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View Full Version : What is a good sub for bad nails?



amford
02-22-2017, 02:15 PM
I'm trying to grow my nails... especially my thumb nail for picking, but, I have very thin brittle nails. I'm still going to work on them, BUT in the meantime, what can I do to practice good picking techniques? (a banjo pick for my thumb? fake nail for my thumb?.... any ideas?)

Brad Bordessa
02-22-2017, 02:22 PM
If you have the intention of using real nails at some point, a thumbpick is your best bet. Some guys get fake nails, but that's a last resort, it seems to me. Try a thumbpick and see what you can do for your nails and if all else fails - get a manicure have some fakies put on! All these many, many years of having long nails for picking and I've NEVER had a manicure. I think that's a shame...

Drink lots of water if you don't already.

Doug W
02-22-2017, 02:44 PM
My nails seem to work ok for uke but if I was still playing the steel string guitar, I would have to go with James Taylor's method:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BqISqpMRo8

Nickie
02-22-2017, 03:36 PM
Tommy Emmanuel uses a thumbpick....

bonesigh
02-22-2017, 05:28 PM
I can't stand picks but in a pinch these are the best ever http://www.alaskapik.com/

bacchettadavid
02-22-2017, 05:52 PM
Thanks for posting that video. I just started playing steel strings, and Taylor's method looks like a good compromise.

janeray1940
02-22-2017, 05:59 PM
I have horrible nails that won't grow, so I use a thumb pick (these, specifically (https://www.ernieball.com/guitar-accessories/guitar-picks/finger-thumb-guitar-picks#P09215)). Out of the box the picks are kind of long so I file them down to the length that I've decided is best for me. My other nails usually get long enough to just peek over the fingertip, which is just right - they don't need to be super long. But my thumbnail gets completely worn down from the wound low G strings I use.

Gammo
02-22-2017, 06:17 PM
If you're going to go the fake nails, then go the whole way. Florence Griffith-Joiner style (For all those under 40, go and google it).

Debussychopin
02-22-2017, 07:08 PM
You don't need long nails per se, just a nice angle for catching the string sharply but not enough to snag.

kypfer
02-22-2017, 10:03 PM
If you want to use your own nail "eventually" don't bother with a thumbpick. The "angle of attack" is different and the sound is different.

There's nothing wrong with a thumbpick if that's what you want, but, in my experience, the two options are almost totally different.

I often repair split/cracked nails with superglue until they grow back sufficiently to file the repair out. If the nail breaks completely I play the bass strings softly 'till it grows back.

There are those who swear by using no nails (or picks) at all ;)

Just my tuppence worth ... YMMV :music:

ukatee
02-23-2017, 12:23 AM
Aaron Keim has a useful video here: Picks For An Ukulele! What's the Deal? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL5uUUhtdp4).

anthonyg
02-23-2017, 12:24 AM
Don't listen to that guy who said fake nails were a last resort (I'm not). I have acrylic nails (a powder and solvent that are painted on) on my thumb and two fingers that I pick with. I used to not have to reenforce my thumb but after SO much playing lately even my thumb nail was getting thin. I really like the thickness of acrylic nails which means that with a little careful filing and buffing I can get a thick smooth edge on my nails which allows my nails to slide off the strings easily and gives me a great tone.

Its a little like picks. Thick picks give a smoother tone. Unlike picks my nails are attached to the ends of my fingers so I have great control. Even though my thumbnail hadn't started to break the tone from the thin nail was getting a little brittle.

My acrylic nails give me a loud and smooth tone.

Anthony

Doc_J
02-23-2017, 01:41 AM
When I damage a nail, I use Fred Kelly fingerpicks.

Griffis
02-23-2017, 02:27 AM
I used to use finger and thumb picks for steel string acoustic guitar and banjo. Never really used them on uke.

With uke I tend to fingerpick with the skin of my thumb and fingers more than the nails.

Lately I've taken to using a thick jazz guitar pick occasionally for real staccato picking. I'm working on combining the use of a pick with my middle, ring and pinky for fingerpicking. I have chronic hand pain and my thumb just doesn't move as quickly as it used to.

spookelele
02-23-2017, 03:36 AM
When I damage a nail, I use Fred Kelly fingerpicks.

I have some of these. I don't really like them. They are thick and kinda hard to control.
But I feel that way about any kind of picks.

Compared to nails, they all fall short.

