PDA

View Full Version : Fingerpicking with nails or pads



hobnob
03-15-2016, 07:24 AM
Greetings folks. I realize that using nails will project more sound and pads will be more mellow. A search didn't reveal much info. Do most of you prefer one over the other? Seems like nails require alot of maintenence.

NatalieS
03-15-2016, 07:50 AM
I'm definitely interested in seeing the responses to this. I prefer the sound of nail fingerpicking, but maintaining long nails is really hard and discouraged in my career. I've considered trying finger picks but haven't yet.

janeray1940
03-15-2016, 07:54 AM
Nails, and I'm not the type of person to have long nails at all, not do I have strong fingernails - mine are thin and brittle. They don't have to be especially long - just long enough! I keep my right hand nails just long enough to peek out over my fingertips, which doesn't take a lot of maintenance at all - maybe five minutes a week of filing. I keep my left hand nails trimmed as short as possible.

Steveperrywriter
03-15-2016, 08:06 AM
Lot of information about this if you google it with "classical guitar" attached. Been an ongoing discussion there since before Segovia. Same principles, I'd think.

Big Bird
03-15-2016, 08:06 AM
This does come up on the Classical Guitar forum. Check this guy out for info regarding playing with out finger nails. I play without as a personal preference. I can grow them but I am old and cranky, so the maintenance wasn't worth the trouble. I play to impress myself so mega projection is not required. My wife said she likes the sound better now.... She is my audience so I must listen!

http://rmclassicalguitar.com/

Croaky Keith
03-15-2016, 08:39 AM
Presently, I use my thumb (side of pad), but it doesn't give out a loud sound - when I record for the Seasons thread I use an amp on my electro accoustic.

Mivo
03-15-2016, 08:52 AM
I'm fairly new to fingerpicking and still experimenting a lot, but I mostly use nails. That does include a bit of flesh, too. My nails are short, pretty much like recommended in the "Pumping Nylon" book for classical guitar, except for the thumb nail, which is a little longer. (I don't play classical guitar, but I picked up "Pumping Nylon" because it is often recommended for subjects such as nails, finger positions, etc, and I was curious about it.)

But as I said, I'm still experimenting. Just yesterday I discovered that there is an interesting number of famous guitar players who picked with only two fingers (thumb and index), which I found quite amazing. Doc Watson and Merle Travis are two examples. Then I discovered that there are fantastic ukulele players like Gordon Mark (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1bDs3z1qjI) (the ukulele player) and Ledward Kaapana (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ka1UF801Ck) who also only pick with thumb and index. So today I tried this, and I really like the tone it yields. (I also learned that 2-finger style is pretty common in the banjo world, too.) I had started practicing PIMA, but now I'm seriously considering to stick with PI for a while and see where that takes me. :)

actadh
03-15-2016, 09:21 AM
I fingerpick with pads. I strum with thumb and index and do PIMA for fingerpicking. I did the nail thing for a year, hated it as I hate having nails anyway, and when I picked up a Rob MacKillop book where he mentioned he plays with the pads of his fingers, that clinched it for me.

Booli
03-15-2016, 10:24 AM
Nails, and I'm not the type of person to have long nails at all, not do I have strong fingernails - mine are thin and brittle. They don't have to be especially long - just long enough! I keep my right hand nails just long enough to peek out over my fingertips, which doesn't take a lot of maintenance at all - maybe five minutes a week of filing. I keep my left hand nails trimmed as short as possible.

I grew out my nails again 2.5 yrs ago (after many years of having them clipped to the quick).

I am similar to JaneRay here.

However I try to keep my nails about 2mm past the fingertip as it helps with better articulation in both strumming and fingerpicking.

Occasionally I've had a nail split or chip and had to cut or file it down and wait for it to grow back to the length required (about 3 weeks).

This is a real PITA as so much of my technique is now dependent upon my nails, as I really am crippled without even one of them and have to wait for it to grow back.

I detest ALL fingerpicks, for playing with them is too far removed from actual contact with the instrument, I might as well be playing with a prosthetic hand.

Also, I refuse to superglue fake nails or similar in the event of losing a nail (because reasons).

