Nails, flesh or finger picks?

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Hi

i can’t seem to grow nails. Brittle and thin nails. Do I stick to flesh to play my acoustic or are finger picks worth mastering?

any advice appreciated. 
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  • merlinmerlin Frets: 4198
    I'm becoming a hybrid picker in my dotage. Never got on properly with thumb pick or finger picks. 
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  • Toms_DadToms_Dad Frets: 83
    I actually think nails on steel strings sound really plinky. I have nails because I play mainly classical, but mostly use a plectrum on steel strings.
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  • Toms_Dad said:
    I actually think nails on steel strings sound really plinky. I have nails because I play mainly classical, but mostly use a plectrum on steel strings.
    What about for acoustic finger style?
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 17382
    Fleshy fingers for me. Or actual traditional picks. Never nails or finger picks 
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  • Toms_DadToms_Dad Frets: 83
    Toms_Dad said:
    I actually think nails on steel strings sound really plinky. I have nails because I play mainly classical, but mostly use a plectrum on steel strings.
    What about for acoustic finger style?
    I think I would use flesh of the fingers if I could.  On electric at least you can EQ the plinkiness out a bit, with acoustic I've tried all sorts of strings, and owned 4 different acoustic guitars.  Nothing really sounds right to me with nails, which is why my steel strung acoustic sees little use.  YMMV of course.
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  • meltedbuzzboxmeltedbuzzbox Frets: 9627
    Fleshy fingers for me. Or actual traditional picks. Never nails or finger picks 
    Same

    On all guitars too. Acoustic,  electric,  classical and bass.
    I tend to prefer fingers on classical and bass but it's purely personal preference 
    The Bigsby was the first successful design of what is now called a whammy bar or tremolo arm, although vibrato is the technically correct term for the musical effect it produces. In standard usage, tremolo is a rapid fluctuation of the volume of a note, while vibrato is a fluctuation in pitch. The origin of this nonstandard usage of the term by electric guitarists is attributed to Leo Fender, who also used the term “vibrato” to refer to what is really a tremolo effect.
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 1501
    edited July 26
    Flesh for me because prefer the feel of playing that way. Plus nails really don't work for me when I play bass, which forces me down the 'no nails' route.

    If it's OK for the likes of Tommy Emmanuel and Mark Knopfler.
    It's not a competition.
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 612
    Tom's Dad notwithstanding, nails are generally regarded as the Tonal Gold Standard for steel string acoustic guitar. I don't entirely agree with that view: good players get great tone with plectrums, with flesh, with nails, and possibly even fingerpicks. It is all about what works *for you*  

    I have tried fingerpicks several times, only to discover (a) that they are way more difficult to control than fingers or a flatpick, and (b) that they naturally produce the tone and volume a bluegrass player would die for and anyone else would die of.

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  • earwighoneyearwighoney Frets: 2891
    Hi

    i can’t seem to grow nails. Brittle and thin nails. Do I stick to flesh to play my acoustic or are finger picks worth mastering?

    any advice appreciated. 
    Finger picks can be worth it, it depends on what kind of music you want to play.

    For some kind ragtime/blues playing, the punchy sound of fingerpicks is a key part of the sound. I say some as it is a part of John Fahey, Rev Gary Davis but not Mississippi John Hurt's sound.

    Tannin said:
    Tom's Dad notwithstanding, nails are generally regarded as the Tonal Gold Standard for steel string acoustic guitar. I don't entirely agree with that view: good players get great tone with plectrums, with flesh, with nails, and possibly even fingerpicks. It is all about what works *for you*  

    I have tried fingerpicks several times, only to discover (a) that they are way more difficult to control than fingers or a flatpick, and (b) that they naturally produce the tone and volume a bluegrass player would die for and anyone else would die of.

    Why are nails considered the gold standard? It's not something I have thought about. 
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 612
    Like you, AllthegearNoidea, I have naturally weak nails.  

    Long story short, Acrylic nails are probably your answer. They are easy to get and maintain, cheap, durable, and can be any size and shape you like. You have full control over your tone: you can mix and match pure nail, pure flesh, or any desired hybrid just by adjusting the angle of your wrist a little. Or you can keep them long for nail-all-the-time playing if that is your thing. Or keep them short for playing with flesh, only getting better tone and control because the nail behind the flesh stiffens it and improves both tone and volume, even though it doesn't touch the string directly.

    Go to your local nail salon and ask for acrylic nails. You decide how many fingers to do. (I do four - thumb plus three fingers, though I'm not really getting anything from the thumb reinforcement and might stop bothering with it.) They may well already know how to do nails for a guitarist, but if they don't, don't worry. It is straightforward.

