In general I have to go with :"the player/the hands/the soul/ whatever..something" far outweighs the gear the music is being channelled thru.
having said that: take a guy like Steve Lukather:
amazing world renown session ace/musician, yet , I find his tone on many occaisions to be attrocious @ best. He's still got the cache as amazing player, but clearly the gear choices one makes can enhance/improve or detract/diminish what the "hands/sould/player.." are bringing to the music.
so, its a combination @ times I'm sure: but I would guarantee players of the likes of Hendrix could play through an "esteban amp" and still be brilliant.
in the end: I"m going with 75% "hands/talent....that thing !"
Both. Overall tone comes from gear. Simplest way to think of it is your hands can't make a Fender sound like a Mesa. But! Your phrasing, picking technique, every left hand technique, etc. and how they react to the amp is what seperates you from the rest.
Perfect example, if you happen to have a copy of Black Label Society's "European Invasion" near the end of the last tune Zakk Wylde starts pulling people up on stage. Takes his guitar off and puts it on another dude and he starts rippin' and the tone is exactly the same... how a blind man would know it wasn't Zakk? Technique was all different (especially the vibrato).
It comes from the player. I've seen this time and time again in different situations. The simplest and most frequest is at open jams when nothing but the player changes -same guitar, same rig - dratically differnt tone.
I'm not saying that good gear doesn't make a difference, but from my experience the majority of it is in the hands of the player.
Both, but there's a wide variety of styles, techniques, ears, repertoire, and gear to factor into the equation. Most times there will be a solution to lousy tone, beyond the merely subjective that is. My own solution is to not blame the gear by having good gear and accept that perfecting tone is a lifelong goal, then I practice.
Having said that, there are lots of players who wouldn't know either way because they never play without massive signal effects and never hear their true tone. Play acoustic or clean electric to rule out the player first, then worry about effects.
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