The legendary guitarist keeps things simple with his signature PRS guitar, a few pedals, and some lustworthy amps.
On April 23, 2014, Premier Guitar met with Carlos Santana’s guitar tech, Ed Adair, before a show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Adair walked us through Santana’s collection of custom PRS guitars, a Pete Cornish- and Teese-stocked pedalboard, and a collection of holy grail amps.
Santana tours with a rack full of his signature PRS models. Although he has a lot of backups, Santana tends to play the same guitar all night. At the moment, “Salmon” and “Son of Salmon” are in heavy rotation. According to Adair, each guitar has a few modifications: “The locking saddles are the third generation of a design that Paul Reed Smith and his team came up with. Paul had a design drawing within a few days and we had them installed on the ‘Salmon’ a short time after.” When Santana wants to bust out some old-school Spanish guitar, he goes to his Jazz Electric Nylon model built by luthier Toru Nittono.
After being retired from use for some time, Santana’s original, snakeskin-covered 100-watt Mesa/Boogie is back onstage with the master. Santana also plays through a pair of Dumble Overdrive Reverbs and a pair of Bludotone Universal Tone heads—one of which is a prototype. The amps drive a pair of paisley-covered PRS 4x12 cabs. One cab is loaded with four Celestion Vintage 30s, the other sports two Celestion Vintage 30s and two Celestion G12-65s.
Santana’s pedalboard is about as minimal as it gets. He starts with a 50' Canare GS-6 cable with Switchcraft and Neutrik connectors. This runs into a Pete Cornish LD1 line driver and then a Real McCoy Custom RMC4 Wah Pedal made by Geoffrey Teese. From there, the signal goes into a Pete Cornish AC Powered 3 Way Signal Splitter/Mute. The splitter works in conjunction with two custom 2X Amp Selector rack units made by John Suhr. Also in the rack, next to the Peterson Strobe Tuner, is a TC Electronic D-Two delay, which runs through the effects loops of the two Bludotone heads.