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Fingernail in Lieu of Pick - Who's Doing It?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jaywa, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    So after 30+ years of playing I've started to experiment with something on tunes that call for pick style. Rather than using a pick I put my thumb and 1st finger together as if I were holding a pick, and hit the string with the top of my fingernail. I only play pick style about 20% of the time so it's not a radical change but so far I'm really liking it.


    - Don't have to bring picks with (saves money and hassle)
    - Guitarists don't mooch picks off me anymore
    - No more dropped picks (this was a HUGE problem for me... for whatever reason I could just never get a good grip on the pick)
    - Slightly mellower, more "organic" sound from the fingernail vs. a pick
    - Easier to mute strings especially palm muting
    - Easier to play with dynamics
    - Effortless switching back and forth from "pick" to fingerstyle within the song as required


    - I've had to grow my fingernail on the index finger out a little longer than I would prefer for strictly fingerstyle playing. Have had to slightly adjust my fingerstyle technique to accommodate the longer nail
    - The fingernail thing really only works on downstrokes. Rapid up/down picking is a problem but I really don't play any material that calls for that.

    Wondering if anyone else is doing this and if you have the same impressions?
  2. Jaco Taco

    Jaco Taco

    Jul 30, 2012
    I grew out my fingernails back in the 80's when I was learning classical guitar. I loved how it sounds with my bass playing. So yeah, I play bass with my fingernails, mostly classical guitar style but I have sometimes done what you've described putting my fingers together as if I was using a pic. I've had no problem doing really rapid up/down chicken picking using this method either.
  3. Purpleneeta88


    Mar 13, 2013
    I have acrylic nails for fingerpicking guitar and have recently started playing bass and I don't mind using my nails it works for me!
  4. vegas532

    vegas532 Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2006
    Pensacola, FL.
    That's my "pick technique" as I'm physically unable to even hold a pick for any great length of time. I like the pick sound, so I just fingernail it the whole way!
  5. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Fingernail in Lieu of Pick - Who's Doing It?


    I've done it for years, I know other players who do it. I think it originated back in the 60s.

    I prefer a pick to the fingernail because I get more attack.

    Also I use my fingers to flick out against the strings to get a funky popping sound.

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