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Mar 15, 2022 - 7:54:20 AM
25 posts since 2/23/2021

I've tried everything, picks, artificial nails, natural nails and they all have downsides. Does anyone out there use trimmed nails and the meaty part of the finger? Just wonderin'

Mar 15, 2022 - 8:01:48 AM

509 posts since 2/6/2011

That's what I do whenever my nail breaks. I don't like picks and don't use fake nails. It helps to have strings that are set wider apart. A frailing scoop allows you to get your picking finger a little deeper between the strings.

Mar 15, 2022 - 8:15:53 AM

771 posts since 10/9/2017

I have very thin nails that breakdown quickly under banjo conditions, not to mention day-to-day life. In a workshop I attended, Ken Perlman suggested using Scotch tape over the nail. I used that for a while and it wasn't bad at all, though not w/o it's drawbacks. Recently, Tom Collins recommended "wall safe" Scotch tape because it's easier to remove and doesn't leave a residue. I haven't tried that, but it makes sense to me and would be a cheap experiment.

I know there is a "real men play with broken nails and calluses while chewing on railroad spikes" school of thought, but I've got pretty decent calluses and I never liked the tone I got. The string would catch on the little ridges between finger tip and nail and sounded awful. Maybe that's a fault of my technique, but so be it.

I've gone the salon route for the past year or so and like the results. Costs me about $10 every six weeks, which I can live with for the better tone and volume.

Mar 15, 2022 - 8:44:29 AM

416 posts since 6/15/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Waterbound1

I've tried everything, picks, artificial nails, natural nails and they all have downsides. Does anyone out there use trimmed nails and the meaty part of the finger? Just wonderin'


What picks have you tried?  There are many out there.

Mar 15, 2022 - 9:00:07 AM
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4408 posts since 5/29/2011
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quote:
Originally posted by Waterbound1

I've tried everything, picks, artificial nails, natural nails and they all have downsides. Does anyone out there use trimmed nails and the meaty part of the finger? Just wonderin'


Most all of the real old time banjo players probably used short nails and bare fingers. They weren't professional musicians, they were coal miners, factory workers, railroad men, farmers, etc.

Mar 15, 2022 - 9:15:55 AM

684 posts since 7/10/2012

I make as well as play banjos and so often inadvertently break my picking nails.  About five years ago, I followed John Balch's guidance and made some picks out of ping pong balls, but used heat shrink tubes instead of tape to secure them.  You need to make sure to get the really hard ping pong balls as the softer (cheaper) balls are not stiff enough.  The pics of below are of picks I have been using on and off for those five years.  They fit nice, feel comfortable to play with, and sound pretty close to my actual nails.  Here is a video of me using the picks so you can hear them and some pics so you can see them.  I highly recommend.

David

https://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/videos.asp?m=d&catID=&id=41423

Mar 15, 2022 - 10:10:44 AM

4238 posts since 10/18/2007

I play with the shortest nail I can get because for some reason I get an unusually loud “click” with the nail. So Part of my sound is made by the somewhat callused tip of index finger.

Mar 15, 2022 - 10:28:58 AM

11089 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Waterbound1

I've tried everything, picks, artificial nails, natural nails and they all have downsides. Does anyone out there use trimmed nails and the meaty part of the finger? Just wonderin'


I do. My nails have always been thin and soft. I experimented with every type of pick, artificial nails, ping-pong balls, you name it. I liked the sound of the ping-pong balls but they're a PITA to get on and off (tape) and I just couldn't stand it...and they often broke. I just use whatever comes on the end of my finger and I trim my nails close.

Mar 15, 2022 - 10:51:55 AM
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684 posts since 7/10/2012

quote:
Originally posted by trapdoor2
quote:
Originally posted by Waterbound1

I've tried everything, picks, artificial nails, natural nails and they all have downsides. Does anyone out there use trimmed nails and the meaty part of the finger? Just wonderin'


I do. My nails have always been thin and soft. I experimented with every type of pick, artificial nails, ping-pong balls, you name it. I liked the sound of the ping-pong balls but they're a PITA to get on and off (tape) and I just couldn't stand it...and they often broke. I just use whatever comes on the end of my finger and I trim my nails close.


I'd say two things on that.  First, the tape is a PITA, thus the heat shrink, which stays snug and doesn't slip off, but comes off easily when you pull em and stays together with the pic when you're not using them.  Second, the first picks I made did break, or tear really, where there were sharp corners in the form.  To fix that, I made the corners round so there would be no place for the form to split.    

