Staylor
Staylor
@staylor
one week ago
9 posts

Thank you all for your replies.  For some songs, I agree that the percussive click adds a cool rhythm element, just like it does on guitar.  It made a really big difference when I switched from the thin, large triangular pick that came with the dulcimer to one of my thicker guitar picks, where I don't have as much of the point exposed.  As a new dulcimist, I wouldn't have reached those conclusions on my own this quickly without your help!

Last night, I realized I'd learned all but one chord to James Taylor's cowboy lullabye, "Sweet Baby James," so I looked up Bm and started playing.  Suddenly, it felt like I was back on the steps at my grandparents' home in south Arkansas in 1972, struggling to change through the same chords on my first guitar.  So my new-to-me dulcimer has already brought back some wonderful memories and enabled me to appreciate the joy of learning an old, old favorite--all over again in a new way. 

 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one week ago
1,185 posts

A few comments, some of which have already been stated.

A thicker pick will lead to less pick clack.

Holding the pick so that less sticks out of your fingers will decrease the contact between the pick and the fretboard. Remember that you only have to graze the top of the strings. You don't have to actually dig down beneath them.

Some pick materials make more clack than others.  I am not  fan of the felt picks Lois recommends because it is too hard to pick individual strings or play fast.  But you might experiment with different brands of picks and different models from different brands and see if some have less clack than others.  (I've actually started using pretty expensive picks because they have a warmer, less plasticky tone and very little pick clack. But the really expensive one I have was given as a gift. I would never spend $35 on a single pick, and you shouldn't either!)

You probably hear the pick clack more than your audience.

Some people, as Strumelia explains, don't mind the pick clack at all.  Personally, I enjoy hearing fingers sliding on strings and picks hitting the instrument. It's a reminder that playing an instrument is a tactile experience as well as a musical one and is not merely a computer producing clean digital tones. (I like to hear the valve noise of jazz saxophone players, too.)

If you really hate it, play with your fingers.  I love the soft sound of bare fingertips caressing the strings.  Linda Brockinton and Nina Zanetti play such moving music. You can, too.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
one week ago
156 posts

This won't help with any "bad habit", but if you're playing a piece where you don't want that percussive sound I strongly recommend felt picks.  I also find they don't produce as loud a sound.  I tend to think of myself as having a fairly strong voice, but picks produce so much louder sounds that it can be hard to be heard over it in an acoustic setting without a microphone.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one week ago
1,669 posts

Pick click comes from a couple of things.  Thinness of the pick; how deep the pick goes below the plane of the strings; and your wrist action together with how you hold the pick. 

Thicker pick with less of it sticking out of your fist (and not going deep below the string plane) usually go a long way towards solving the CLICK.  

Still, your hand/wrist action is an important part of controlling the sound of the pick.  If you are holding the pick rigidly upright like this: |   as you strum across the strings, the drag as the pick passes each string and releases it -- causes the dreaded CLICK.  If instead, you rotate your wrist and the "attack" of the pick, you'll get a lot softer sound.  As you strum outward and inward, rotate your wrist a bit in each direction so that the pick slips or brushes across strings rather than digging into them.  Like this:  /outward and this:  \inward only even flatter angles...  

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one week ago
1,736 posts

You can try a thicker pick to soften that pick clicking noise.  Or you can try angling the pick differently.
Some people (myself included) actually like that pick clicking/percussion effect and use it as part of our personal playing sound.  One person's "bad habit" may be another person's 'bonus effect'!  hamster




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Staylor
Staylor
@staylor
one week ago
9 posts

I'm learning to play quickly after almost 50 years with other stringed instruments, but it feels like I may be developing a bad habit.  When I strum with a thin triangular pick over the lower bout sound holes to get a sweeter tone, I'm also getting a consistent click from the pick striking the fretboard. 

I watched a very experienced player recently and noticed some clicking from him, too.  Is that sound just inevitable, or is there a technique I should be using to minimize pick click when I'm not strumming over the scooped portion of the instrument?

Thanks for any advice!