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01 Dec 99 - 05:36 PM (#143357)
Subject: Fingerpicks Vs Nails
From: Clinton Hammond

Besides thumb picks, who uses them? What kind? Have preferences?

I ask because it's on my mind... I have a gig tomorrow night and I've busted the nail on my middle finger... I have a metal thing (as used on banjo) but it feels like crud... any suggestions from the Press On people out there???

01 Dec 99 - 05:56 PM (#143366)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Guitarpicker

Unfortunately most fingerpicks out there are pretty similar. I've bought all sorts of different brands but there's not much different about how they work...except for Alaska picks. They're plastic and, instead of coming up from the base of fingertip (like banjo picks), they extend out from the fingernail itself...or whats left of it. My wife plays with them but I'm more used to the more conventional sort of fingerpicks. For what it's worth, it doesn't take that long to get used to them and they (I'm talking about the metal banjo-style here)can really help your volumn on stage. Actually, playing without them seems a little unnatural to me these days. Good luck however you do it.

01 Dec 99 - 06:11 PM (#143371)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: JedMarum

I think you're right on with your first thought; use the ones God gave you! I don't suppose you can adjust to a finger pick that quickly, anyway.

Thumb picks are good, but I prefer to use my nails rather than picks on my fingers. This may not help you for tomorrow's gig, but if you learn to use alternate fingers fro your finger picking, the next time you break a nail you could press another finger into service!

I use a picking method based around a thumb and two fingers. Generally I use the index and fourth OR the index and middle finger. If I break the fourth I use the middle - if I break the middle, I use the fourth. When all my nnails are in tact (normally)- I use 'em all, but alternate between the fouth and middle depending upon the sound I am looking for (the fourth gives a sharper tone to the high strings). I also use the middle finger to strike the string forward (as opposed to picking) for a sharp, percussive crack from time-to-time; this creates some interesting accents. If I have a broken index finger nail, I use the middle in its place. All of this is easier than it sounds, and can be accomplished with just a little perseverance.

Of course if more than one is broken, I'm still f*cked - so then I just use what stubs are left and hope it's loud enough! Best of luck!

01 Dec 99 - 07:31 PM (#143412)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Bugsy

Hope this isn't too late but I had the same problem at a festival once. Broke the nail on my index finger about an hour before my concert spot.

A friend of mine gave me a cheap plastic nail which I put on with superglue, filed it down and it worked for the whole of the festival. As I've got massive fingers, I used the standard thumb nail and put it on upside down.

good luck!


01 Dec 99 - 07:41 PM (#143419)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: McGrath of Harlow

Alaska picks are a brilliant variation on the conventional finger picks - they actually feel like finger nails, are good and firm, and you can use them up and down - but the ones I have come across are made in some horrible brittle plastic that breaks all the time. Also they are virtially impossible to get in England.

I once saw somebody using what looked like the same design, but in a decent material. If there's anyone out there can tell me where I can get hold of some like that, I'd be grateful.

01 Dec 99 - 07:56 PM (#143421)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Sarah-HS

Boy ... am I glad this thread ever started! This past Sunday I broke my middle nail and was scheduled to perform. I do like using my own nails, however, using he metal finger-picks was very effective, especially when higher volume's needed during sing-along. I never heard of Alaska picks before but will look for them next time I'm in the music store.

01 Dec 99 - 08:12 PM (#143425)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: McGrath of Harlow

Here's a link I just found to a page with stuff about Alaska picks -

But it looks as if they just do them in the same crappy brittle plastic. Apart from that, as I said above, they are brilliant for people who don't like ordinary finger picks.

01 Dec 99 - 08:14 PM (#143427)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Midchuck

If God had meant us to fingerpick He (She? It? They?) would have made our fingernails out of Tortoise Shell.

01 Dec 99 - 09:11 PM (#143445)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Roger in Baltimore


I am a compulsive nail biter. A few times I stopped long enough to have nails for fingerpicking and it sure was fun.

I have tried lots of picks, including the Alaska ones. The ones I have fallen for big time are Finger-Tone fingerstyle guitar picks by ProPik.

