SANTANA: Taming the Serpent?!? Tone on another level, MF’s!



Carlos Santana regrouped w/ original lineup from Woodstock era. Saw a concert film of the tour. His tone is brilliant, modernized exact version of his OG timbre when he played a SG Special P90s. No he’s rocking a PRS signature Les Paul style into a Mesa Boogie replica of his original Fender Princeton 1×12″ w/ fuax snakeskin {both side, th0 not top ot bottom} tolex. For a player who is obsessed w/ Hendrix & Trane, I would say his tone journey is ever evolving, and this is his “3rd peak” the 1st being the late 60’s, the next mid 90s when he rocked a wall of half stack boogies w/ his older sig model. This new sound is so unhinged, it has enough bite that it reveals every single mistake in the right hand attack, but that lends it an edge that is so additive to listen to i have rewound the gig twice already. Also of note: his unique requested shorter than Gibson scale length magically vibes w/ a Fender 25.5″ scale. Neal Schon who joined after/during Santana II and went on to be the 80’s shred god w/ Journey is back on board in band and is playing what appear to be a large peghead semi-hollow Strat from custom shop w/ a Sustainiac at neck for ebow like notes. Somehow Santana’s gtr sustains even better and louder w/ just the front pickup. It is a total pros tone, completely unforgiving and as aforementioned it shows his semi-sloppy picking approach howevz I know from chasing the same tone dragon that there is always a tradeoff in sustain and clarity of note projection, because in order to get the notes to really sing you have to use some amount of chop to the pick or fingernail angle, which inevitably is less precise yet way huger sounding. The gimmick being only Jimi or Pat could actually balance the tone and the chops on that highwire (think Gr-303 Offramp or Jimi circa’69/’70 live). Anyway I think Carlos is not the fastest player, not was BB King but when they dig in for expression you really feel it. Call it mojo, or maybe his black magic woman tone. I love that he is never staisfied w/ his rig, th0 this particular one is so perfect for his approach it will be diff to top. I would really like to hear someone with more virtuoso / technical guitarist get a hold of this setup and see what super fast metal sounds like on it including tapping and hammer ons sweep picking pinched harmonix etc. It sounds nearly alive and about to fry a speaker. Pure sonic bliss!


Before you give me an I told you so about single speaker amps, I will also say that we just caught Joe Walsh opening for Bad Company for 1 of those ticketslave class action free gigs for a class action filed against them for parking ripoffs. Joe started w/ the James Gang , solo, and Eagles ‘Hotel CA’ era, always dug his tone (think Rocky Mtn High for his slide sound, or Life in Fast Lane for his rthm sound). His basic ‘Funk #49’ timbre was/is a Tele into a Fender Champ straight up! He claims the 8″ speaker has a certain resonance which is unbeatable for recording. Ok, so you win mf! (Re: single speaker low wattage amps do have a place in the recording booth. Howevz…big giant chasm of a caveat here: both Santana (live and studio) and Walsh (studio only) found their dream sound for LEAD ONLY. Their rythm sounds are both pretty lame IMHO. The trix that therefore must be resolved is how to get that wicked melting lead sound that a focused 1 x12 can project, yet a crunchy Serpents Exile type rhythm sound that edges on metal yet remains grounded in hard rock. This triumvirate of tone & timbre is the holy grail I will keep searching for. My thought as of today is turn the master volume down yet on the 100w full pentode (not 60w triode) mode on my el34 equipped Boogie (it came stock w/ 6l6 I upgraded during our album) for my rhythm sound and do the opposite on the Bogner: set it to 20w not 40w to get the EVH ‘brown sound’ (which was actually a ’68 Marshall 100w JTM plexi sent thru an light bulb (primitive, right?) attenuater as heard on at least Van Halen I & II. Not just any JTM100 from the peak era of the plexi (pre metal panel, but post bright caps and faster tracking transistor rectifier upgrade from factory). It was modified by 1 Reinhold Bogner! That single amp gave him his legend, from which he would go on to evolve from the top repair/ mod guy in very busy 80’s LA rock scene to 1 of worlds top amp builders. So in a weirdly complex way, all roads lead bak to Jimi, who really blew the lid off what could be doe w/ a dimed fullstack Plexi rig x3! Those sounds cam from VOLUME in the end, which is why for me 2 half stacks will be my version of balancing the force between the small spkr theory and triple stack amnesia. Howevz, diming the samll wattage setup and dialing back the high headroom for apr0x equal SPL on each side may solve the riddle, seeing as both rigs will stay on at all times to cover a wider HZ spectrum. I think the rack tube preamp will have to help solve the splitting difference of each sound to merge them into a cohesive whole.


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