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View Full Version : Do you pick with short nails, long nails, or tips?



Mivo
04-16-2016, 12:10 PM
I've been spending a bit more time on practicing fingerpicking/fingerstyle lately. While trying to figure out what works best for me, I've been wondering which approach you folks take.

Do you pick mostly with short (2-3mm of white) nails, longer nails, fingertips? Or even a plectrum? I'll add a poll for those options.

I've also seen some "hybrid" approaches where players use short or no nails, but have a long thumbnail, and I saw that Samantha Muir plays with short nails on the fingers, but uses the fleshy part of her thumb.

Sound-wise, I think I prefer short nails (meaning that both nails and fleshy bits touch the strings) when I play two-finger style with just thumb and index), but when it's three or four fingers I have a better time with just the fingertips.

It's probably a matter of practice and filing the nails differently, but I don't really get good sound with the middle and ring fingers (especially the letter) when trying to play with short nails. It's a bit difficult to compare because nails don't grow instantly, and those "Alaska picks" are different beasts than plain fingers.

LarryS
04-16-2016, 02:33 PM
Very short nails, bit of flesh. I tried to grow my nails when I got a classical guitar at Christmas but nope they had to go. Ill never be a classical guitarist but at least I can uke!

Still Water Weapons
04-16-2016, 02:41 PM
Funny, I'm the first one that uses long -ish fingernails.

bnolsen
04-16-2016, 05:04 PM
due to yard work, car work, kids, etc i have zero hope of keeping any nails. short it is!

janeray1940
04-16-2016, 05:30 PM
Short nails, because that's all I'm capable of growing before they start breaking. I use a thumbpick sometimes when my thumb nail breaks.

Jim Yates
04-16-2016, 05:50 PM
I play with acrylic nails on my index, bird and ring fingers and the fleshy part of my thumb. I try to keep the nails just long enough that they can be seen from the palm side of my hand. I got the bird finger done originally for playing clawhammer banjo, but since this made my guitar finger picking unbalanced, I got the other two nails done as well. I've been going to Lily's Nails for 6 or7 years (My wife thinks longer) and they know exactly how I like them. I would never suggest getting acrylic nails if you only play nylon strings, but my nails are very thin due to psoriasis and they need strengthening for steel strings. I think I'd describe them as fairly short.

Croaky Keith
04-16-2016, 09:05 PM
Presently, I mainly use the side of my thumb when picking, but I hope to develop my skills further to include arpeggio using just my tips.

Booli
04-16-2016, 09:31 PM
Funny, I'm the first one that uses long -ish fingernails.

Not just you...I try to keep mine about 2-3mm past the fingertip and simply cannot get the articulation and control I require with fleshy fingertips/fingerpads.

In college when I studied classical guitar as part of my Minor in Music, I had to grow out my nails and I felt too girly and grossed out by it all the time, mainly because of my 'guido/macho' social condition of growing up with mostly Italian-American friends here in NJ.

Funny how being 30 yrs older changes your perspective.

Now I pretty much simply do not give a rat-fink what others think of me and I care more about being able to properly create the music I want. My sisters think it's gross (for a man to have even a tiny bit longer nails) and refuse to talk about nail care.

It's their loss. :)

To each his own. :music:

kypfer
04-16-2016, 09:58 PM
Don't you just hate "polls" that don't give a complete range of options, or at least a None of the Above!

I use a plectrum a lot for melody work ... I fingerpick and clawhammer with reasonably short nails ... but sometimes they break and sometimes they don't get trimmed soon enough, it doesn't stop me playing ;)

... and I'll use fingertip/thumb/plectrum for strumming, as the mood takes ... YMMV ;)

Tootler
04-16-2016, 10:23 PM
Don't you just hate "polls" that don't give a complete range of options, or at least a None of the Above!

I use a plectrum a lot for melody work ... I fingerpick and clawhammer with reasonably short nails ... but sometimes they break and sometimes they don't get trimmed soon enough, it doesn't stop me playing ;)

... and I'll use fingertip/thumb/plectrum for strumming, as the mood takes ... YMMV ;)

I too was wanting more than one option. Does the poll set up allow you to set it up for multiple responses?

I'm a bit the same. For song accompaniment, I pick with the tip of my fingers but for playing melodies I've found a plectrum works better and I use a firm leather plectrum.

A little bit of trivia:

I bought Tony Mizen's "From Lute to Uke" and he says in the introduction that when the Lute arrived in Europe, it was played with a quill pick but as musical styles changed, players began to play with the tips of their fingers. In modern times as the music was rediscovered, the people who took up the Lute were initially classical guitarists and so they played with their nails. The Oud - the middle instrument the Lute is derived from - is generally played now with a strip of plastic - much more readily available than quills these days.

guitharsis
04-16-2016, 11:47 PM
Short nails because they break off. Like the sound produced better with some nails rather than just fingertips.

Kayak Jim
04-17-2016, 04:29 AM
There are also the finger tip picks like Aaron Keim uses. Alaska picks. I don't use them and wonder how many do.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL5uUUhtdp4

Oops, I see these were mentioned in the OP but not clear which poll option they fall under.

UkerDanno
04-17-2016, 05:05 AM
I keep mine pretty short, but it's good to have enough nail to get a good grip on those boogers!

sam13
04-17-2016, 05:07 AM
I am currently playing with finger tips and the fleshy part of the thumb.

I get great tone from the thumb but thinner tone from the index and "driving finger" (middle finger) lol.

With a slightly thinner tone from these two fingers, I would be interested to hear any tips or tricks people do or use to get a better tone.

I am not interested in adding synthetic picking tips. I have started to grow the nails slightly.

Any thoughts? Thanks.

Croaky Keith
04-17-2016, 05:33 AM
Not that I'm much good at it (yet), my thumb picks the string in a downward kind of way, & my finger tips sort of get under the string & pluck it upwards & away from the body.
(Tends to give me more volume, but may not be the correct way.)

Nickie
04-17-2016, 03:52 PM
I just use my fingertips and the side of my thumb. I can grow great, strong nails, that will break a string before they break. But no matter how I try to pick, they wind up snagging the strings, and delaying my timing. Anything but short nails annoy me anyway.
If I wanna play louder, I amp up.

ubulele
04-18-2016, 11:27 AM
Gohar Vardanyan on tone control (using flesh/nails):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8ZNV8lr2ic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8ZNV8lr2ic

kaizersoza
04-18-2016, 07:40 PM
I can't stand my nails being too long, I have tried to grow them for picking purposes, but they get on my nerves, so I now tend to keep them short, especially my fretting hand, because that makes the difference between hitting an E chord or not lol

Pukulele Pete
04-19-2016, 12:24 AM
I play with acrylic nails on my index, bird and ring fingers and the fleshy part of my thumb.

Bird finger , never heard that one before . :biglaugh: Driving finger is also one I never heard before. :biglaugh:

drbekken
04-19-2016, 09:25 AM
I am a pianist, so long nails are out of the question.