Yamaha SG

One-Time Santana guitar

More than 10 years of photography have etched the image of Carlos Santana and his PRS Signature guitar into the public consciousness. The resurgence of Woodstock footage has served the same purpose for one of Santana‘s original guitars: a Gibson SG.

But the six years that Santana spent playing a much less known guitar — the Yamaha SG — have been, to a great deal, eclipsed. However, that guitar, played by Carlos during a pivotal point in his career, probably had a lot to do with what many people think of as the “Santana Sound.” That is, a round, smooth-yet-beefy-tone, complemented by endless sustain.

Embodying the best of the features of Santana’s two previous guitars, the SG and Les Paul (both by Gibson), the Yamaha SG175 was a thick, woody guitar with double cutaways in the body. Combined with his Mesa Boogie amp, it helped him develop the signature sound for which he is renowned today.

Actually, although the model number was SG175 at first, Carlos and Yamaha together modified it into it’s eventual form, which was called the Yamaha SG2000. That is the guitar heard on the original recording of “Europa,” “Open Invitation,” and other classic Santana songs.

After Carlos had played the guitar for a while, it was “discovered” by other popular guitarists of the day, including Steve CropperKerry Livgren (Kansas), and Mick Jones (Foreigner).

Recently, Yamaha has reissued the model as the SBG2000, as well as several other related models. It’s a fitting tribute to the legendary status of the artist who originally helped the world see the quality of Yamaha guitars.