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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: how did fingerpicks come about?


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dixie kiwi - Posted - 02/14/2009:  11:46:12


I am curious as to the beginnings of fingerpicks- the metal wrap around picks most commonly used in bluegrass music. Were fingerpicks around before bluegrass, or were they another innovation of the early pickers? Were they already in use with other instruments (autoharp?) and simply adopted by Snuffy, Earl and the early players?

Suppose I'd ask the same question of thumbpicks too, but suspect guitarists were using these already.

thanks for any input!
Alan

-----------------------
And, Bobby, you are right - I am being selfish. But the last time I checked, we don''t have a whole lot of songs that feature the COWBELL!!!
-Will Ferrell

steve davis - Posted - 02/14/2009:  12:19:47


Did National guitar invent them for their resonator line.
They were experimenting with acoustical volume,in a big way.

7ball

beegee - Posted - 02/14/2009:  12:32:24


I think they evolved from the thimbles lute players used in medieval days. Lutes weren't that loud and they used quills set in the end of thimbles to make them louder and brighter. Many Appalachian pickers made their own picks from tobacco cans.

__________________________
"It is better, of course, to know useless things than to know nothing." -Seneca

trapdoor2 - Posted - 02/14/2009:  12:41:44


Thimbles (picks) for banjos were common by the 1860's. However, they were for "downpicking" (only one used, on the index finger) rather than for "up-picking". I suspect that they became popular for finger-picking when wire strings became popular. Not really all that good with gut...as the strings wear quickly even if you have sharp fingernails.

===Marc

"If banjos needed tone rings, S.S. Stewart would have made them that way."

JohnGP - Posted - 02/14/2009:  12:42:13


Zither players have been wearing zither rings, which you and I would call picks, for a very long time.A quick google brings up lots of German and Austrian makers.

John
Actually - it does get better if you pick it.

stanger - Posted - 02/14/2009:  12:43:55


Fingerpicks are old as the dickens. The real early ones are thimbles or bent wire apparatuses. Banjo players started using them by the late 1800's commonly, especially in the North, where up-picking styles were prevalent during the Classic banjo era. But bare finger 3-finger style was still the most prevalent until the late 40's.

Yup. The Nationals were developed for using on the National guitars during the Hawaiian guitar craze of the late '20s. They aren't all that original- there were many similar designs already on the market, but the Dopyera Bros. got the details right, including the flat blade. Most of the ancestors had rounded blades.

The Dunlop fingerpick, with it's shallow arc on the flat blade, and in different metal gauges, has always been my favorite since it's introduction. They feel smoother against the string to me, and I like the slightly thinner 20 ga. for comfort, but the Nationals have proven themselves for 80 years now, and are still the pick of choice for most of their first intended players- the steel guitarists.
regards,
Stanger

The pen is mightier than the pigs.

dixie kiwi - Posted - 02/14/2009:  13:14:23


thanks for the info- had no idea picks have been in use so long!

Sandy Rothman - Posted - 02/14/2009:  14:39:35


Also, in other cultures, devices very similar to the fingerpick have been in use for centuries. The Japanese shamisen uses one, and a major one is the metal Indian sitar pick.

deuceswilde - Posted - 02/14/2009:  14:41:36


quote:
Originally posted by stanger

Fingerpicks are old as the dickens. The real early ones are thimbles or bent wire apparatuses. Banjo players started using them by the late 1800's commonly, especially in the North, where up-picking styles were prevalent during the Classic banjo era. But bare finger 3-finger style was still the most prevalent until the late 40's.

Yup. The Nationals were developed for using on the National guitars during the Hawaiian guitar craze of the late '20s. They aren't all that original- there were many similar designs already on the market, but the Dopyera Bros. got the details right, including the flat blade. Most of the ancestors had rounded blades.

The Dunlop fingerpick, with it's shallow arc on the flat blade, and in different metal gauges, has always been my favorite since it's introduction. They feel smoother against the string to me, and I like the slightly thinner 20 ga. for comfort, but the Nationals have proven themselves for 80 years now, and are still the pick of choice for most of their first intended players- the steel guitarists.
regards,
Stanger

The pen is mightier than the pigs.



