The first thing we hear when we listen to music is not the melody, not the rhythm, not the harmony – but the sound.
Great guitarists are great because they are innovators. They invent new music and new ways of guitar playing. But every one of them has his own sound.
The pioneers in the 1950s and 1960s fought against severe technique limitations. Eric Clapton , Jeff Beck , Jimi Hendrix , Carlos Santana and Ritchie Blackmore broke those limitations. A less famous player – Roy Buchanan – came with an amazing tone and decisive technical innovations.
The 1970s and 1980s brought us Stevie Ray Vaughan , Eddie van Halen , Steve Vai , Larry Carlton , Pat Metheny and a long list of great players. Each one of them found his own tone, the tone that fits his vision about music.
Nowadays there is no technical problem to get the tone you wish. Variax guitars, a great deal of multi-effects, soft effects are affordable. The only problem is to have a vision and to look for the sound that is the most appropriate for it. Keep this in mind next time you go shopping.
Anyone can learn to play like anyone else. You won't count unless you make your own original music with your own original tone. Look for it!