Constantly - it is a topic I have discussed a bit here on the Dope. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Eddie Van Halen championed the whole “I don’t even ***have ***a tone knob on my guitar” mindset, which gave everyone permission to just kind of ignore that knob - heck, Eddie didn’t need it, right? Also, the move to solid state and other amp circuits that gave you distortion in a “manufactured” way - i.e., that didn’t rely on the natural overdriving of the tubes in the circuit - made the Tone control less of a big deal.
But with a new Golden Age of guitar manufacturing, tone controls are being rediscovered. The build quality is excellent on factory and small-batch guitars, folks have rediscovered old P-90/Soapbar pickups and the old “bumblebee” capacitors that sound great. So there has been a return to the old approach to “constructing” your sound and yes, Tone controls are central to that.
I gotta go but can expound on this more later - but in a nutshell - with good tube amp, your on-board Volume control is you main Tone control and your Tone control allows you to further fine-tune your tone.
However if you are playing on a digital modeling amp or some other amp that doesn’t rely on tubes, it is likely you would notice as much of a benefit.
When I am playing electric, I dial up the Volume to get the right amount of crunch, and then hit a few notes and play with my Tone Control. As I dial it through, I can hear a bit of a slow “wah” type sound like I am working a wah wah pedal. I can dial up the tone to ear using that and get to where I need to go.
Final note: Many stock Strat circuits that Fender uses do NOT include a tone control for the Bridge pickup. So lots of Strat players think they don’t need a tone control because the bridge pickup doesn’t even come with one. Frankly, that’s crap and one of the best mods you should consider would be to wire the bridge pickup to one of the Tone controls. An ice-picky bridge pickup can be dialled in so much better when you can roll off the tone.
Okay, 1 more note: Folks like EVH didn’t need Tone controls because they played with SO MUCH volume that the distortion clipped some of the highs coming out of the amp. If we could all play Marshall stacks on 10 (and higher, since EVH modded his amps with a Variac to drive the tubes even harder), we wouldn’t need tone controls either.
I am always amazed at the music gear we mostly-civilian players buy because our heroes use them, not really thinking through the fact that our heroes are playing under completely different conditions…I will get off my soapbox now…