Ultimate Santana - sheet music Guitar Tabs for Ultimate Santana. Includes "Oye Como Va" and "Black Magic Woman."

Ultimate Santana - sheet music Guitar Tabs for Ultimate Santana. Includes "Oye Como Va" and "Black Magic Woman."

Santana's Tone: Guitar, Amp, Effects Gear

PRS Santana Guitars
Mesa Boogie Amps
Santana GHS Strings
Guitar Tabs
While a guitarist's tone is shaped, in great part by his playing style, his equipment forms an integral part as well. In particular, Carlos Santana's amplifiers, guitars, and effects combined to create the warm, singing tone for which he is renowned.

Guitar, Guitars, Guitars

The first link in the "signal chain," an electric guitar is a unique piece of equipment. It lives in both the acoustic and the electronic world, translating a player's hand motions into an analog signal. As such, a player chooses a guitar both for it's "feel," and for it's tone.

PRS Santana MD

The latest in Paul Reed Smith's continuing series of Santana Signature Guitars, the Santana MD has a couple of new features, but also includes the favorites that have become Carlos Santana trademarks over the years.
For his earliest albums, Carlos chose a Gibson Les Paul Special Guitar, first with P-90 pickups, and later with standard Humbuckers. The P-90 pickups were closer to the single-coil pickups created in the '40s than those used later on Fender Strats and Teles.

This instrument is quite close in tonality to the Gibson SG Guitar, with which he is most often pictured on stage during that period.

Note: The SG is an unusual instrument. While it looks cool, the fretboard is stiff, the balance is awkward (take your hands off the axe and its headstock falls toward the ground), and the sound is limited. However, the double cutaway on the SG does allow access to the topmost frets, although with only 22, the highest note accessible (without bending) is a "D" two octaves above middle "C." This may have affected the choice to play many of the early songs in the keys of "G" and "D."

The Les Paul Special was far from a top of the line guitar, and did not have the beefy richness or warm sustain of the more expensive Deluxe and Custom models. However, it was, in part, those very shortcomings which helped Carlos create the uneven, raw sound which powered his early years. By using the volume control as an onboard signal adjuster, Santana injected a sense of dynamics into his playing which, combined with his passionate phrasing, gave him a signature edge.

For the third album, Santana (often called Santana III), Carlos had switched to using a Gibson Les Paul Standard, as well as an SG with humbucking pickups. You can hear a bit more meat in his tone, although he hadn't yet achieved the warm, singing sustain for which he became known.

By 1977, Santana's main guitar was a Yamaha SG2000, also with a double cutaway body style, which gave him the necessary access to the highest frets. This guitar, in particular, could be considered -- in conjuction with the Mesa Boogie amps (see below) -- the beginning of the famed "Santana" tone, with it's smooth roundness, even sustain, and thick tonal quality. (Although he is often said to have played the Yamaha SG175, that was the original Yamaha model from which the SG2000 was developed by Carlos and Yamaha together.)

This signature sound first achieved prominence on 1977's Moonflower, a combination of live and studio tracks that was Santana's last commercial success until the 1999 release of Supernatural. Carlos played the Yamaha fairly steadily for about five or six years, until 1982.

Upon discovering Paul Reed Smith in the late '70s, Santana began using a custom PRS model, and by the early '80s, it had become his primary instrument. Though Carlos has played several different models over the last few decades, they have all been similar, including double-cutaway bodies, 24 frets, and humbucking pickups.

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