Could you provide some more info or documentation on 19th century guitar-style players using finger picks for up-picking? I am a huge dork for this kind of thing and there is tons of sources that I don't have access to. The only evidence that I have found is one patent, but they did not seem to catch on.

In all of the contemporary documentation available to me, I have not found it mentioned anywhere about using a pick for finger-style banjo.

Thimbles were used extensively for "thimble style" or stroke-style.

All of the 19 century tutors and throughout Stewart's Banjo and Guitar Journal specify using the bare fingers and to avoid touching the strings with the fingernails (all bets are off for England and zither banjos).

Now some patent fun.

Perhaps the first "finger-pick." This is the one I was referring to.

http://www.google.com/patents?id=1tNPAAAAEBAJ&dq

Stewart's "improved thimble."

http://www.google.com/patents?id=cFtpAAAAEBAJ&dq

A true finger-pick that was produced and advertised.

http://www.google.com/patents?id=zcBLAAAAEBAJ&dq

This one is for Meloharps.

http://www.google.com/patents?id=qq9oAAAAEBAJ&dq

A thumb pick.

http://www.google.com/patents?id=LLtiAAAAEBAJ&dq

A weird finger-pick.

http://www.google.com/patents?id=AY1lAAAAEBAJ&dq

And another...

http://www.google.com/patents?id=fsNPAAAAEBAJ&dq

More torture device than pick.

http://www.google.com/patents?id=wYNJAAAAEBAJ&dq

The following is theory on my part. Please correct me where I am wrong. I would love any documentation to back up corrections. I would love to hear others thoughts.

I suspect that they were an adaptation to banjo. They were used by the incredibly popular but mostly forgotten Hawaiian guitar style of the 20s and 30s.

With the common adoption of wire strings on the banjo, it is not fun (to me at least) to play bare tipped.

There is also the fact the by the 30s the guitar and other stringed instruments were commonly played with a mandolin plectrum. So, more volume to keep up with.

Then there is the constant need to play at faster tempos. Finger-picks help this along.






-Joel

Success always comes to those who have the money to buy it.

-The Adventures of a Banjo Player, 1884 p.26

hawksbill - Posted - 02/14/2009:  17:37:12


Why can't they illustrate ads like those anymore???

HAWKSBILL

mike gregory - Posted - 02/14/2009:  17:49:51


quote:
Originally posted by stanger

Fingerpicks are old as the dickens. The real early ones are thimbles or bent wire apparatuses. Banjo players started using them by the late 1800's commonly, especially in the North, where up-picking styles were prevalent during the Classic banjo era. But bare finger 3-finger style was still the most prevalent until the late 40's.

Yup. The Nationals were developed for using on the National guitars during the Hawaiian guitar craze of the late '20s. They aren't all that original- there were many similar designs already on the market, but the Dopyera Bros. got the details right, including the flat blade. Most of the ancestors had rounded blades.

The Dunlop fingerpick, with it's shallow arc on the flat blade, and in different metal gauges, has always been my favorite since it's introduction. They feel smoother against the string to me, and I like the slightly thinner 20 ga. for comfort, but the Nationals have proven themselves for 80 years now, and are still the pick of choice for most of their first intended players- the steel guitarists.
regards,
Stanger

The pen is mightier than the pigs.





Dear Mr. Stanger,
Musicians' use of thimbles predates me by several centuries.
The correct phrase should be "....older than the Dickens."
Yours Truly,

The Dickens


Edited by - mike gregory on 02/14/2009 17:51:05

goldtopia - Posted - 02/15/2009:  00:38:13


Can you pick your nose as fast as you can pick your banjo ?

Bill.O

mike gregory - Posted - 02/15/2009:  03:56:42


I'm in no particular hurry.
Since speedy equals bleedy.


Edited by - mike gregory on 02/17/2009 06:02:45

DHoffmeyer - Posted - 02/16/2009:  22:14:40


deuceswilde- great research work!



http://www.deanhoffmeyer.com
http://www.nationalfingerpicks.com



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