I havent tried alaska picks, because they require a bit of nail, which if I've got... then I don't need a pick.

You really don't need much nail to get a good tone. It just takes enough to clip the string when it slides past.

stevepetergal
02-23-2017, 04:32 AM
I too have almost worthless nails. They are soft, they break easily, they peel like layers of paint, and even tear. I haven't found a good solution.

Alaska picks are a great idea. They look like they'll give you control, but they're not real nails. I might not have given them the chance they deserve, but I tried them for a month or so.
Glue-on manicure nails (like James Taylor's, Paul MacCartney's, Craig Brandau,...) seem like the best artificial option. 2 problems with them: They require significant, constant maintenance, and the chemicals destroy your real nails. I won't be giving them a try (my nails took more than a year to recover from the chemicals in "nail hardener").

Here are the two things I do:
1. I treat my nails with Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. Rub a decent amount into the nails and cuticles every night (and wear cotton gloves to bed to protect the sheets).
2. Don't expect too much. The winter is tough on my nails. I almost never have four useful picking nails from the end of December til early March. So, I work on fretting in the winter and tone production the rest of the year.

bikemech
02-23-2017, 05:27 AM
If you want to play with nails, it's fun to experiment with the real thing as well as synthetics and picks.

I come from a classical guitar background where playing with nails is almost an expected and required technique. I tried growing my nails out but it just didn't work for me. It was not worth the time and effort for a couch monkey like me who would never perform in front of an audience. When I moved to steel-string guitars, of course I tried to play with a plectrum as well as finger-picks. I could never get the hang of it. I would either continually drop the plectrum or get the finger picks caught up in the strings. Due to these reasons I could never get the volume I wanted out of the steel-string guitar.

And then I moved to ukulele. Wow! I found my instrument. I could finger pick (with the flesh of my fingers) and I could strum (with my fingers) to my heart's content without fear of dropping a plectrum. It was like discovering a new kind of musical freedom. And you know what? Because of the lower tension of the ukulele strings and the percussive nature of the instrument I was able to get the volume and tone I desire without nails or synthetics.

Of course you can get greater volume with a nails or a pick, but I don't find it necessary for my playing style. You're mileage may vary.

David

plastuku
02-23-2017, 09:37 AM
Best thumb pick I've ever found:

http://fredkellypicks.com/product/delrin-speed/

Griffis
02-23-2017, 10:03 AM
Best thumb pick I've ever found:

http://fredkellypicks.com/product/delrin-speed/

Ah, I remember those! Wow, forgot all about those. Cool--thanks for the link and flashback.

Griffis
02-23-2017, 10:23 AM
I come from a classical guitar background where playing with nails is almost an expected and required technique. I tried growing my nails out but it just didn't work for me. It was not worth the time and effort for a couch monkey like me who would never perform in front of an audience. When I moved to steel-string guitars, of course I tried to play with a plectrum as well as finger-picks. I could never get the hang of it. I would either continually drop the plectrum or get the finger picks caught up in the strings. Due to these reasons I could never get the volume I wanted out of the steel-string guitar.

And then I moved to ukulele. Wow! I found my instrument. I could finger pick (with the flesh of my fingers) and I could strum (with my fingers) to my heart's content without fear of dropping a plectrum. It was like discovering a new kind of musical freedom. And you know what? Because of the lower tension of the ukulele strings and the percussive nature of the instrument I was able to get the volume and tone I desire without nails or synthetics.

Of course you can get greater volume with a nails or a pick, but I don't find it necessary for my playing style. You're mileage may vary.

David

David, somehow I thought your name was Steve (?) Ha--my name is David too. You'd think I'd remember yours. Dang man, the ravages of age coupled with years of being a world-class libertine and heathen...

See? I'm even ramblng now.

ANYways, nice post. Rang a lot of bells with me. I started on guitar in 1977 and still played until last year. But early on I gravitated towards bass. Spent many years as a recording and gigging bass player.

I could also never get what I wanted out of guitar, but bass resonated with me.

I had to give bass up last year too. But back in 2000, when I first began experiencing the hand and wrist problems which ultimately robbed me of the ability to play bass and guitar, I instantly connected with ukulele in a way I never had with an instrument, and over the years I've played many string and other instruments (for the most part, poorly.)

This may have had something to do with already having extensive experience with string instruments, or perhaps due to the relief that switching to uke gave me. But it was like a bolt out of the blue.