They are metal and look like a strange cousin of the old dobro picks. The part that wraps around your finger is split into two which gives you better shaping and firmer grip. The finger tip parts have a large hole in the center, leaving just a thin edge all the way around. This way, your fingertip pushes through and you get some direct finger contact with the string.

Many music stores carry them (if they cater to guitar players), some don't.

You can contact Guptill Music, P.O. Box 521, Orange, CA, USA 92856 or call 714-556-8013, or FAX 714-556-8203, or e-mail,

For two old threads on this subject, CLICK HERE and HERE.

Roger in Baltimore

01 Dec 99 - 09:16 PM (#143448)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Big Mick

I use the Alaska picks as I have very thin and brittle nails on my right hand. They take a little getting used to and, like any other finger pick, generally need a little "touching up". I put them on and then use a clippers and nail file to shape them just so. I then number them so they go on the same each time. The music store that purchase them from sells them in packages of 24 for about $20.00 US. The plastic quality has gotten better since I first started using them a few years back. They also make them in metal, which I have never tried. They come in various sizes (S, M, L, XL). I buy them one size small (L) so they fit tight. The only problem I have ever encountered is the occasional slipping when my hands are sweaty. But that is a rare occasion.

If you can't find them at your local retailer you can order them at by CLICKING HERE.

All the best,

Big Mick

01 Dec 99 - 09:45 PM (#143459)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: bseed(charleskratz)

We had this discussion once before, before I had discovered the Fingertone picks RiB describes above. I bought a dozen Fingertones (I think for about 20 bucks, maybe less) and gave some to a couple of my friends--who now use them. I still haven't tried them--I'm primarily a clawhammer banjo player and a flatpicker on guitar--but I do intend to give them a of these days...after I clean the garage. They do look like they'd give you the feel of the strings you miss with most fingerpicks, and the volume you can't get fingerpicking naked--and finding them caused me to put off trying to craft the design I have bouncing around in the vast emptiness of my mind.


01 Dec 99 - 09:56 PM (#143466)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Tony Burns

I had a little trouble with your Elderly link Mick. Try here for a list of what they carry.

01 Dec 99 - 09:57 PM (#143467)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: DonMeixner

I use finger picks for banjo Guitar and Auto harp. Heaviest possible on the thumb and heavy Jim Dunlops (.025) on index and middle fingers. I bend the tips away from the finger just a tiny bit for more bite into the strings.


01 Dec 99 - 11:08 PM (#143499)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Frankie


I fingerpick steel string guitar and I use to play with longish fingernails which required a lot of maintenance. If I broke a nail before a gig panic would set in and I get some of those plastic nails from the drug store and they'd work just fine on most occasions. I finally got tired of the whole drill and on the advice of a friend I cut my nails and left just enough back there to support the flesh of my fingertips. It took quite a few months, close to a year as I recall playing on the tips of my fingers but I finally got my volume back up to where it was and found thet the tone I was getting was far superior. I've got really tough calluses on my picking hand fingers now and ridges where the tips strike the string and find that if I skip playing for a few days it pretty much comes apart. Of course I don't consider that a hardship. Something to consider. Good Luck, Frankie

01 Dec 99 - 11:34 PM (#143506)
Subject: Thanks folks!!
From: Clinton Hammond

Lots stuff here to consider... and more to come I'm sure... I was looking at press ons at the grocery store today.. I think I'm gonna give that a try as a short term fix to my problem...

Now both hands can be covered in Krazy Glue! LOL! I use it sometimes on marathon weekends to suppliment the fretboard calouses... If it's good enough for James Keelaghan and Stephen Fearing, it's good enough for me!

I've tried the Alsaka (sp?) picks but it was years ago, and my fingerpicking wasn't very good then, so I really didn't get into them...

Oh anf Frankie.. if I ever have close to a year off gigs, I'll think about learning to play by the tips of my fingers! LOL!! I'll starve to death, but I'll be able to do it! ;-)

Thanks So Much Folks!

