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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!

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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
    
I would say Jimmy Page is a notable exception to the notion that you don't hear pick noise during solos of famous guitarists. As he is one of my idols, I have actually worked to get more pick noise into my sound on occasion. –  Todd Wilcox Jun 30 at 17:51

7 Answers 7

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.

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+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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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First I would say try a more rounded pick and see if it helps you achieve the sound you want. I personally never got used to the pointy edge of a jazz III.

For a thick rounder pick I'd recommend tortex .88 It might help, and if it doesn't you only spend 50 cents!.

Secondly, the absolutely hands down best way to improve the "sound production" aspect of your playing, is play an acoustic. You hear every sound your hands make and it causes you to naturally refine your technique to something a little more elegant.

Whenever I have a student who's got an ugly right hand thing going on (and by ugly I mean no real nuance, and the pick sort of "catching" the strings rather than plucking them) 90% of the time they're a mainly or exclusively electric player. If you have the option on playing an acoustic a bit, then I promise it will help. Just play a few folk tunes or scales that aren't a challenging standard for you so that you can focus on the quality of the sound you make. Experiment with different ways of playing and find what works for you

ps.s I firmly disagree with people who say the answer is a softer pick. This is just my opinion, but I think you should learn to use a hard pick even if you then choose not to. You are so much more versatile, a thin pick is a short cut to an easier playing style, but you lose depth.

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Electric players can get some of the same effect by practicing with good headphones. Lots of subtle noises become obvious in the headphones. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 1 at 20:00
    
While that's true, I still think it's not as good as an acoustic. Acoustics can literally sound like shit if you don't work on your sound production, whereas an electric can still sound OK, even when you can here the imperfections. But still, +1 for your point –  Some_Guy Jul 2 at 7:58

I play classical as well, so I shape and sand my fingernails to a glass like finish with 12000 grit sand paper, and they sound really nice, now I have the above mentioned problem and I polish my picks the same way I do my nails and it helps allot. I agree with not using very much pick at all and working on the angle you attack the string. I used to use very little pick but in the last 10 years I have had long right hand fingernails and cannot play as close to the string as I want, would chew up my nails in an hour, so forced to focus on other areas to help with noise, all the above mentioned plays a factor, some more than others. Try and change little by little too get what's causing your issue

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