    Do *not* have any of those clear plastic nail extension things. Those are strictly for cosmetic nail jobs, those long elegant painted things some women wear. The reason you don't want them is that you end up with *three* layers - your soft natural nail, the flexible plastic extension on top of it, and the hard acrylic coating above that. The three layers separate at the wearing tip and it sounds horrible!

    Simply have them paint the nail with acrylic. They will shape it and slightly roughen the surface for a good grip. Then they lacquer it and dip it, still wet, into a little pot of acrylic powder, dust it off, wait for it to dry a little, then repeat. After about four or five dips, they file the result flat and switch to a different lacquer for the top coat. A final file to shape and you are done. Costs $5 to $20 depending on how many nails you want done. 

    Every two weeks, go back and have them removed and reapplied.

    Start with your current very short nails. Having the acrylic treatment won't make them any longer, it will just toughen them up such that playing no longer keeps wearing them down to nothing. Very slowly, they will get longer. Encourage your salon to shape but not shorten your nails  when you go back every couple of weeks, and little by little you will develop usefully long nails. This slow growth over several months is perfect: your technique has time to adapt without any disconcerting step changes. I find that I *never* have to trim my nails, an hour or two a day playing keeps them at a good length and I just have to tidy up a little now and then.

    Note that you cannot cut or clip acrylic nails: they are too tough to get a blade through, and if you do manage to do it then they crack and chip. So you have to file. They are much tougher than natural nails, so you need to file for longer to make much difference. 

    The GOOD: generally better tone - even when you keep them fairly short and use a lot of flesh rather than actual nail: the nail reinforces the flesh of your fingertip and helps you get better tone. Much less stress about your nails: they tend not to break even when you do heavy work (fencing, laying concrete, whatever), and your nail person can always fix one if you do do something bad to it. You also no longer don't have to ration your playing hours to preserve your fast-wearing nails. Play as much as you like.

    The BAD: )strumming tone. If you use the back of your nails to strum chords in between your fingerpicked single notes, the tone quality of those strummed chords deteriorates. It's like using a poor quality pick instead of a good one. It is a significant drawback and in the 12 months since I started having my nails done I haven't found a cure for it. I started a thread about it here but despite several helpful suggestions, the case remains on the unsolved list. Downside #2: we do jigsaws and I can't pick up the little cardboard pieces lying flat on the table with my right hand! The reinforced nails are a bit thicker than natural nails (of course) and my fingertips don't touch the jigsaw piece. So I have to use my left hand! 

    Overall, the benefits outweigh the costs many times over. 

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  • DavidReesDavidRees Frets: 161
    I am also a fleshy fingers kind of guy :) ..
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  • SnagsSnags Frets: 3169
    I had problems with my nails tearing, shaling, and wearing easily. Following advice on here I got hold of some Barielle nail conditioning cream, on the grounds it was less hassle and cheaper than doing the acrylics thing every couple of weeks (I have a friend who does that, too, and swears by it). After a few weeks of applying the cream morning/evening my nails got waaaay stronger, and have been fine since, with just random applications when I can be arsed (it takes 20 seconds, I'm very lazy).

    Get a glass nail file too, so you can keep them at a sensible length without knackering them.
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  • McSwaggertyMcSwaggerty Frets: 559
    I'm pretty much an acoustic blues fleshy Fingerpicker, using the back of my nails for the occasional strum. 
    Sometimes l will use a thumbpick if l want a stronger or louder bass line.
    I'm not that great, but for acoustic resonator and bottleneck stuff l might use fingerpicks.... But if playing electric slide l'm far too heavy handed and not good enough to use fingerpicks so l tend to stick to fleshy fingers.... 
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  • BlueingreenBlueingreen Frets: 1770
    edited July 26
    I'd like to play with flesh, I think it'd be a more consistent sound and I'd love to be able to stop worrying about the length of my nails.  But every time I've tried to make the transition my fingertips end up too sore to play within a day or two.  Anyone any advice for toughening the fingertips?
    “To a man with a hammer every problem looks like a nail.”
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 612
    edited July 26
    One thing that may help a bit Blueingreen, is string selection. Different brands of the same sort of string vary quite a lot in their texture. A set of Earthwood or Rotosound is much rougher than a set of Martins or D'Addarios, which are rougher than Newtones, and then there are coated strings like Elixirs which are different again. (Of course there are flatwounds too, I won't go there.) If you switch to a smooth-finish  string while your fingers grow tougher - which they will - that might make the transition easier.
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  • sev112sev112 Frets: 1355
    I'd like to play with flesh, I think it'd be a more consistent sound and I'd love to be able to stop worrying about the length of my nails.  But every time I've tried to make the transition my fingertips end up too sore to play within a day or two.  Anyone any advice for toughening the fingertips?
    Buy a cheapie nylon strung and build up the “strength”on your middle picking fingers , esp if you get low tension strings

    or drop your steel string gauge down. I have 12s on my acoustics, but I put 10s on the one ive lent my daughter.  It plays beautifully as a finger picker, although it’s not as great for hard strumming


