When I got my first stick dulcimer, I didn’t like the sound with my standard picks; the sound was too clicky and harsh. After some reading, I took some advice and bought some extra-light nylon picks. These are much softer and flexible – they aren’t that brilliant with my guitars, but sound ace with the stick. I’ve been using them with the sticks ever since, and have just bought some more.
What I discovered tonight was that the “cheapest” stick really doesn’t like these nylon picks. But if I use a medium hard pick, it actually sounds fairly good – more volume, and better tone; and not rattling at all.
It is still not as good as my more expensive sticks, but it’s now something I am not unhappy to play. Plus, one difference between it and the other two is that it has a doubled top string, which means for songs where I am mainly playing a melody over a drone, the melody “string” is louder.
I think this stick is now going to live in DAc tuning, which drops the top string (or strings) into Aeolian mode. That tends to be the tuning I use most for playing against a drone. Although it is easy to tune in and out of DAc, I think if I keep an instrument in that tuning, I’ll play with it more.