Mar 15, 2022 - 1:20:19 PM
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4205 posts since 11/29/2005

Count me as one of the close-trimmed nails and flesh of the finger-tip type clawhammerer. I never even learned how to use a pick on a guitar (probably why I trend more to classical guitar)!

When I start to see my nails extending over the tip of the finger, it's time to get the clippers and emery board out.

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Mar 16, 2022 - 4:17:36 AM

Bill H

USA

1912 posts since 11/7/2010

As a life long woodworker and carpenter, I never could keep a nail. Caluses will develop on your finger tips or you hit with whatever nail you do have. I recent years my nails have improved as I have been taking the supplement biotin daily. My nails grow faster and are harder and thicker.

Mar 16, 2022 - 6:07:44 AM

25 posts since 2/23/2021

quote:
Originally posted by pianojuggler
quote:
Originally posted by Waterbound1

I've tried everything, picks, artificial nails, natural nails and they all have downsides. Does anyone out there use trimmed nails and the meaty part of the finger? Just wonderin'


What picks have you tried?  There are many out there.


All of them, plastic,metal, thimbles, ping pong ball and several bags of assorted picks that I shaped. Tried artificial salon for a while too. 

Mar 16, 2022 - 6:14:49 AM

25 posts since 2/23/2021

quote:
Originally posted by dpgetman

I make as well as play banjos and so often inadvertently break my picking nails.  About five years ago, I followed John Balch's guidance and made some picks out of ping pong balls, but used heat shrink tubes instead of tape to secure them.  You need to make sure to get the really hard ping pong balls as the softer (cheaper) balls are not stiff enough.  The pics of below are of picks I have been using on and off for those five years.  They fit nice, feel comfortable to play with, and sound pretty close to my actual nails.  Here is a video of me using the picks so you can hear them and some pics so you can see them.  I highly recommend.

David

https://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/videos.asp?m=d&catID=&id=41423

 


I'm very familiar with heat shrink tubing and the amount of heat required to shrink it. I'm also familiar with the combustible properties of ping pong balls. Not being a smart mouth here but how do you keep from burning your finger during the shrinking process while getting an optimum fit? 

Mar 16, 2022 - 7:03:20 AM

684 posts since 7/10/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Waterbound1
quote:
Originally posted by dpgetman

I make as well as play banjos and so often inadvertently break my picking nails.  About five years ago, I followed John Balch's guidance and made some picks out of ping pong balls, but used heat shrink tubes instead of tape to secure them.  You need to make sure to get the really hard ping pong balls as the softer (cheaper) balls are not stiff enough.  The pics of below are of picks I have been using on and off for those five years.  They fit nice, feel comfortable to play with, and sound pretty close to my actual nails.  Here is a video of me using the picks so you can hear them and some pics so you can see them.  I highly recommend.

David

https://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/videos.asp?m=d&catID=&id=41423

 


I'm very familiar with heat shrink tubing and the amount of heat required to shrink it. I'm also familiar with the combustible properties of ping pong balls. Not being a smart mouth here but how do you keep from burning your finger during the shrinking process while getting an optimum fit? 


I had never heard of heat shrink tubing before, actually, so had no idea how much heat it would take.  My father had worked with it and recommended it when he saw what I was working on (I started out with rubber bands).  I used a hair dryer and my fingers did warm up, but I just regulated the temp by waving my fingers in and out of the heat until the band started to shrink (it was close to fit from the outset).  I think the low and gradual heating worked in my favor as the bands shrunk pretty slowly so I could control the snugness.    

Mar 16, 2022 - 7:06:21 AM

m06

England

11186 posts since 10/5/2006

I work outdoors and as a result my nails are short and far from what some folks seem to consider ‘optimal’ for clawhammer. That doesn’t seem to affect my playing at all.

The only time I resort to a temporary acrylic nail, attached with glue dots and scotch tape, is if the nail on my middle finger is split and sore. Or I'll use my index instead of my middle finger.

Edited by - m06 on 03/16/2022 07:08:54

Mar 16, 2022 - 1:37:02 PM

953 posts since 3/23/2006

I wish I could use the glue do/acrylic nail solution. When I removed the glue dot it also took off a very think layer of the top of the nail. I went back to silk + CA (salon-style nail at home).

Mar 16, 2022 - 6:31:14 PM

banjo roo

Australia

106 posts since 5/12/2010

Yes, i have played with no pick or long nails, but you have to keep you have to keep your nails very short, and try to only hit the string with the the flesh of your finger. It needs increased accuracy, but can be done. If you have short nails, and strike the string with your nail , you get a harsh noise, as Michael mentions.

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