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Arts & Entertainment

Guitars, Amps and Sustain

Carlos Santana

Lesson time 13:04 min

Take a tour through Carlos’s guitars and amps, and learn how he gets his famous sustain onstage.

Carlos Santana
Teaches the Art and Soul of Guitar
Carlos Santana teaches you how he creates a distinct, soulful guitar sound that moves the hearts of audiences.


It matters to have good equipment if you want to take it to the next level. Like if you're, like, a great violin player and somehow you're able to afford and get a hold of a Stradivarius, then people are going to go, whoa, I never heard you sound like that before. Because this Stradivarius took my sound to a whole other level. You have to work on you first. You are the main instrument, and then everything else that you get will sound good. But I've seen cases where people had the best equipment but they don't know what to do with it. They don't know how to put their heart in it, you know? That gave me an advantage because I had a rinky-dink, ugly amplifier, but I could beat him up because they didn't even know what to do with those amplifiers. So again, it's a lesson of this. Learn to work on you, you know. Learn to slow it down, take a deep breath, and from the center of your heart make this phrase true and real and honest, sincere. Genuine, honest, sincere, true, for real, authentic, all of those things go in that note again, you know-- genuine, honest, sincere, true, for real, and authentic. Ooh, it's a lot of things to remember. Well, then just tell the truth when you play. [MUSIC PLAYING] The relationship with Gibson and Santana in the beginning was there because I didn't know how to strangle a Stratocaster and get something pretty out of it. And so when I said Jimi and Eric and-- I was like, ooh. You know, it seems like they have to play really, really, really, really loud in order to sustain because Stratocasters, the pickups are not as easy to sustain unless you have a foot pedal, tube screamer, or something. So you have to play real loud. I didn't want to play that loud, so I use humbucking pickups. The SG, the one in Woodstock, that one is not here because it wouldn't stay in tune. The neck was-- the neck was-- when I said that when I was on acid it felt like it was a snake instead of a guitar neck, it was an electric snake, and I was correct because the neck was going like this, so it wouldn't stay in tune. So I had to make ugly faces to make it stay in tune, you know? And when I looked at it I said, oh, you know-- so after a while I said to the band, hey, you know, I need a new guitar. This guitar won't stay in tune. They go, eh, you know, you just want a new guitar. So at that time we were just beginning, so we were very democratic, and I had to get permission from the whole band to get a new guitar kind of thing. Silly me. So anyway, I said, look man, this guitar won;t stay in tune. They're like, eh, you just want a new guitar. And I says, well, look, man, I'm going to get me a new guitar. They say, well, no man. You know it's like. So I grabbed the guitar and I went like this, splash against this brick wall, and it went like toothpicks, "pshh". And I said, I need a new guitar, man. And the new guitar, after the SG met her demise, I went and got me a brand-new Les Paul, single cut. Neil Schon and ...

Find the heart of your sound

With 10 Grammys and almost 50 years on stage, Carlos Santana teaches you how to play guitar in his spiritual style. Learn how he weaves emotion, artistic expression, and musical genres from across the world to create a sound that transcends classifications and connects with audiences. Join Carlos in his studio as he breaks down his process note by note—so you can discover the soul of your sound.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Although I am only a novice guitarist, the wisdom imparted by Carlos has enriched my life and made me feel like I can accomplish whatever I set my heart on.

I'll never bee in the same room with Santana, but today I was. I feel like I got to know the man, the musician and the musical philosopher.

I don't play the guitar and probably never will but Carlos lays out a banquet of wisdom and soul food that has left me feeling happily stuffed full! :D...thank you so much Carlos you are a real gift to humanity.

I love the way of Carlos telling some insights and backgrounds of how to bring the soul into guitar playing.



This was the best lesson ever. Great reminder that we're creating waves, heart to heart.

Francois A.

This is really true. I was once face to face with a real Stradivarius. I hired Martin Foster, first violinist of the Montreal Metropolitan orchestra, to play a section in a movie. The guy was 6 foot 6. There was no way anyone could get closer then 5 feet from his beautiful instrument. I took pictures of it, on large negative, but could not touch. In between takes, Foster played passages from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. It was just like honey for the ears. The sound technician asked me to listen to the tracks once we shot the scene. He had a quadruple punch trough. A punch trough is, on an analogue reel to reel, when a sound is so vibrant that as the tape winds on the pick-up reel, it re-records the note on the layers underneath. A single punch-trough is quite normal with a very loud sound, like an explosion. But a double, mind you a "quadruple punch-trough", the guy had never heard this before. We kept is as is in the film. It gives an impression of echo, though we didn't use any loop or echo filters on the takes. For those who want, you can hear this at 1:32 minutes in the film ( ). So yes, Mr. Santana is absolutely right, a great instrument really takes you the the next level. But I like that he makes "us" the instrument, from the skin of our finger on the fret, to our whole body and soul, we "make" the instrument vibrate to it's natural peek. "We" are the instrument. Fantastic. I needed to hear these words, and coming from such an authority, it really digs a groove in my brain. Thank you Mr. Santana.

Brett B.

"Music should be like when you're watching a fireplace or a waterfall. It's always moving… " Santana has such a gift for poetic metaphor! Using a peddle for sustain is like a Polaroid picture or trying to hug someone through plexiglass... Sustain is like sunlight breaking into a rainbow through a glass… A Dumble amp is like skin on skin… I am inspired by his imagination! Since we're on the subject of gear, I have to say that my PRS Santana signature is like a dream come true! After more than 30 years of playing and owning different guitars, it is the only one that has absolutely everything on my wish list! I am so grateful to Santana and PRS for creating this guitar! Unlike Santana, I do use pedals for overdrive and distortion, which I run through a clean amp channel. Attached is a photo of my pedal board. The wah is a definite "yes!" for me too...

Verzaubert Z.

lol... funny he mentions taking acid and seeing the guitar as a snake. would be nice if he made some references to his guitar tech person. also loudness can add to sustain when feedback is happening, though in this scenario it appears to be more about the perception of sound quality relative to decibel amplitude. A whisper can sound like a storm if pumped up enough. lol Blues. LOL

Dan A.

I own a 30th year anniversary Custom 24 CORE model (Orange Fade Quilted Maple). I'm playing it in my music video here But I opted to go for my own custom made guitar. This is what I wanted. I call her Excalibur.

Tom B.

I got a PRS for Christmas last year and it does stay in tune as does my Yamaha SBG 2000. The big difference is the Yamaha weighs about 12 pounds and the PRS is around 7! It's a lot kinder to your shoulder! Wish I could afford a Dumble but my Boogie Mark II B does a great job and just found out that is was Inspected by Mike Benelli when it went in for some repairs. A friend Floyd Radford who played with Johnny Winter bought and refurbished an old Fender Twin and it sounds gret with his 64 Strat. He played at the Filmore with a group called Tin House in San Fransico before he went with Johnny Winter. Wondering if you remember the name.

randy H.

I wish Carlos could have talked about the distortion/overdrive/ fuzz pedals he uses.