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by Carlos Diez Macia 7 Comments
Guitar pick noise can’t be avoided completely. Especially while recording acoustic guitar, plectrums tend to create a lot of click and clack sounds and noises that can ruin your playing experience as well as your listeners’.
As you learn how to play the guitar better, you will reach a point where you want to focus on transmitting emotion, playing with impact, and enhanced dynamic control.
In order to master your guitar techniques, you must have total control of every sound produced by your guitar; intended and unintended.
Personally, I think pick noise is a part of the guitar playing, and I even enjoy some vintage recordings where the guitar pick noise seems to be present almost on purpose. However, for most of the occasions, you want to eliminate it.
We have summarized all the tips and tricks we think can help you reduce the noise when playing with a guitar pick. Enjoy it!
Guitar picks create noise when plucking your strings. Holding your guitar pick more loosely will help a lot, since your fingers absorb some of the energy when the pick hits the strings.
We have published an article called “How to hold a guitar pick”, which contains everything you need to know to master this trick.
If you are recording your tracks, one thing that can help is to add some more volume to your instrument in relation to the others. This is a common method used in studios that helps the guitar players to relax.
Whether you are planning a studio session, a jam with your friends, or some solo relax sessions at home, a conscious warm-up before playing guitar is mandatory.
The angle of the guitar pick in relation to the strings is the most discussed element when it comes to guitar pick noise.
Basically, the less pick is in contact with your guitar strings, the less noise it produces. Angle the pick slightly to the strings.
Try different angles when plucking your string. This will require a conscious adjustment from your side, but once mastered will allow you to vary the attack of the pick more easily.
Depending on the guitar pick you are using, the music style and guitar techniques you use, and your skill level, you will need a different attack angle, so focus 30 minutes on trying to find the best one for you and get used to playing this way.
Sometimes you are playing and the flow starts, you mentally leave the room and enter “the zone”, that beautiful place where you sound better than usual.
We get so much into the music, that we just naturally pick harder.
Excessive picking force is one of the most common causes of guitar pick noise. In addition, it can choke out the sustain and cause the notes you are playing to decay in a much less natural way.
The material of the guitar picks not only affects the tone, but also the noise the plectrum creates.
Nylon is considered to be one of the least noisy formulas when it comes to industrial materials used for guitar picks.
This is due to the toughness of this compound, which thanks to its mechanical properties, is able to absorb heavy impacts efficiently.
At Rombo, we are using a modified version of nylon, which adds some extra durability and prolongs the lifespan of the guitar picks. This was necessary since nylon guitar picks wear down very quickly. You can learn more about the materials here.
If you are not sure if you are using the right guitar pick, a good option is a variety pack, which contains guitar picks with different attributes. This is a good way to test several picks and track your development as you start increasing your skill for each one.
As a rule of thumb, you can estimate that heavier picks will be less noisy, which sounds kind of contradictory. But, why is that?
Using very thin picks in combination with fast-playing, like strumming, will cause the picks to bend as they leave the guitar strings, creating a kind of click noise. This happens especially when playing acoustic guitar, since the body of the guitar will act as an amplifier for that sound.
Heavier picks will let each string make its own noise without much unwanted accompaniment.
The variable thickness, included in all our guitar picks, not only improves the control but also reduces the noise. The body of the plectrum is thicker and stiff, while the tip is thinner and more flexible. With this feature, the overall flexibility of the tip is reduced while conserving its original thickness and material. This means more control and less noise.
Thick vs. thin guitar picks. In this article, we discuss all the aspects that make a difference.
Guitar picks with a beveled edge will slide better and cause less noise. In combination with the angle of attack we already mentioned, they can help you reduce the pick noise a lot.
Also, the shape and size of the pick are important, but this is more a matter of preference.
We have frequently discussed the impact a polished tip has on the tone and durability of a guitar pick.
A polished tip also slides quite easily over the edge of the guitar string. On the other hand, guitar picks with a rougher texture on the tip, will produce more treble response even when played on the edge. This also happens when the picks start to wear down.
However, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, some purist guitarists even prefer the pick to create noises and they included it extra in their recordings.
Very experienced live players that don’t have much studio experience sometimes do not reflect enough on all the little nuances on their playing.
A good exercise to avoid this is to record yourself. It is amazing how much we miss when we get into the zone. You will notice pick noise when listening to your tracks and it is much easier to identify critical areas than while you are playing.
If you play acoustic guitar, try to locate the microphone(s) in different locations, you will discover how much of a difference it can make in terms of guitar pick noise.
We can’t eliminate pick noise completely, but there is enough to do to improve our playing and reduce it substantially.
The best way to reduce pick noise is to be aware of it and reflect on your playing to improve your skills and try different picks for different styles and guitar types.
If you discover a new way to reduce the pick noise, please let us know so we can include it in the article!
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by Carlos Diez Macia