01 Dec 99 - 11:40 PM (#143509)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: John of the Hill

Elderly now handles Alaska Piks in brass, might play hell with you nailclippers though. John

01 Dec 99 - 11:40 PM (#143510)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: James

Clinton, You might try a dab of Krazy Glue - nothing else- where your finger and nail meet. Just squeeze it on, spread it and let it dry. You get a nice little hard pad, that lasts all night and it can be removed with glue solvent later. Works for me.

01 Dec 99 - 11:52 PM (#143514)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Frankie

Clinton, I wasn't suggesting that it takes that long to do it, just that it took me a long time to get the same volume I had during my fingernail days, without sound reinforcement. If you're playing through a PA it might not be that big a deal. Regards, Frankie

01 Dec 99 - 11:56 PM (#143516)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Michael K.

I've been sort of experimenting for the past 6 months. Sometimes, I'm in the mood to fingerpick quietly and use only bare fingers; other times I'll use just bare fingers with a bit of nail and a thumbpick but here I use different thumbpicks all the time. Seems to vary from regular white Nationals, to a very thin, slim and light version of the National, and also this other thumbpick that's kind of strange looking but is extremely useful.

It looks just like a flat pick but has a rounded attachment that allows it to slide onto your you can instanty switch back and forth from fingerpicking to straight flat picking a run. It's like wearing a flat pick.

When I do use fingerpicks (not often) I either use metal Nationals, or plastic Alaska Piks. The Alaskas are more comfortable but not as loud, but you feel more in contact with the guitar...For sheer volume, nothing beats the National metal finger picks.

02 Dec 99 - 12:03 AM (#143518)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Rick Fielding

It all depends on whay you get used to, and boy it's hard to get used to ANY picks in one day. I use heavy guage Dunlops (25s) and a Golden Gate thumbpick when I use a thumb and two finger style. If I want to use three fingers I take both fingerpicks and thumbpick off.

02 Dec 99 - 12:51 AM (#143534)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: ddw

This looks like a good thread to throw out a question that has literally been bugging me for years.

I used to use a particular kind of plastic finger picks that came in black, white, tortoise shell or colors. The unusual thing about them was that instead of being flat across from the grip band and then hugging the fingertip where they curved upward, they had a slight ridge that ran from the grips toward the end, and then flaired out so the tip was almost straight out from the finger, creating a configuration sorta like what somebody described above by bending the tips of National metals down a little.

These picks were very common in the late '60s and early '70s and the last batch of them I got had been made as a promotion for Ibanez (Sp) guitars. But they've totally disappeared. I carried one of my broken ones around for a couple of years and asked in every music store I saw if anybody knew where to get them. Never found anyone who had ever seen anything like them — which must speak to my age.

Anyway, I know it may be hard to visualize what I'm talking about, but I was wondering if any of you other old coots remember these things and know who made them. And, more importantly, if they still exist and can be had anywhere.



02 Dec 99 - 01:16 AM (#143539)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Rick Fielding

Know exactly the ones you mean David. Haven't seen 'em in quite a while. I go through that a lot. You know, finding picks that you just KNOW you're gonna use til you I buy a gross(no kidding). In my VERY large pick container I currently have 123 "reefer" flatpicks, at least 120 Rodam "Power picks", and close to a hundred Dunlop "73s". Unfortunately I'm now using "Catstongue "88s". What'll probably happen is that I WILL use these til I die, but will run out of them and be in the same boat you are. Maybe I'll run out and buy a gross tomorrow!

02 Dec 99 - 01:19 AM (#143541)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: hrodelbert

There are varying thicknesses of fingerpick to consider as well as the material, because there are metal picks (steel) and brass. Brass has a nicer tone than the steel. I would also suggest that overnight would be pushing it to bedcome sufficiently proficient for public performances except for the obvious prodigies of course

02 Dec 99 - 03:35 AM (#143564)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Steve Parkes

Plastic false nails or nail tips work wonders, but the superglue takes the surface off your real nail, which can't be good for it. I used tissue paper and clear nail varnish for ages: build up three or four layers, letting each one dry first. Looks dreadful, but it works. My nails seem to have grown stronger through playing, and I don't use anything now; maybe I just look after them better. I haven't tried gluing falsies onto nail varnish - that might work.

