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Jun 23, 2021 - 8:46:37 PM

G

Canada

856 posts since 7/8/2003

I'm asking a guitar question (picks, specifically) here on this forum because I am looking for opinions from banjo players.

I play 5-string and of course I use metal finger picks. (My thumb pick is metal too, but that has nothing to do with my question).

I also play guitar, and favour a fingerpicking style.  I play without picks, though lately I have gotten used to using a thumb pick, which I find helps with Travis picking style.  I like using a thumb pick. 

 But, to quote my favorite guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, from an interview, "my fingernails are like paper".  (There ends any music-resulted attributes I share with Tommy) 

I am experimenting with finger picks (of various types) for playing guitar.  I'm looking for input from those if you who play guitar, particularly if you've used fingerpicks to do so. 

It's awkward playing guitar with fingerpicks. But that was true with banjo at first. So, did you find that it got better? (I think I see a difference just in an evening of trying).

Did you find it was worth it?  I don't want want to invest a lot of time getting used to picks if in the end it is not going to make much of a difference. Though, as I said, it's more about not being at the mercy of crappy nails, than it is about getting better sound or anything like that.  One thing that gives me pause though, is the idea of getting dependent on picks. 

Any suggestions regarding picks? I've tried several types (Ernie Ball Pickies; Propik Angle picks; Alaska Piks: "standard" metal banjo picks; open design metal picks, like #6 in the link; plastic finger picks ; and my favourite so far, gold coloured .18 metal picks - Dunlop or something like that). 

One thing I want to try that looks promising is something called butterfly picks.  Anyone try those? 

Thanks :) 
 

Jun 24, 2021 - 3:29:29 AM
Players Union Member

OM45GE

USA

107915 posts since 11/7/2007

Hi Rob,

For years I used metal National style finger picks for both banjo and guitar. Then I discovered aLaska picks and now use them exclusively for both instruments. To my ears they have a very natural sound on guitar and sound great on banjo as well. One big advantage over National style picks is that you can frail or down stroke with them. I find them quite comfortable as well.

They make both metal and plastic versions, but I don’t care for the metal ones. The plastic ones do wear down over time. I play a few hours a day and have to replace them every year or so. They can be fired down, but they’re inexpensive enough that I just change them out.

Jun 24, 2021 - 12:10:51 PM

chief3

Canada

1123 posts since 10/26/2003

If I'm going to play guitar in the set I don't want to switch picks so I just used what I have on for banjo (Showcase 1941) otherwise if I'm choosing picks for guitar I use brass (Nationals or Dunlops for softer tone). But if volume is not an issue, I find bare fingers are best for tone and dynamics.

Jun 24, 2021 - 3:11:47 PM
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G

Canada

856 posts since 7/8/2003

quote:
Originally posted by OM45GE

Hi Rob,

For years I used metal National style finger picks for both banjo and guitar. Then I discovered aLaska picks and now use them exclusively for both instruments. To my ears they have a very natural sound on guitar and sound great on banjo as well. One big advantage over National style picks is that you can frail or down stroke with them. I find them quite comfortable as well.

They make both metal and plastic versions, but I don’t care for the metal ones. The plastic ones do wear down over time. I play a few hours a day and have to replace them every year or so. They can be fired down, but they’re inexpensive enough that I just change them out.


Thanks Bill.  I may have to give those Alaska Piks another go. I like the concept, and I didn't revisit those like I did the other options recently.

Jun 24, 2021 - 6:20:54 PM

6295 posts since 9/21/2007
Online Now

Fingerpicks were invented for playing guitar... Hawaiian guitar.

Jun 25, 2021 - 8:16:03 AM

G

Canada

856 posts since 7/8/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Fingerpicks were invented for playing guitar... Hawaiian guitar.


Really? I didn't know that.

I love those "did you know" facts :) :)

Jun 25, 2021 - 2:25:35 PM

1762 posts since 7/4/2009

I didn't know Tommy Emmanuel used fingerpicks.

I have tried using picks (thumb and two finger picks) several times, but found them awkward and disliked the clanging noise they made against the strings, so I pretty much immediately discarded them and never put in the effort to develop my touch.

Recently, I've started using a thumb pick for Chet Atkins tunes and I actually quite like it now that I've got used to it. I also play Carter style guitar and the thumb pick makes it sound so much better. I'm planning on experimenting again with finger picks soon, but I can't see myself using them all the time.

I'd say go for it.

Jun 25, 2021 - 4:07:53 PM

G

Canada

856 posts since 7/8/2003

Hey Matthew. Yeah, Tommy uses them. I get the impression that's how he typically plays, though I can't say for sure. He tells a story (YouTube) about when he discovered that his hero Chet Atkins used a thumbpick. I think he said that up until then, he was trying to use a flatpick to emulate Chet. It was a real aha moment. Course, I'm guessing Tommy was doin pretty darn good with that flatpick. He could use a rubber boot and sound better than most!
I think Tommy also uses the thumbpick as a flatpick.

Jun 25, 2021 - 5:16:49 PM

chief3

Canada

1123 posts since 10/26/2003

"The reason I don't play nylon string too much is that I don't play with my nails. This is something that is your choice as well. You can either choose to grow your nails and play like so many fingerstyle player do. They either use their nails or they use the acrylic nails. I play with calluses that I've developed on the tips of my fingers. You could do that as well. Some people play with finger picks instead of nails. So there are a lot of choices out there."

truefire.com/tommy-emmanuel/fi...ew/v20649

Jun 25, 2021 - 7:58:17 PM

G

Canada

856 posts since 7/8/2003

quote:
Originally posted by chief3

"The reason I don't play nylon string too much is that I don't play with my nails. This is something that is your choice as well. You can either choose to grow your nails and play like so many fingerstyle player do. They either use their nails or they use the acrylic nails. I play with calluses that I've developed on the tips of my fingers. You could do that as well. Some people play with finger picks instead of nails. So there are a lot of choices out there."

truefire.com/tommy-emmanuel/fi...ew/v20649


Yes, my bad. I mistakenly implied that Tommy uses fingerpicks.  He doesn't. He does however, use a thumbpick.

He said he can't really take a break from playing. Even if he's taking a holiday, he has to play for a couple of hours every day to keep the calluses from going away. 

Jun 25, 2021 - 8:01:32 PM

G

Canada

856 posts since 7/8/2003

quote:
Originally posted by G

Hey Matthew. Yeah, Tommy uses them. (correction - he uses a thumbpick) I get the impression that's how he typically plays, though I can't say for sure. He tells a story (YouTube) about when he discovered that his hero Chet Atkins used a thumbpick. I think he said that up until then, he was trying to use a flatpick to emulate Chet. It was a real aha moment. Course, I'm guessing Tommy was doin pretty darn good with that flatpick. He could use a rubber boot and sound better than most!
I think Tommy also uses the thumbpick as a flatpick.


Jun 25, 2021 - 9:55:09 PM

Paul R

Canada

14708 posts since 1/28/2010

I use fingerpicks, light gauge Dunlops (.013). I find they bend better around my fingers. I use a Dunlop Ultex thumb pick, cut down a bit. My nails have become more fragile, I can't consistently play bare fingered, and the picks are the better choice. The lighter ones seem less harsh in tone.

You can also attempt the Roger McGuinn (and others) style and use a flat pick with fingerpicks on the middle and ring fingers, sometimes called crosspicking.

Jun 25, 2021 - 10:06:49 PM

1361 posts since 1/28/2013

Just keep playing with the same picks you use for banjo, you will get used to them. I use a little heavier finger picks for guitar than I use for banjo. I use National metal finger picks and a Bluechip thumb pick for guitar. I use Bluechip thumb pick for banjo and Wyatt metal finger picks for banjo. A 1-7/8ths nutwidth guitar works great for metal finger picks.

Jun 25, 2021 - 10:46:02 PM
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G

Canada

856 posts since 7/8/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Paul R

I use fingerpicks, light gauge Dunlops (.013). I find they bend better around my fingers. I use a Dunlop Ultex thumb pick, cut down a bit. My nails have become more fragile, I can't consistently play bare fingered, and the picks are the better choice. The lighter ones seem less harsh in tone.

