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I'd like to hear from finger style players whether or not you use finger picks.  If so, what kind and if not, why not?  I do use them and prefer ProPik Fingertones.  I've tried several kinds of thumb picks and can never decided what I like there.  I like the tone I get from Herco thumb picks, but they are not as comfortable as Dunlops and Nationals.  I'm always surprised and frustrated how poorly most guitar shops stock finger picks.  Most only carry only Dunlop, if at all.  I'll stop rambling now and wait to see responses.

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going naked as you say is the most efficient way to play.  if using picks was more effective, classical players would adapt finger picks as their preferred technique.  there are two basic right hand techniques that you should learn, rest strokes and free strokes.  rest strokes are used to bring out notes above the other plucked notes and are used for both thumb (p) and fingers index, middle, and ring fingers (i, m, and a).  fingers should not touch the top of the guitar they should only touch the strings.  the way you learn in a hurry is by playing scales in the beginning and when you are comfortable with that move on to arpeggios.  the scales should be rest stroked until you are comfortable.  the rest stroke: when you pluck the string you rest your index finger to the next string below the one just played, then you alternate back and forth, i then m, i, m, i, m, then m, a, m, a, and so forth.  

it takes a little getting used to but you will see the results in time.  you will develop the strength in your right hand not to touch the top of your guitar letting you move your right hand back and forth for different tones.

Of course we could also say," Using picks is the most efficient way to play.  if going naked was more effective, bluegrass banjo players would not wear finger picks as their preferred technique."  The same goes for touching the top of your guitar.  Many Travis (or Cotton or...) guitar pickers brace their pinky on the top or pick-guard.  C.Y. Your advice applies to classical guitar technique and if the original questioner is asking about classical playing, it is good advice.  If you are playing a folk style in the company of fiddles, mandolins and other instruments, you may need picks to make yourself audible. While I prefer to play with my bare fingers (with reinforced nails) I do find myself in situations where I need the added volume provided by finger-picks.

I also prefer the sound produced by playing into a mic, but there are situations where I'm forced to plug in.

I beg to differ, I play all styles, i used to play with picks but it did not give me the control dynamically or tone variances i needed to play a steel string effectively.  putting a pinky or any other finger anywhere on the top is incorrect technique, not only is it a restriction on mobility, but it also suppresses volume and tone.  

I played for ten years using picks with my pinky on the top and I was a good player, but when I changed over to fingers and classical technique, my music and musicianship increased dramatically  letting me do things on the guitar I just couldn't pull off using traditional methods.  And if you play a regiment of scales and arpeggios with classical techniques you will become a stronger and better player no matter what your taste in music might be. 

you guys are right about the  "true " way to play classical style but as far as pick vs fingernails I think it boils down to preference... ..    arpeggios and scales will always make you better no matter what instrument you play .. the better you know it  the more accurate and fluent you become... it is learning a language after all ..   ..  now about the banjo ... I have heard a guy that plays clawhammer style ( thumb comes down and you play with a down stroke on the finger) with a great deal of clarity and does some fine lead work ...) ... it is not always muddy just won't keep up with the loud rowdyness of bluegrass ..

There are a few clawhammer players who use picks, but you are right, most use their nail and bare thumb.  I have my nail reinforced with acrylic gel at the local nail salon.  I did play with those "rowdy bluegrassers" for a while.  I was mainly a mandolin player, but sometimes added some clawhammer banjo for variety.  Here's a link to Al Kirby playing 3-finger banjo and me playing clawhammer, with my good friend, the late Zeke Mazurek on fiddle.  When You And I Were Young Maggie

great old song ...  I love the rowdy bluegrassers as well as old time ... I live about 3 mi from where tn va and nc meet so it is the music of my home..   I came up by way of rock and roll but play bluegrass and old time also .... I even love classical style though I am not proficient there i do fingerpick some..  I find there are times I like both pick /picks and/or fingers ... it depends most on style and company of players as to what you want to use.. ..there are as many ways to play as there are players

ps .. love the two banjo's but I think banjo can be played to anything .. reminds me of a lead and rythym guitar duo but cooler

I do not usually use finger or thumbpicks, though I have at times.  My girlfriend does use a thumbpick and really like the Blue Chip thumbpick that I got here.  Well, she should at that price!  ButI do like the Blue Chip and that is what I would likely use if I needed a thumbpick.  It has a great tone and feels really good on the strings. 

I use a blue chip flatpick in my guitar playing sometimes and love it ... I have heard also that their thumbpicks are great ..  they have that metal band on them which definitely holds better than plastic  ...... I use a propick with a metal band and love the fit and feel ... been wanting to try the bluechip ..thanks for the

I use my bare fingers. I'll usually only use a flat pick for strumming if I'm playing out and being heard is a concern. I've sort of developed an alternating picking style that sounds very much like fingerpicking. I've tried many times to use fingerpicks but I just can't seem to get the hang of it. My flat picks, when I use them, are usually Martin or Fender Heavies, tortiseshell. I prefer the tortiseshell ones just because they're old-fashioned-looking.

Years ago I used finger picks. Since my classical studies began, a number of years ago, I've been able to maintain fingernails and get a better tone in finger-style playing. If I blow out a nail (especially in the winter months when they get brittle out doors) I use alaska picks until I can grow them out again (I file them down until they approximate the nail length that I normally keep, just extending beyond the finger tip. I tried the ping-pong ball and super glue route when I was at school doing a lot of classical playing, but the super glue caused such brittle nail trouble as they grew out that I gave it up. Nails can be difficult to maintain, but allow a much surer, cleaner technique because you feel each string. The only time I'm tempted to bring out the old metal picks is for playing dobro. If I'm accompanying louder instruments such as resonator banjo or fiddle, I'm more likely to go to a flat pick style anyway.

James, Thank you for the information. I had never heard of the Alaska Picks before and have already checked with my Music Supplier to get some info. I've gone through the same hassles as you apperar to have. My right hand nails spend most of the time shreaded and while I have used thumb and finger picks for almost 50 years, I have liked them less each year. Now I am not able to regenerate good nails anymore for reasons including age. I will look at both the plastic and metal versions. All of my acoustic guitars have pickups and I also have outboard condenser mics when or if I need them. It will also be interesting to see how they work while I am playing the banjo as I use a ...for want of a proper definition...thumb-over, three finger, frailing, clawhammer, too hard on my nails..type of fingerpicking style. Wondered about the effects of the 'super glue' on my nails and had actually purchased the acrylic type to try next. So  thanks for the new suggestion. At least it may give me time to get myself back into the game. Peace, Adriaan in Camilla, GA. USA.


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