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Chasing the Santana tone again.

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  • Chasing the Santana tone again.

    I know, I know . . . it's in his fingers.

    I'm sitting here, listening to some Santana, with my morning coffee. I can't get over that sweet, creamy, subtle distortion that he gets, even at low volume. I know he runs into a wah, (which you seldom see him step on, on stage), so I'm guessing that he sets it in one position, then leaves it there. But, it's hard for me to imagine that that sweet distortion comes from amp overdrive because he gets it even when he's playing softly. On the Premier Guitar rig rundown site, they show no distortion pedal on his board.

    Here's such a great example of that tone:



    How does he do it?

  • #2


    He has an Altec Lansing Alnico 12" speaker in his favorite Boogie amp. If I remember right it's a 417 8C model.

    That speaker is a big part of his sound, IMO. It's not manufactured anymore. Speakers are so important.

    On that tune it doesn't sound like his guitar's volume control is turned up all the way. I like it.

    Solid rosewood necks on his guitars. That's got to give them a unique sound and sustain.

    And a 50' cable to lose some treble!

    I know Carlos used to use 50's Gibson PAFs.

    His sound is so full and warm. Unlike anyone else's.

    Now he supposedly uses the "PRS Santana" pickups in his PRS.

    Last edited by Lewguitar; 08-04-2020, 07:28 AM.
    “Practice cures most tone issues” - John Suhr

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Lewguitar View Post
      And a 50' cable to lose some treble!
      I saw that. And what's funny is, he uses a line-driver . . . at the end of the 50' cable.

      Nice video. I missed that one. Here's another nice one of that tone, and especially, with him playing gently at times.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ArtieToo View Post

        I saw that. And what's funny is, he uses a line-driver . . . at the end of the 50' cable.

        Nice video. I missed that one. Here's another nice one of that tone, and especially, with him playing gently at times.

        He's on the bridge pickup for the whole 6 minutes of that tune!

        I've been working a lot with swapping magnets in the Antiquitys in my PRS guitars to get my version of some of the tones of my favorite 60's players.

        I can get pretty close to the tone in that tune, Samba Pa Ti, with the stock Antiquity bridge humbucker in my own PRS Singlecut.

        My Antiquitys came with roughcast A2 magnets stock.

        Last edited by Lewguitar; 08-04-2020, 11:49 AM.
        “Practice cures most tone issues” - John Suhr

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        • #5
          I always thought that sound is the original Boogie's cascading gain design. Playing a MK I, it is hard not to sound like Santana.
          Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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          • #6
            yep. boogie mk1 and buckers = santana tone. the short scale prs dont hurt either

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            • #7
              He sounded just as good through Fenders on the first few albums. He plays loud. Loud Fenders sound great and are very dynamic.
              Oh no.....


              Oh Yeah!

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              • #8
                that was a very different tone to my ears though. i loved the cranked fender and sg, but the boogie is a different sound

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                • #9
                  Check out this Lansing 417 8C on Reverb. I think it's a big part of his tone. He keeps it in that snakeskin Boogie. https://reverb.com/item/34885897-alt...973-gray-white
                  “Practice cures most tone issues” - John Suhr

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                  • #10
                    I liked his sound a lot when I first started playing, but it got tiring after awhile. Not all Boogie players have that quality to me, though. Maybe it is his EQ choice, or that parked wah sound.
                    Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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                    • #11
                      "Parked Wah." I think that's it. Find the sweet spot. Then leave it alone.

                      It's late. Let's come back to this.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ArtieToo View Post
                        "Parked Wah." I think that's it. Find the sweet spot. Then leave it alone.

                        It's late. Let's come back to this.
                        It may be a parked wah, but a lot of it is the Boogie Mark series lead tone. The rotary tone controls are really early in the circuit, and the amps have a ton of midrange. Lots of heavier bands used those amps, but it's really hard to dial in a Metallica, Dream Theater, or even G'NR tone without the graphic EQ. I've heard that BITD John Petrucci had his amp set to 'EQ Auto' which automatically engages the graphic EQ when the lead channel is activated. This would be his heavy rhythm sound, and he would use the secondary footswitch to turn the graphic EQ off for leads. The amp has plenty of compression and gain as-is, so a separate boost isn't really necessary.
                        Originally posted by crusty philtrum
                        And that's probably because most people with electric guitars seem more interested in their own performance rather than the effect on the listener ... in fact i don't think many people who own electric guitars even give a poop about the effect on a listener. Which is why many people play electric guitars but very very few of them are actually musicians.

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                        • #13
                          If you don't have a wah (to do the cocked wah thing; which makes the guitar tone very vocal or honky depending on your taste), try this:

                          grab an EQ and put it in front of the amp. try either 500Hz or 800Hz and boost said frequency. Then roll down the treble a hair at some point in your rig (guitar, eq, amp).

                          Here's a clip of mine from the last SDUGF Solo Comp; I used a Fulltone WahFul as a parked wah, and there's something very vocal about it.

                          BTW, if you set a wah at the correct spot, your note will sustain for a long time.

                          Last edited by LLL; 08-04-2020, 08:27 PM.
                          Lefty Lounge Lizard's Guitars & Amps Extravaganza



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                          • #14
                            I don't think a cocked wah wah pedal is how Carlos does it. He may do that occasionally, but that's not the secret.

                            Paul Reed Smith says that the first time he met Carlos, Carlos was at a music store wailing away through a little battery operated PIGNOSE!

                            Paul says it was all there. The tone, the sustain...all of it.

                            I think the secret is Carlos himself. His personality, his musical tastes, his passion and his talent.

                            That old snakeskin Boogie with an Altec Lansing 417 8C speaker helps a lot!

                            Virtually no one uses those old Altec 12's anymore...just Carlos.

                            And then we marvel at his unique tone!
                            “Practice cures most tone issues” - John Suhr

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by LLL View Post
                              If you don't have a wah (to do the cocked wah thing; which makes the guitar tone very vocal or honky depending on your taste), try this:
                              That clip sounded great. Sweet tone. I have several wah's. My favorite is the AMT "Japanese Girl" wah. It has a 3-position switch so that you can tailor the EQ curve to the guitar.

                              Lew: Part of what I'm talking about is that subtle creamy dirt he seems to get independent of how hard he lays into his picking. I love that tone.

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