You can also attempt the Roger McGuinn (and others) style and use a flat pick with fingerpicks on the middle and ring fingers, sometimes called crosspicking.


Wow, that's a really light gauge.. 013.  I may have to try that.

I like the cross pick concept because I guess it would make it trivial to swap between strumming and fingerpicking (and points between) within the same song.

I am not sure I am ambitious enough to want to take it on after playing so long like I do.   Though I do find with new techniques, you pick it up quicker than you think you would.

Thanks

Jun 25, 2021 - 10:57:39 PM

G

Canada

856 posts since 7/8/2003

quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

Just keep playing with the same picks you use for banjo, you will get used to them. I use a little heavier finger picks for guitar than I use for banjo. I use National metal finger picks and a Bluechip thumb pick for guitar. I use Bluechip thumb pick for banjo and Wyatt metal finger picks for banjo. A 1-7/8ths nutwidth guitar works great for metal finger picks.


Yeah, you are clearly right about getting used to picks.  It's crazy how quickly I got (nearly) up to speed using metal fingerpicks, after just a few hours!

I also learned (after cutting my nails very short to test out some fingerpicks) that my nails work for picking even when they're very short!  Just a couple of days growth after trimming them down totally.  And of course they're not as brittle and weak when they're that short. 

Which means I've found a compelling argument and both sides of my debate :)

Jun 26, 2021 - 9:49:12 AM

1361 posts since 1/28/2013

The Tiptonic Picks would be good if you only played guitar. But if you are playing banjo with metal picks you might as well use them for guitar. From playing the banjo with metal picks there is no reason for me not to use them on guitar. Somebody who plays guitar only, and is already an accomplished finger picking style guitar player using natural nails would probably benefit. There is no way you will keep any finger nail growth playing a steel string guitar on a daily basis with natural finger nails. Tony Furtado uses the same picks for banjo and guitar, and his guitar playing is based on the banjo since he was a banjo player first. 

Edited by - jan dupree on 06/26/2021 10:05:43

Jun 26, 2021 - 10:55:16 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

58241 posts since 10/5/2013

I prefer no picks on a guitar,, listen to Stefan Grossman,, he gets great tone. I play fingerstyle guitar and classical so I don’t use picks playing guitar. I think too that the quieter guitar makes the pick click stand out too much,,, although I’ve never tried the AlaskPik that Bill likes.

at the 5:00 mark 

https://youtu.be/NwUEHBmrWkc

Edited by - chuckv97 on 06/26/2021 10:57:50

Jun 27, 2021 - 8:30:21 AM
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G

Canada

856 posts since 7/8/2003

quote:
Originally posted by chuckv97

I prefer no picks on a guitar,, listen to Stefan Grossman,, he gets great tone. I play fingerstyle guitar and classical so I don’t use picks playing guitar. I think too that the quieter guitar makes the pick click stand out too much,,, although I’ve never tried the AlaskPik that Bill likes.

at the 5:00 mark 

https://youtu.be/NwUEHBmrWkc


Most of my life I've kept my right hand nails slightly long, for playing. What I just discovered is that they can be fairly short and still work. I do like the tactile feedback and the versatility (for tone) of using bare fingers /nails, so I may go that route.  I do like the thumbpick though.

Thanks for that link!  What a GREAT lesson. 

Jun 27, 2021 - 12:03:46 PM
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6295 posts since 9/21/2007
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by chief3

"The reason I don't play nylon string too much is that I don't play with my nails. This is something that is your choice as well. You can either choose to grow your nails and play like so many fingerstyle player do. They either use their nails or they use the acrylic nails. I play with calluses that I've developed on the tips of my fingers. You could do that as well. Some people play with finger picks instead of nails. So there are a lot of choices out there."

truefire.com/tommy-emmanuel/fi...ew/v20649


Prior to the Segovia narrative of the guitar, which has become scripture with academia, you would be hard pressed to find anyone playing the Spanish guitar with fingernails... from Carcassi and Sor to Foden and Bickford, bare fingertips were the standard.  

