform Live?

Carlos Santana currently tours with a band of incredibly talented musicians. Most of the members have played with Tito Puente, Etta James, Mariah Carey, and Aretha Franklin. 

They have a tour scheduled for 2022 spanning the United States from the West to East Coast. 

Pro Tip: Santana tickets sell out quickly, so purchase your tickets online soon!

Is Santana the Best Guitarist?

As previously mentioned, your personal taste in music will usually dictate who they say is the best. Even the most discerning music critics will differ on their top guitarist pick.

Suffice to say, Santana’s the best guitarist in the hearts and minds of many music fans. His music will undoubtedly remain an inspiration to aspiring guitar players around the world.

Have you seen Santana play live? Tell us about it in the comments!

Dennis Herrle

Friday 25th of March 2022

Saw Santana and Eric Clapton in Pittsburgh PA on June 30, 1975. Great concert especially when they were both on stage together. Once they opened the roof of the Civic Arena we could begin to breath again.

Great Oldies

Monday 28th of March 2022

That must have been awesome!


Thursday 2nd of December 2021

Love, Love, Love Santana - Awesome guitarist.

Great Oldies

Friday 14th of January 2022

We agree!

Jean Jean Gillen

Thursday 2nd of December 2021

Love your history on information. Jean

Great Oldies

Friday 14th of January 2022

Thank you! And thanks for reading. (Sorry for the delayed response!)

Terri Peterson

Thursday 2nd of December 2021

Thanks for the Santana info. I believe he also played at Woodstock right? I think Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of the Best Guitarists. But Carlos Santana definitely deserves a spot on the list.

Great Oldies

Friday 14th of January 2022

Santana did play at Woodstock! Stevie Ray Vaughan is definitely on our list of best guitarists too. You might even see an article or two about him in the near future. (Sorry for the delayed response.)

%d bloggers like this: