Paul Reed Smith Once Tried to Build a Guitar with 25 Onboard Effects for Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana performs live in 2000
(Image credit: Garry Clarke /Redferns/Getty Images)

From the most ornate of custom electrics to the simplest of parlor acoustics, Paul Reed Smith has designed all kinds of guitars over the course of his illustrious career.

As Smith told John Mayer in a recent Zoom chat however, there are some ideas that are so out there – putting more than two dozen onboard effects into a guitar, for instance – that not even he can make them work properly.

“Carlos Santana and I worked on this project for a long time,” Smith told Mayer. “We put about 25 tones in the guitar that you could rotate through different people’s pedalboards. You would set the pedalboard, and then you would have all that circuitry on a DSP in the guitar.”

“And so I built him this big pedalboard and it had [EarthQuaker Devices] Bit Commanders and all these wild-sounding pedals on ‘em. I put tape over the whole thing so he couldn’t see it. He just had switches to hit.”

“It sounded immense," Smith continued. "And I wanted to put it in the guitar so somebody sitting in the store just goes, click click click… I think it’s a good idea. Never gonna make it.”

Mayer, for his part, was intrigued by the idea. “I love hearing about things that are good ideas that nobody’s gonna want,” he said. “It excites me tremendously!”

You can watch Smith and Mayer's entire chat – which also covers Mayer's signature PRS, the much-talked-about Silver Sky – in the video above.

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, and

Jackson is an Associate Editor at and He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.