Carlos Santana has long been considered a pioneering guitarist with his solos and blues based melodic playing. His incredible performance at Woodstock catapulted him into the public eye and he has gone on to lead a successful career and has been cited as an influence by countless guitar players, including Prince and Kirk Hammett of Metallica. In 1981, we talked with Carlos about his tone.
What are your main guitars?
“My main guitar is a custom made Paul Reed. It’s got a very good tremolo system that really stays in tune. The sound is very good and strong. It’s got Seymour Duncan’s in it (Duncan Distortion’s). I use it probably 80% of the time. I also use my Yamaha’s and I’m expirementing with Duncan’s in them. Recently I’ve gotten into Strat’s. I’ve got one old one, a maple neck, that I use in the studio and a number of copies that I can take on the road. I’ve got Duncan Vintage Strat’s in them. There’s also the “gold leaf” Fender Strat that you’re building for me (That will have Duncan SSL-5′s in it).”
What is it that you like about Seymour’s Pickups?
“Most of the pickups I’ve tried have a sound like hamburgers cooking. Either that or they squeal like a microphone. The Duncan’s don’t buzz or have a microphonic squeal. They sound very good and when they feedback it’s to my advantage. They are very controllable. When you play, everything has got its’ part in helping you to express yourself. The pickup is like a car’s motor. Without the guitar, it’s not going to get you anywhere. But when the guitar is together, the motor gives it the power, makes it sing.”
“During a song, when the percussionists finish a solo and it’s my turn next, I can’t drop the ball. It’s O.K. to make a mistake, but if the tone’s not there, then everyone goes home with a headache and nothing more. The Duncan’s sound good when they’re up high and also when the band gets real quiet and the playing really comes from the heart. There’s no problems and that in itself helps me tremendously.”