The current school of "classical guitar" is derivative of Segovia (very similar to the banjo and Scruggs) and is from the age of nylon strings (which don't shred when played with nails). 

Playing Spanish guitar with bare fingers was the common way in the Americas before WW2.  So pick away!

Jul 7, 2021 - 5:41:42 AM

birdman

USA

484 posts since 8/24/2004

Not using picks while fingerpicking guitar opens a world of tone possibilities. You can really pop the strings with your thumb. great for dynamics

Jul 12, 2021 - 7:03:33 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14221 posts since 8/30/2006

Roger Mcguinn, Nancy Wilson of Heart and Steve Gillette are some of my favorite cross or hybrid flatpickers.

I saw John Hammond, Jr. in concert play two open tuning 12 strings all night. Open G with drop C is banjo chords, duh.

I play rock and roll with fingerpicks and a plastic thumb large from Dunlop. .0225's for the nickel.

People cut their own picks.

I use picks while claw and up picking, I play out over the 19th fret harmonic which pulls the audience along.

Laurence Juber (wings) and Stephen Stills (unknown) both use callouses on their right hand to pick. DADGAD.

Jul 17, 2021 - 10:26:27 AM

2692 posts since 2/10/2013

I have met fingerpickers who said they use the product "Hard As Hoof" to condition their fingernails. Like everything else, the older a person gets the more help their body needs.

Jul 18, 2021 - 10:38:43 AM

mrbook

USA

2013 posts since 2/22/2006

I have always used the same finger picks and thumb pick on both banjo and guitar. I started on guitar. I also play guitar with bare fingers and with a flat pick and bare fingers, but in 50+ years I have never got the hang of playing with a thumb pick and bare fingers.

Jul 20, 2021 - 2:51:28 AM

4191 posts since 12/6/2009

I mostly flat pick guitar but do use finger picks with 3 finger picking guitar. I don’t try Travis or Atkins styles I generally just use basic melody rolls. I did find however the dropping the High E string to D makes it easier as not worrying about fretting so much. It’s sometimes like a drone string. Also find a comfortable location x y or in between helps also. ...I do love to use them picks when I capo guitar up the neck, Maybe why Earl did that often. Guessing. Oh and I hardly ever go over 110 bpm with finger picking guitar....I use the flat pick and a lot of cross picking then. I always marveled at Lester Flat and the uncanny sounds he drew out with his style.

Jul 20, 2021 - 7:37:25 AM

15260 posts since 12/2/2005

I was a fingerstyle guitar player many years before I picked up the banjo. I did use picks. I never liked the sound of metal fingerpicks on the guitar, preferring the sound of plastic ones; at least with my style and instruments, metal sounded too harsh to me. That said, I know there are pick-wearing fingerstyle players who quite happily use metal. It's all a matter of what you personally prefer.

So as with all manner of choices with regard to pick choices for banjo: trial and error. See what works for you, and it matters not a whit what anyone else prefers.

Jul 20, 2021 - 7:45:31 PM
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Jim Yates

Canada

6739 posts since 2/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Paul R

I use fingerpicks, light gauge Dunlops (.013). I find they bend better around my fingers. I use a Dunlop Ultex thumb pick, cut down a bit. My nails have become more fragile, I can't consistently play bare fingered, and the picks are the better choice. The lighter ones seem less harsh in tone.

You can also attempt the Roger McGuinn (and others) style and use a flat pick with fingerpicks on the middle and ring fingers, sometimes called crosspicking.


Paul, I think calling this type of picking (flat pick and two fingers) crosspicking is very confusing.  Most guitar players mean something very different when they say "crosspicking".  This usually refers to paying banjo-like rolls on three strings like Jesse McReynolds did on the mandolin or George Shuffler did with the Stanley Brothers.
The flatpick and fingers method is usually called "Hybrid picking".
Strangely enough, my son uses hybrid picking when he's playing his Tele, but on acoustic, he used his thumb, bird and ring fingers and doesn't use his index.

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