Take the 2-minute tour ×
Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Whenever I hear solos from professional guitar players, in songs, for example, I never hear a loud noise of pick hitting the strings, even when the guitar is heavily distorted. I just learned a solo on my electric (with a tube amp), which requires heavy distortion. I use a hard pick (jazz III) and the sound of picking the string is very apparent. Is there something I can do with my setup to avoid this or at least minimize its prominence? Btw, I use the natural amp distortion with a Gibson Les Paul. Thank you!

share|improve this question
Contrary to what you have written, many famous guitarists actually make a feature of the pick noise. One of the most famous for this is Brian May, who uses a coin. –  Dr Mayhem Jun 23 '14 at 7:20
I do a lot of palm-muting when playing with distortion, in order to stop the other strings from ringing out and interfering with the sound. So that is not an issue. However, it seems that the more I focus on the picking noise, the more prominent it becomes. I've tried holding the strings in place (by lightly muting them with my left hand), and focusing on picking with my right; picking angle does not seem to change the picking noise all that much. –  user96872 Jun 24 '14 at 0:10

5 Answers 5

Several issues come into play here. I use Jazz III picks, and I am of the opinion that for fast playing, hard picks should be used. There is a possibility that you are using too much gain, or extreme EQ settings which amplify the unwanted noises. Even so, using used picks will produce more noises, since they get a jagged edge. Most important though, is to minimize the area used when picking. Ideally just the tip of the pick should hit the string. This will reduce the possibility of these sounds, since less of the pick is interfering with the string.

There were special practice picks for the purpose of playing with just the tip of the pick, Stylus I think they were called. Don't know if they, or similar things are available still, but try to be aware of how much of the pick is used for producing the tone at any rate.

share|improve this answer
+1. Technique is much, much more important than plectrum thickness. –  Lee White Jun 23 '14 at 15:49

When I first started playing the electric guitar seriously, loud pick noise used to be a big problem for me, to the point of obsession (you tend to hear more when you're annoyed with it).

Then it gradually disappeared. I think it was all about my bad picking technique; I probably used to hold the pick with too large of an angle. Now I have the ability of controlling the pick noise by changing the angle. More noise when I want more noise and less noise when I want less noise.

By the way, I don't agree with scrowler's answer. I find that soft picks actually make more pick noise (which is actually very good for certain types of music). I'm playing right now and my .60 mm Planet Waves definitely makes more noise than my .98 mm Jim Dunlop Delrin 500. For reference, the latter is my favorite for lead work; I love its sharpened edges.

share|improve this answer

Hard picks are often the culprit here. You should try using a softer pick. Pick size vs tonal quality doesn't matter as much with distortion as with jazz tone for example, you really can get away with hitting a string quite softly and still getting adequate volume. I think the pro tone you're referencing is a combination of picking softly (not necessarily the pick thickness) and making sure your pick hand palm is controlling the strings from the bridge so as to block any excess output from other strings.

FYI I've played a heavily distorted version of Jesus Christ Superstar with a 3.5mm gypsy jazz pick and you can get away with it as long as you're careful with your pick when you hit the string, but it's much easier to achieve consistent results with a softer pick.

share|improve this answer

I used to have this when using hard plastic picks, but I swithced to the Dunlop nylon type (.60-.72 mm).

Even the thicker ones are ok because the material itself isn't hard, so there's less chance of it causing a racket as it hits the string.

As others have stated, skilful picking will get around it. For me, I normally put the pick away when aplying a solo and use my fingers, thus sidestepping the issue entirely.

But if I do use a pick, the Dunlop ones help a lot.

share|improve this answer
Hi Dr Mayhem, I noticed you deleted "Hope thishelps" fromthe end of my orignal answer - no worries, just wondering why ? –  user2808054 Jun 25 '14 at 8:46

It's rather simple. Reduce the Volume knob on your guitar which is meant for your pickup to a limit wher you cannot hear sliding sounds. Then recompensate turning your amplifier gain a bit harder

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.