Even now my fingers crave wanting to be around a uke's neck, the other hand stroking and strumming the stings. I'm addicted to the little whisper of the fingerprint ridges as they skim over the string, and the ringing of the note it brngs.

Plugging an electric bass into an amp the size of a refrigerator and making a deafening rumble while looking out over a crowd of people
including some pretty girls dancing and smiling...that is a great rush of feeling.

But the intimacy and romance of the ukulele brings me a whole other dimesion of joy.

Recovering Bassist
02-23-2017, 12:57 PM
Plugging an electric bass into an amp the size of a refrigerator and making a deafening rumble while looking out over a crowd of people
including some pretty girls dancing and smiling...that is a great rush of feeling.

But the intimacy and romance of the ukulele brings me a whole other dimesion of joy.

How eloquently and perfectly said! I couldn't agree more.

sopher
02-23-2017, 01:01 PM
Dude, go now and get the acrylic nails. Best thing I ever did.



Don't listen to that guy who said fake nails were a last resort (I'm not). I have acrylic nails (a powder and solvent that are painted on) on my thumb and two fingers that I pick with. I used to not have to reenforce my thumb but after SO much playing lately even my thumb nail was getting thin. I really like the thickness of acrylic nails which means that with a little careful filing and buffing I can get a thick smooth edge on my nails which allows my nails to slide off the strings easily and gives me a great tone.

Its a little like picks. Thick picks give a smoother tone. Unlike picks my nails are attached to the ends of my fingers so I have great control. Even though my thumbnail hadn't started to break the tone from the thin nail was getting a little brittle.

My acrylic nails give me a loud and smooth tone.

Anthony

bikemech
02-23-2017, 02:38 PM
David, somehow I thought your name was Steve (?) Ha--my name is David too. You'd think I'd remember yours. Dang man, the ravages of age coupled with years of being a world-class libertine and heathen...

See? I'm even ramblng now.

ANYways, nice post. Rang a lot of bells with me. I started on guitar in 1977 and still played until last year. But early on I gravitated towards bass. Spent many years as a recording and gigging bass player.

I could also never get what I wanted out of guitar, but bass resonated with me.

I had to give bass up last year too. But back in 2000, when I first began experiencing the hand and wrist problems which ultimately robbed me of the ability to play bass and guitar, I instantly connected with ukulele in a way I never had with an instrument, and over the years I've played many string and other instruments (for the most part, poorly.)

This may have had something to do with already having extensive experience with string instruments, or perhaps due to the relief that switching to uke gave me. But it was like a bolt out of the blue.

Even now my fingers crave wanting to be around a uke's neck, the other hand stroking and strumming the stings. I'm addicted to the little whisper of the fingerprint ridges as they skim over the string, and the ringing of the note it brngs.

Plugging an electric bass into an amp the size of a refrigerator and making a deafening rumble while looking out over a crowd of people
including some pretty girls dancing and smiling...that is a great rush of feeling.

But the intimacy and romance of the ukulele brings me a whole other dimesion of joy.

David,

You can call me Steve if you wish, but I may not respond. I have a nephew that, when he was just a youngster, used to call me Uncle Brian. We saw them infrequently and it became something of a family joke when we'd get together.

Yes, the ukulele has allowed me to experience something of a music epiphany which the guitar could never provide. That sounds a little weird but...their it is, and I know you understand it. Your expression of intimacy and romance, and your words referring to your hands around the uke's neck remind me of a poem I wrote as an expression of my frustrations in learning the guitar. Maybe I'll post it later but I'm afraid it might derail this thread.

Regards,

Neither Steve nor Uncle Brian

stevepetergal
02-23-2017, 05:44 PM
David,

You can call me Steve if you wish, but I may not respond. I have a nephew that, when he was just a youngster, used to call me Uncle Brian. We saw them infrequently and it became something of a family joke when we'd get together.

Yes, the ukulele has allowed me to experience something of a music epiphany which the guitar could never provide. That sounds a little weird but...their it is, and I know you understand it. Your expression of intimacy and romance, and your words referring to your hands around the uke's neck remind me of a poem I wrote as an expression of my frustrations in learning the guitar. Maybe I'll post it later but I'm afraid it might derail this thread.

Regards,

Neither Steve nor Uncle Brian

Fun story, Kenny.

bikemech
02-23-2017, 06:30 PM
Fun story, Kenny.
:biglaugh: