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I play the acoustic guitar (3 steel, 3 nylon) but whenever I use a plectrum it makes a scratchy sound, am I doing anything wrong or is it just me?

  • One thought I have is that all picks are not created equal, and also good picks can get worn groves that will also cause a problem. Have you tried more than one type of pick? Not all picks are the same. What pick are you using? – amalgamate Jul 2 '15 at 18:10
  • Any chance you can record the sound it's making? That might help identify it. – tarun Jul 2 '15 at 18:49
  • Is it just on the bass (metal-wound) strings? Or is it on the nylon strings, too? – Bob Broadley Jul 2 '15 at 20:50
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    Wait, 3 steel and 3 nylon? On the same guitar? – seseorang Jul 4 '15 at 10:08
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It is your plectrum technique - the edge of the plectrum is catching the string windings, but by looking to hold it more flat against the strings you will get less of it.

Note that you wont completely remove this sound as it is inherent when bits of plastic brushes against rough metal windings. I play with fingers a lot of the time, and as my thumbs and tips have got harder, this also produces a sound akin to scratching.

Once you hear something it can sometimes be diffcult to 'unhear' it. I suggest not listening too deeply because trying to pick out the nuances of the sound can lead you into trouble when you spend forever listening to one overtone that nobody else is bothered about.

'Time is money', as they say in the industry.

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It is the edge of the pick (plectrum) rubbing across the windings of the wound strings. If you keep the flat side of the pick parallel to the strings, instead of at an angle, the scratchy sound will not happen. Note: Some electric players deliberately do this as a sound effect.

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"I play the acoustic guitar (3 steel, 3 nylon)". I'm assuming you are using folk strings called "silk and steel", which means the top three strings are silver wound nylon and the bottom three are steel. They create a very mellow sound but don't last long as I use them myself for fingerpicking sometimes as they are ideal for recording. They are easier on my fingernails too as I don't like finger picks.

Try using a nylon pick and not plastic ("Dunlop" make them) and make sure it is a "medium" thickness and not "light". Light picks are very noisy in my personal experience with them.

You could also try what my wife uses, a "felt" pick ("Mahalo" brand). They are felt covered plastic or nylon and last a surprisingly long time. Very mellow sound and no pick noise whatsoever!

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