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  • KeefyKeefy Frets: 1222
    I do quite a lot of hybrid picking. I used to try and grow my picking-hand fingernails but I found a little groove would wear in them, and it would catch on the string (in an unwanted way). So now for me 'hybrid' means pick-and- fingertips.
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  • MellishMellish Frets: 73
    For fingerpicking style, has anyone  tried the Fred Kelly Speedpick? It isn't as bulky as other thumbpicks. I was looking at them last week. They come in several colours, white being the most rigid and yellow the least, 
    according to the selection they had :) 






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  • Open_GOpen_G Frets: 8
    Nails for me. Tone is just so much clearer, louder and faster. 
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  • wellsyboywellsyboy Frets: 233
    Tannin said:
    Like you, AllthegearNoidea, I have naturally weak nails.  

    Long story short, Acrylic nails are probably your answer. They are easy to get and maintain, cheap, durable, and can be any size and shape you like. You have full control over your tone: you can mix and match pure nail, pure flesh, or any desired hybrid just by adjusting the angle of your wrist a little. Or you can keep them long for nail-all-the-time playing if that is your thing. Or keep them short for playing with flesh, only getting better tone and control because the nail behind the flesh stiffens it and improves both tone and volume, even though it doesn't touch the string directly.

    Go to your local nail salon and ask for acrylic nails. You decide how many fingers to do. (I do four - thumb plus three fingers, though I'm not really getting anything from the thumb reinforcement and might stop bothering with it.) They may well already know how to do nails for a guitarist, but if they don't, don't worry. It is straightforward.

    Do *not* have any of those clear plastic nail extension things. Those are strictly for cosmetic nail jobs, those long elegant painted things some women wear. The reason you don't want them is that you end up with *three* layers - your soft natural nail, the flexible plastic extension on top of it, and the hard acrylic coating above that. The three layers separate at the wearing tip and it sounds horrible!

    Simply have them paint the nail with acrylic. They will shape it and slightly roughen the surface for a good grip. Then they lacquer it and dip it, still wet, into a little pot of acrylic powder, dust it off, wait for it to dry a little, then repeat. After about four or five dips, they file the result flat and switch to a different lacquer for the top coat. A final file to shape and you are done. Costs $5 to $20 depending on how many nails you want done. 

    Every two weeks, go back and have them removed and reapplied.

    Start with your current very short nails. Having the acrylic treatment won't make them any longer, it will just toughen them up such that playing no longer keeps wearing them down to nothing. Very slowly, they will get longer. Encourage your salon to shape but not shorten your nails  when you go back every couple of weeks, and little by little you will develop usefully long nails. This slow growth over several months is perfect: your technique has time to adapt without any disconcerting step changes. I find that I *never* have to trim my nails, an hour or two a day playing keeps them at a good length and I just have to tidy up a little now and then.

    Note that you cannot cut or clip acrylic nails: they are too tough to get a blade through, and if you do manage to do it then they crack and chip. So you have to file. They are much tougher than natural nails, so you need to file for longer to make much difference. 

    The GOOD: generally better tone - even when you keep them fairly short and use a lot of flesh rather than actual nail: the nail reinforces the flesh of your fingertip and helps you get better tone. Much less stress about your nails: they tend not to break even when you do heavy work (fencing, laying concrete, whatever), and your nail person can always fix one if you do do something bad to it. You also no longer don't have to ration your playing hours to preserve your fast-wearing nails. Play as much as you like.

    The BAD: )strumming tone. If you use the back of your nails to strum chords in between your fingerpicked single notes, the tone quality of those strummed chords deteriorates. It's like using a poor quality pick instead of a good one. It is a significant drawback and in the 12 months since I started having my nails done I haven't found a cure for it. I started a thread about it here but despite several helpful suggestions, the case remains on the unsolved list. Downside #2: we do jigsaws and I can't pick up the little cardboard pieces lying flat on the table with my right hand! The reinforced nails are a bit thicker than natural nails (of course) and my fingertips don't touch the jigsaw piece. So I have to use my left hand! 

    Overall, the benefits outweigh the costs many times over. 

    Acrylic nails will destroy your natural nails - don’t do it - bad advice
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