The main takeaway for me, as per what JaneRay has said above, and with my own experience is if you keep them short and keep the edges smooth, they will last a long time, and requires very LITTLE actual maintenance, and the payoff compared to playing with only your fleshy finger pads is HUGE in terms of increased dynamic range, articulation and control.

However, plenty of folks play without nails too, so to each his/her own....:music:

70sSanO
03-15-2016, 10:45 AM
There is no correct way.

I fingerpick with the pads of my thumb and fingers and been doing it that way for a long time, even back when I played guitar. I generally will strum with my index finger nail, at least down and the thumb nail up. Almost like holding a pick but without the pick.

There is a distinct difference in brightness between fingerpicking pads and strumming nails, although I will thumb pad down and index pad up for effect if it is not a fast strum.

Over the years I never really wanted to have one hand with long nails and the other with short nails... long nails on a fretboard is not a good thing.

John

Fleacia
03-15-2016, 11:00 AM
Nails, and I'm not the type of person to have long nails at all, not do I have strong fingernails - mine are thin and brittle. They don't have to be especially long - just long enough! I keep my right hand nails just long enough to peek out over my fingertips, which doesn't take a lot of maintenance at all - maybe five minutes a week of filing. I keep my left hand nails trimmed as short as possible.

Same here re. nail care and style. But I do both - fingerpicking with pads and nails. I agree that pads are more mellow and nails are brighter/louder. So I change picking method according to the sound I'm looking for.

pritch
03-15-2016, 12:09 PM
I keep my nails on my right hand level with the end of the finger, which is about 2mm past the quick.

That's about where mine are now and I find that to be a good length. Any longer and I'll need to do some maintenance.
Previously I have only used a nail file to clean up the ends but recently experienced some unattractive sounds so finally bought an emery board. The result definitely sounds better.

Tootler
03-15-2016, 01:56 PM
There is no correct way.

I fingerpick with the pads of my thumb and fingers and been doing it that way for a long time, even back when I played guitar. I generally will strum with my index finger nail, at least down and the thumb nail up. Almost like holding a pick but without the pick.


That's me too. Strum with the nails - fingers down, thumb up, fingerpick with the pads of my fingers and thumb, usually just first finger and thumb.

My nails are very prone to splitting and I can guarantee they will split, especially the middle finger if they grow beyond the end of my finger tips, so I keep them short on both hands.

Down Up Dick
03-15-2016, 02:52 PM
I use my pads to fingerpick ukuleles except a flat pick for Irish music. I use my fingernails covered with Scotch tape (it's very slick) for Clawhammer. It works well.

I have a theory that old people have thick, inflexible nails that chip and split easily. Mine certainly do. :old:

hollisdwyer
03-15-2016, 03:20 PM
I haven't (yet) used picks on my Ukes but used to on my guitar. I have also noticed that some/many pro players do use picks.
I see that Aaron uses Alaska picks and a plastic thumb pick like these:

8933889339

There are metal versions of the plastic Alaska pick:

8934089341

And there are the old metal finger picks that guitar and banjo players have been using for years:
These cover the pads of your fingers.
89342

Recstar24
03-15-2016, 03:26 PM
Nails for me. I try to maintain them where a tiny bit creeps over the finger, nothing more. I have to file about once a week and use a glass file and micro mesh pads to get a nice smooth surface. I love the tone and projection.

I tried going with Alaska finger picks and they were too bulky and uncomfortable so I just grow my nails.

brimmer
03-15-2016, 04:04 PM
A little bit of fingernail is my preference. No-nail picking sounds nice too. One of my favorite players, Rob MacKillop, plays with no nails - both on uke and lute. But I prefer the crisper tone you get with some nail. For me the most important thing is to keep the nails pretty short, and to burnish the ends and underside of the nail with very fine grit sandpaper. There's a piece of sandpaper in every uke case. I never clip my picking nails, just use a manicurist file. When I'm playing more classical guitar, I need to grow them a fair bit longer.

Nothing is more boring to a non-fingerpicking musician than a discussion of fingernails. But to us, it's pretty fascinating...

UkieOkie
03-15-2016, 04:24 PM
That's me too. Strum with the nails - fingers down, thumb up, fingerpick with the pads of my fingers and thumb, usually just first finger and thumb.
.

This is exactly how I do it.

CasanovaGuy
03-15-2016, 04:39 PM
I use flesh whenever I fingerpick. The only rare exception is when I tremolo pick, but I would never grow my nails out just to make tremolo picking easier. For strumming, it varies depending on what sound I want (nails for loud, punchy sounds and pads for mellower ones).

My instructor Roy Sakuma had really long fingernails on his picking hand and really short fingernails on his fretting hand I remember thinking, "I'll never score honeydips with non-aesthetically-pleasing fingers," and that thought stuck when I was learning how to fingerstyle. So even though having some nail is good, I prefer too short over too long xD

hobnob
03-16-2016, 06:59 AM
Thanks for the responses. Currently I'm using the pads of my fingers for picking and a slightly long nail (index) for strumming. Being a Clawhammer banjo player the nail is there already. Down the road I may grow the nails and give that a shot. Funny thing, if a poll were conducted it would probably be close to a 50-50 split. Keep picking whatever your choice.

natchez
03-16-2016, 10:30 AM
I use both nails and pads, depending upon the sound I want. As mentioned above, just a couple of millimeters above the pads for the nails. I also have really crappy, brittle nails and also live in the Nevada high desert- very dry. I got a tip from a local pro guitarist who uses "Nail Magic Hardener and Conditioner". So, I got some at Sally's Beauty Supply and it greatly decreased the issues with my nails splitting and chipping. The only downer is that the stuff is clear, but a bit shiny, so it looks like I polish my nails. But, I can live with that for the sake of having the ability to generate some different picking sounds. I also file them once a week to a specific shape I found, I believe, through a link somewhere on this forum in anther discussion of nails.

brimmer
03-16-2016, 12:17 PM
Some classical players use onymhyrre to harden their nails. You can find it online. Mine don't break too often so I don't use it.

Snargle
03-16-2016, 01:33 PM
I've been using flesh and nails, depending on the songs, note, and desired tone. I've let the nails of my thumb and first three fingers (PIMA) on my right hand grow out a little (a couple of millimeters/1/8 inch) beyond the end of my fingers, and have kept them shaped and smoothly contoured. I usually end up starting the pick with the finger and finishing with just a touch of nail. I don't usually care for the sound of a straight, hard nail pick...sounds too much like plastic. I was getting a little chipping and splitting recently, so I got a bottle of nail hardener from the drug store. It seems to work well, although it does leave somewhat of shiny, clear finish. Nothing real glossy, but noticeable compared to the untreated nails. At my age, I'm not really worried about the appearance as long as it works. :cool:

drbekken
03-17-2016, 08:42 AM
I am a pianist. Long nails are out of the question.

aarondelacruz
03-17-2016, 11:37 AM
I have found after 10 years of playing that there is a happy medium between strictly nail and strictly flesh. There are a handful of recording artists who have very long fingernails and there is one notable recording artist that has relatively short nails. People like Kalei Gamiao fit the first description and Jake Shimabukuro, specifically, fits the second description.

I think that different styles of playing warrant different nail lengths. Tremolo picking would be easier with longer nails and very difficult with solely flesh. Slower, more melodic and gentle music, in my opinion, would benefit from the more dull tone flesh brings. If you want a more clear tone, long nails are the way to go. And the opposite is true of more mellow tones.

That being said, I keep my nails about exactly at the edge of my fingertips. Basically, if I'm looking at my palm (and fingertips) square on, I can't see my nails with the exception of my thumb but only because the angle of the thumb means the nail is visible. From the other point of view (the dorsum of the hand), the free edge (the white portion of nail) is very visible, but still relatively short. My longest nail is my index finger's nail, but not by much. I use my index finger in almost every technique I use from tremolo picking to triplet strumming to three finger rolling. I play all types of music with this setup from classical to jazz to pop inspired music. In my opinion, this length of nail allows both fleshy tones and clearer tones albeit with different styles of playing.