A manicurist I met a few weeks ago told me to go to a manicurist and, never mind sitting with all the girls and getting funny looks, ask for my picking nails to be coated with polyurethane: this is clear, and stops them splitting. When I've tried it, I'll let you know how I got on.


02 Dec 99 - 05:29 AM (#143582)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???

Somebody told me the brass Alaska picks can be adjusted to your finger.

I once read that John Renbourn used ping-pong balls. He would cut them into strips, paste them on his fingernails and then trimmed them. I haven't tried either the Alaska picks or the ping-pong balls, so I just throw it out for what it is worth. I plan to buy some Alaska picks for the next time a nail breaks. I was tending towards the brass ones; but in light Micks idea of trimming them, I might go for plastic ones.


02 Dec 99 - 07:23 AM (#143598)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: catspaw49

Okay. I admit it.....There are about 17,000 mistakes I made when learning to play guitar about 35 years ago. My background was with the "take lessons, practice hard" school of music with Sax/clarinet/flute/bassoon etc. and when I came to folk and guitar, it was like an amazing freedom, a kind of "just do it" thing and of course I screwed up. I never could get the feel for fingerpicks initially, but a thumb pick was totally "natural" feeling...probably because I am holding my hand wrong or something. Over the years, I've tried to correct a lot of things and said "Aw screw it" to most. Its always great to see some biggie doing something wrong as I do, kinda' reassuring or something.

In any case, I have really tried to get into fingerpicks and have bought a ton of them in all sorts of shapes/sizes/materials. I was really excited to get the Alaskapicks....FINALLY, I thought. Couldn't do it. And I really wanted to....Working with wood building instruments is hard on your fingers and hands and there is nothing like accidentally sanding off a right hand nail to really piss me off. I've gotten into the artificial nails if absolutely needed and they do fine.

But does anyone else have this problem? Its like when I put on a fingerpick, my fingers "lock up." Can't move them. I don't get it. Just a tiny little band at the tip and WHAMMO--locked finger. Friggin' weird...but then again, so am I. I just wondered if anyone else has that same thing. I've spent days trying...even forced myself to play for a month once....couldn't ever get the feel.


02 Dec 99 - 07:31 AM (#143599)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Bugsy


Ditto, ditto, ditto, my experience is EXACTLY the same.




02 Dec 99 - 10:28 AM (#143652)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Fortunato

I use a National dobro Thumbpick. Fairly tight and heavy. After sufficient practice they become 'part' of my thumb. I took the advice of my guitar guru, Dave Parker, and put the time in years ago. Like Mr. Fielding I buy them in some quantity. But when I must change picks it takes 5 minutes to adjust. I use metal Dunlop 23s or 24s. Like the thumbpick I don't notice them unless there is a problem with fit. The adjustment to the size and shape of the index and middle finger is important. But here's the trick. I turn the fingerpicks a few degrees inward towards the guitar face so that they strike the strings nearly straight on. This reduces the unwanted "steelpick" sound, rather like good bowing on the fiddle!

Cheers Fortunato

02 Dec 99 - 01:53 PM (#143708)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Well Folks...

Thanks alot again! I'll give the press-on thing a try for tonight alet ya know...

The one problem I have with the Alsaka thingys.. when my nails break the break off right at the quick... so then there's no nail let to put the Pick under... But I'll give them some though...

To Steve Parkes: polyurethane sounds like a neat idea too.. once it's grown back (they grow like weeds thank gods!) maybe I'll give ti a try as well....

Thanks again folks!!!

03 Dec 99 - 10:20 AM (#144118)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Steve Parkes

After checking out this thread again, my thumbnail broke! I wouldn't mind so much, but I only use it for peeling bananas and opening the foil on coffee jars - try doing that with a thumbpick!


03 Dec 99 - 10:28 AM (#144123)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: catspaw49

Oh I dunno Steve.....Like Rick, I use "Golden Gate" thumbpicks and I think they're capable of ANYTHING! **BG**


03 Dec 99 - 10:38 AM (#144129)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: DonMeixner

Hello all.

