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Anyone use the edge of their index finger/nail as an alternative to using a pick?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by TuneSalad666, Mar 16, 2018.


  1. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Banned

    Mar 1, 2018
    Denmark
    Anyone use a similar technique to this to mimic a pick:

    Lately, instead of using a pick, I have preferred to use the tip and edge of the nail of my right hand index finger like I would use a pick, seems to give me much more control over my picking, exactly how I hit the strings and with how much impact, and sounds something in between what finger picking and a pick would sound like, also makes it extremely easy to switch to regular finger picking.

    If done right, only using the absolute edge of the fingertip/nail, with a nail that is neither too long or too short, I feel like it doesn't really strain or hurt my finger and my nail doesn't seem to be prone to breaking either from doing so.

    I sort of hold my index finger against my thumb like I would if using a pick to support it and then hit it on down strokes with the tip of my nail, but in an angle so it sort of rolls off fairly gentle letting the very edge of my finger/nail take most of the actual impact, then on upstrokes a bit further out hitting the edge of my finger/nail.

    The trick is that I have my nail cut only to ever so slightly go beyond my fingertip, so that when the edge of the nail hit the string it is still mostly supported by the tip of my finger.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Until I wore my nail down.:confused:
    I keep a pick between the pickup cover and the route edge.
     
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  3. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    California
    I have acrylic overlays on my nails. I used to dremel them down so that I could get either fingertip or fingernail tones but lately I'm just using my nails. So even though I play fingerstyle, the attack sounds very pick-like.

    Note to guys: you can do this too. The nail places can do this with a clear coat, so you won't look like your nails are done. But for us gals, it's kind of a bonus that we get picks on our fingertips plus a fashion statement.
     
  4. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Banned

    Mar 1, 2018
    Denmark
    Do you just use regular clear nail polish or would a specific kind of nail polish be best for this purpose?

    Or is it like an artificial nail overlay you glue on your real nail?
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
  5. Funky Ghost

    Funky Ghost Translucently Groovy

    I have a hand injury that prevents the prolonged or even remotely comfortable use of a pick. I've been using my index finger and nail as an alternative for many years now. I prefer finger style but sometimes the pick sound is needed. I've never done in my nail from this. My nails are pretty stinckin tough though and grow at a staggering rate.
     
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  6. I only do this about twice a year or so, when I feel like strumming, so no need to buy picks yet, but I have gotten overzealous on occasion and wrecked a nail—cracked or tore it. I guess my nails are brittle.
     
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  7. Or as we say around here, “what is the best nail polish for metal?”
     
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  8. GBBSbassist

    GBBSbassist I actually play more guitar... Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2010
    Chicago
    I did this early on, but I found it far too damaging on my nails, and near the cuticles of my finger if I didn't land perfectly where I wanted to strum. I'm sure my technique wasn't the greatest, but it seemed like an odd thing to practice to me, when the alternative was just "use a pick..." if I want that tone.

    I just learned to play both with a pick and fingerstyle.
     
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  9. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Banned

    Mar 1, 2018
    Denmark
    I can understand that, it's just that I actually like the sound of my finger tip/nail better than any pick I have been able to find (less harsh attack than a regular pick, but still considerably more emphasis on the attack than with regular finger picking), and also it seems to give me much more precise control over my picking, especially when needing to hit more strings at once, like double stops, with pick I feel like I have a hard time making the attack, and thereby output, even on both strings, but when using my finger tip/nail I find it fairly easy to control the impact on the individual strings.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
  10. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I often play fingerstyle at the very tips of the fleshy part using the tip of the nail for more attack. I also sometimes grab my index finger tip between my middle finger and thumb, and use the nail as a pick doing both up and down strokes, works ok if I don't do it too hard.
     
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  11. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    California
    I get mine done in a nail salon about every two to three weeks. It's an acrylic powder that they use which bonds to your real nail and strengthens it significantly. The process is roughly this: dremel the existing nail to rough it up a little, apply some sort of bonding chemical, dip the nail into acrylic powder, apply another coat of something that causes the powder to solidify and bond to the nail. They can also put on acrylic nail extensions to add length if your nails are cut to the bone, like mine used to be. The whole process takes about an hour for all ten fingers but I'm sure they would cut you a deal if you only wanted two or three nails done like this.

    For guys, you'd have the salon follow all of this up with a coat of clear polish. We ladies get a little fancier.

    ETA here's a pic that shows how thick they are after this is done. I dremeled down the index finger a bit myself because I had a chip; I'm overdue for another visit. So you'll see that one looks a little wonky. View attachment 2952618
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
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  12. This is my preferred technique to cover up the fact that I've dropped my pick.
     
  13. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    If I happen to drop a pick, I'll just continue fingerstyle. I make sure I'm able to play every song we play with a pick or fingerstyle. I only use a pick for about 10% of the songs, so it's not a huge deal.
     
  14. HarryWS

    HarryWS

    Dec 14, 2012
    Yeah I do it occasionally if I want that sound! Tried it on a fresh set of strings once though and through poor technique caught where the nail meets the finger. It stung like hell and my finger was bleeding for a while but apart from that hiccup I do enjoy doing it from time to time!
     
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  15. deathness

    deathness

    Jan 19, 2015
    BKLYN
    Yes it's my preferred way of playing since I strum 95% of the time. My nail is mostly worn down and the tip of my finger is massively calloused. I prefer the control and feel of it vs a pick though I do find it takes a bit more control, it's easier to flub and make a stray note ring out much louder. Overall I like how much variance it can give over the attack and how combined with placement from in front of the bridge to near the neck can alter the tone. I play noisy ambient music so subtle shifts in tone and timbre are crucial.
     
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  16. pbass2

    pbass2

    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Hey if it works. I might do that from time to time when I'm just goofing around, but for me it would never replace using a pick--I could never cop the consistent tone/precise attack with my fingernails.
    Y'know who used to play like you describe--Bernard Edwards: Bernard Edwards Fake Pick Attack
     
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  17. St_G

    St_G

    Jan 22, 2013
    Memphis, TN
    Bass was my first stringed instrument, and I started with my fingers. A few years later, I picked guitar and could neither hold onto a pick, nor make any sense of the top two strings.

    So I took off the b & e strings, and played as though I was holding a pick, but without a pick actually in my hand. The strings came back after about a year, but it took a few more before I actually learned to use a pick properly. To this day, if a pick is not readily available, I can pretty convincingly fake it with my fingernail, assuming the part isn't very technical.
     
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  18. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Banned

    Mar 1, 2018
    Denmark
    I can relate 100% with that.

    Both prefer the tone over a regular pick and feel like it gives me much more control.
     
  19. ifrisbee

    ifrisbee

    Jan 2, 2017
    Maryland
    I seem to recall some Canadian bass player who managed to eek out a living for 40 years or so, using his fingernails as a pick.
     
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  20. deathness

    deathness

    Jan 19, 2015
    BKLYN
    I find a pick gives greater consistency. Ime using the fingertip offers a slightly rounder/less staccato tone in addition to greater range of tones. But that's just ime and from my trials and errors. To make it work how I want to work requires a kind of wild eyed conviction that prolly doesn't fly for most players out there, though it's nice to read how other players make the technique work for them.
     
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