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

Amplifiers That Boogie

PRS Santana Guitars
Mesa Boogie Amps
Guitar Tabs
Back in the late '60s, the primary amplifiers in use were Marshalls and Fenders. While both had interesting qualities, neither delivered the smooth, tone-rich distortion and sustain that guitarists craved. The only way to improve their performance was to have them modified. Thus Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Mike Bloomfield and others had their amplifiers worked on in order to get a more pleasing tone.

Mesa/Boogie Amplifiers

Carlos Santana wasn't the only artist to discover these little dynamos. In the early '70s John McLaughlin used them to create the seminal Mahavishnu Orchestra albums, Al DiMeola cranked them for his Return to Forever days, and David Gilmore's model fueled his soaring Pink Floyd lines.

Many, many other artists also played Mesa/Boogie amps, but Carlos Santana is arguably the most visible to use the products.

First the first two albums, Carlos Santana used a Fender Twin Reverb, turned all the way up. It is likely that the amp was modified (including the switch to an Altec speaker) to create more gain, yet still didn't provide as much sustain as he would have liked. To compensate, Carlos would use several techniques, including: 1) cranking the guitar's volume control at the end of notes; 2) turning the guitar towards the amp to generate feedback; and 3) doubling some of the held notes (in the studio) to add thickness.

But in 1970, an engineer named Randall Smith took out the guts of a Fender Princeton and installed circuitry designed to produce the maximum gain.

When Carlos heard the souped up amplifer, he cried: "Man, that little thing really Boogies!" Thus, the Mesa/Boogie brand name was born. For more than five decades, Santana has continued to use the amplifiers. It is only recently that he has incorporated Dumble amplifiers into his gear. He uses a Jim Dunlop Amp Switcher to move back and forth between those two models, as well as a Fender Twin Reverb. (And, in true Santana style, varies his choices from night to night.)

Sound Effects

Preferring to get his sound from humbucking pickups and an overdriven tube amp, Santana employs effects sparingly. His current pedal board includes a Mu-Tron Volume/Wah Wah pedal that he has used for nearly his entire career, as well as an Ibanez Tube Screamer (added much more recently, and used very rarely), and an Ibanez Modulation Delay.

Though it's hard to detect effects on most of the Santana albums, he has sometimes used a particular technique where he finds a spot within the Wah Wah pedal's range that he likes, then leaves it there. This is especially evident on Abraxas' instrumental ballad, "Samba Pa Ti."

In addition, there are other examples of him using the Wah Wah in a more conventional fashion, such as passages from "She's Not There," "Soul Sacrifice (Head, Hands and Feet)," and "Dance Sister Dance (Baila Me Hermana)," all from Moonflower.

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