I was thinking about how people say “tone comes from the hands,” but I was wondering, can one be more specific? I think that tone doesn’t come from the left hand, because once the string is pressed against a fret, the finger pressing it down doesn’t matter. Now, there might be a little bit of left-hand influence with “legato” playing (perhaps based on the finger speed) involving HO/PO. I don’t think that it’s an issue at all for bending given the string/fret contact.
I think that the right hand is the source of “tone,” and I believe that it comes from the transient moment where the pick smashes into the string and starts it vibrating. After the pick decides where and how hard to pluck the string, the string’s motion is deterministic, e.g., it doesn’t depend on the hand any more. So, it’s that one moment, I think, that defines a player’s “tone.”
So, I wondered, “which player has the most extreme impact that I can think of?” I think it’s MAB, where his impact is unmistakable, and perhaps Al Di Meola as well. Then I thought, “which player has the most subtle impact that I can think of?” One example is EVH, I almost can’t hear him hit the string, and I vastly prefer his tone to MAB’s or Al’s. (Indeed, while I am a huge MAB fan, I really don’t like his tone in the least.) Somebody like YJM seems to be in the middle.
Does this seem right? I’ve convinced myself that it I’m right, hence it must obviously be true!
This also suggests that the pick material is probably really important, and perhaps it makes sense that EVH was using those soft nylon picks, he probably liked to suppress the sounds of the pick impact.