Evil Ways, by Santana — How to Play

evil waysEvil Ways is played in the key of G Minor Dorian, a mode of F Major, and both of these scales share the very same notes.

This time, we are going to learn how to play Evil Ways, as performed by Santana on their self-titled debut album in 1969. The song was written by Clarence Henry and was originally recorded by Willy Bobo in 1967. It has been said that Carlos Santana detuned his guitar one whole step to play the chords in an open position for the recording.

Song Parts and Analysis

This song only uses a few chords, which makes it a perfect selection to learn on when you are just starting out, but there is enough going on to keep the song interesting and fun to play for experienced players. The song is really just one two-chord section of music that repeats until the one-chord change (or Turnaround). The interesting thing for experienced players is in the complex polyphonic rhythm that is the backbone of this song and of most of Santana’s music. Santana plays the two chords but uses many subtle rhythmic changes that can prove to be quite challenging to get perfectly. For this tab, I just kept it simple but you can hear the many variations if you listen closely.

Key and Scale

Evil Ways is played in the key of G Minor Dorian. G Dorian is a mode of F Major and both scales share the same notes.

G Dorian = G A A# C D E F
F Major = F G A A# C D E F


The first few bars of the song introduce us to the chords. We get a little guitar fill from Santana in the second bar that gets repeated in the 4th. It shows up again later in the song, so I tabbed it out and it looks like this. (Fig 1)

Figure – 1

Here is another look at those chords (Fig 2)

Figure – 2

The fill is a Pentatonic type run in the 3rd (G Minor) position and we can see that the chords are G Minor and C Major. There are a few different variations of the chords that you can try out but these seem to work the best. (Fig 3 & Fig 4)

Figure – 3

Figure – 4

Verse Part 1

The bulk of the Verse section of Evil Ways is a two-bar pattern that repeats. It uses the same G Minor and C Major chords that we have already been using and it looks like this (strumming pattern will vary). (Fig 5)

Figure – 5

You can see that this section of the music uses the same chords as in FIG 2 or any of the alternate chords. This section of music repeats a different amount of times, depending on which verse you are playing, but it always leads to the next section.

Verse Part 2

For the second part of the Verse, the chords are the exact same: G Minor and C Major, but the strumming pattern changes to accent the Vocals. It is a two-bar section that repeats once and looks like this. (Fig 6)

Figure – 6

Verse Part 3 / Turnaround

The last part of the Verse is another two-bar section that brings us back to the beginning. This two-bar section also introduces us to a new chord: the D Major b7. This is what it looks like. (Fig 7).

Figure – 7

Here is another look at that D Major b7 chord (Fig 8)

Figure – 8

There are a few variations we can use for this chord as well. (Fig 9)

Figure – 9

The first thing that we might notice is that a D Major b7 brings in an F#, which is not a part of the G Dorian scale. This is “perfectly legal” in music theory because you can always move between chords of the same Type. In this case, we move from a C Major chord at the end of Pt. 2 and can move to any other Major chord including D Major b7.

Outro Solo

The last section that we need to look at is the Outro Solo. The Outro Solo has a faster double-time feel to it and to get to it Santana plays a Guitar Riff at the end of Part 3 of the last Verse, that looks like this. (Fig 10)

Figure – 10

Once you execute this guitar fill you go into the last section of music. It is a one-bar section of music that repeats until the end of the song and introduces another chord. It looks like this. (Fig 11)

Figure – 11

Here is another look at those chords (Fig 12)

Figure – 12

We can see that the new chord is a G Minor 6, and here are a couple variations that you might try. (Fig 13)

Figure – 13

Solo Analysis

Santana plays the solo using the G Minor Dorian Scale. For this solo, he alternates between the 3rd and the 10th positions. (Fig 14)

Figure – 14

Song Form and Overview

Once you have all of these parts of Evil Ways, it’s time to play the whole song.

A = Intro
B = Verse Pt 1
C = Verse Pt 2
D = Verse Pt 3
E = Outro Solo

The song goes:

B 6x Verse 1
B 6x Verse 2
B 13x Keyboard Solo
B 4x
D with Fig 10 run
E 30x Guitar Solo


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