I'll add some weirdness to this discussion. The nails on my left grow three times as fast as the nails on my right hand. They also gow in harder and stronger. These are the nails I have to cut away so I can play fretted instruments.

Why do they growso fast? These are the fingers I injured with the saw. The Doctor said its a phenomenon that he sees from time to time but is unable to explain it. Hand injuries are full of stuff like this. Nerves that remain dormant for years then fire off for no reason. Sudden nail growth. More hair on the back of the hand.(Well that could be a different reason.)

If you like playing with strong fingernails that grow to a playable length in a week. Cut your fingers off with a Makita Table saw and have a Doctor sew them back on for you. Cost about $90,000.00 Or maybe learn to use finger picks, gotta be cheaper.


03 Dec 99 - 10:52 AM (#144136)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: catspaw49

And as we go to another stirring chapter of "As the Thread Creeps"...............

After the bypass a few years back, I experienced one of those odd little things similar to what you mention Don. I don't know why exactly and the Docs all just made mumbling noises, but it was very weird. They remove a vein from your leg to use in the bypass and anyone who has had one will tell you that there is a lot more pain from the leg than from the chest. In any case, I also added a new twist. Because of the accompanying circulation problems there is some discoloration that occurs in the lower leg. Okay, no big deal. But I also grew this unbelievable crop of hair where before I had had very little. I mean the lower leg from about 4 inches below the knee was DENSE!!! I looked like Alley Oop fer chrissakes!!! It seems to have gone away in the most part now, but I often have wondered what the hell caused it.


03 Dec 99 - 04:32 PM (#144304)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Willie-O

I have been a completely religious convert to Alaska Piks for about three years. In 25 years of playing, I had never got the hang of regular fingerpicks (I didn't know you were supposed to put them on backwards, if indeed you are.)

They can still be improved upon though. There's got to be a synthetic material that's better than that crappy plastic which tends to crack in the middle. I got a set of brass ones and they are much more durable, and can be adjusted to stay on your fingers better. BUT they make a nasty scraping sound on wound strings. I knew this was a problem when not only I heard it, but my daughter informed me in no uncertain terms--she actually begged me not to use them within shot of her tender ears. I still use em sometimes but judiciously.

Maybe they could do them in Tortex?

Bill C

03 Dec 99 - 07:49 PM (#144377)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Terry Allan Hall

What I've finally gone with is just my thumb/finger-tips on 6 and 12-string guitars, but I'm still using Dunlops plastic thumb/finger picks on Hawaiian guitar, Dobro, Autoharp, and banjo.

Here's a trick that I've found is get thick plastic thumb/fingerpicks to fit "just right", dip either the "blade" or "ring" of said pick in boiling water for about 6 seconds, shape it into the way you want it, then dip it into ice water for 6 sec.(Don't try to do the entire pick at one time, tho, just the ring or the blade!)

To further this idea, a freind once cast my "pickin' hand" in bronze. The 1st time she tried it, it came out wrong, so I talked her out of the flawed hand, cut off the thumb and 1st and 2nd fingers and I use them to "mold" my picks around.

Look cool in my gig bag, too! ;-)

03 Dec 99 - 10:56 PM (#144461)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: joeler

to ddw I'm one of those old coots who remembers the fingerpicks you are talking about. I have one left and I lock it up at night. They were the greatest picks ever made but I have the same problem trying to find them. I have looked so many places for so long that I'm convinced that they are no longer made.

03 Dec 99 - 11:56 PM (#144478)
Subject: RE: Fingerpicks???
From: Cap't Bob

I hardly ever use finger or thumb picks, however, when I do I like them to feel as natural as possible. The finger picks that I prefer are the ones that come to a bit of a point at the end. When I get them adjusted just right I can feel the string with my finger while using these picks.

The thumb pick that I like best is one that has two little slits, one on either side of the part that strikes the string. The part that actually strikes the string is only about 3/16 of an inch wide. The advantage is that the pick stays put (without being overly tight) and, you can also feel the pressure of the string on your thumb.

Cap't Bob