After a couple of months of concentrated effort, I've just gotten to the point where I can Travis Pick after a lifetime of being basically a strummer. I'm really having fun with it! Still, I use my bare fingers with just the slightest growth of nail.
I started out doing the thumb and fingers thing, and then progressed to using a pick. Now I primarily use a pick, but for some things, you just have to use the fingers. For example, "Girl from Ipanema" really needs to be played fingerstyle. On the other hand, I can't imagine playing the Grateful Dead's "West LA Fadeaway" without a pick.
I occasionally use hybred picking where I combine using my fingers and a flatpick. I use that, for example, on James Taylor's "Fire and Rain." I have had no success using a thumb and fingerpicks - but I am really impressed by the music that can be produced with this method. I would love to be able to play like that, but I think it's substantially above my pay grade.
Love the photo, looks like my nephew from Kelowna!! I've messed around a bit with picks but can't get used to them, when I had a banjo they were great but now with the guitar I "shape" the four nails on my picking hand (pinky resting on the top) for the times when I'm picking, which is 90% of the time, and when I'm strumming the extra nail growth serves quite well for the strumming/picking style when I try to emulate Neil Young!
With a bit of experimentation I've found a comfortable length and angle of the nails so they are just right for my angle of attack to the guitar, and since I use my hands for my work I'm quite conscious to protect my "pickers" and always carry a clipper and nail file for those times when they are damaged!
I bought a set of the plastic finger & thumb picks, I find the plastic finger picks start to bug me after a few minutes and I have to take them off.
I can manage the thumb pick for a while.
Maybe next trip to the big city I'll try a set made of metal.
i'll use these if i have to:
i need to feel the string with my finger. a typical thumb pick is ok if i need it, but i only use finger picks if my nails are trashed...
I have some of those myself. Just can get to where I fell comfortable wearing them.
I don't know Ed, picks seem so alien to me.
Those look similar to the ones I have. My Granddaughter, puts them on and pretends to be Cat Woman. Pretty funny. I have used a thumb pick in the past but haven't put one on in years. Chet say's if you use a thumb pick you can "play with yourself" at least that is what I hear on "Chester and Lester". The reason Mark Knoffler has such a unique sound is because he never uses a pick. Maybe I will have try one again.
I agree I have never been able to use finger picks.
I use a flat pick. Nylon, very thin.
When I finger pick I try to pick the lead and make the other strings play along. Like I said, I have never had a guitar lesson other than a friend showing some new to me. I don't have a lot friends who play so....I figure it out if I can.
I like to finger pick 3/4 time tunes and strum 4/4 or real upbeat tunes. I can't seem to make my finger picking sound "happy" so "Christmas in Prison" is finger picked and "Grampa was a Carpenter" is strummed.
After, my re-introduction to playing guitar a few years back, I started learning Gypsy Jazz style. This style of music calls for technique that really sounds better when picked with a thick pick. The de facto standard, pick is a Wegen of at least 3.5mm, but there are a lot of others around. When I played electric, years back, I used a hybrid-picking style using a variety of picks, from light to heavy Gibson teardrop style picks. I picked up using fingerpicks while learning the banjo, but like others, I found they really hurt my fingers, so I just went with bare fingers. Of course, I couldn't generate the tone, nor the volume of other banjo players.
Now, having always been a fan of Jorma Kaukonen (Hot Tuna, Jefferson Airplane), I resolved to give fingerpicks another go. What I found was that after about 3 months, they actually did not bother me anymore. I can genrate a huge sound from my little parlor guitar using a combination of thumbpick and finger picks. Folks are surpised at the volume and tone that comes out of that Seagull Grand Artist. I've experimented with various picks, from just regular Dunlop, Golden gate, and Fred Kelly plastic thumbpicks, and for fingerpicking tried plastic, brass, and those mentioned, with the open area for your fingertips by propik - nickel fingertones. I even tried the Alaska picks, but couldn't take those at all.
Like DJ, I find I don't use any one style of picking for every tune, it really depends on what and where I'm playing. If I use a flatpick, it's about 1.0-1.5mm thickness, and fingerpicks are the fingertones, and a Golden Gate pearloid thumbpick. I still use hybrid picking on some tunes, too.
I'd say if you are having trouble using any pick, no matter what type, generally, it just takes some time to get used to it. In the case of thumbpicks and fingerpicks, that's what worked for me. I played classical guitar for a brief time, but the discipline of nail care, and the intensity of practice was just too much for me - I knew I wasn't going to be a concert guitarist, so it just wasn't working for me.
When I find myself having to pick quitely, I just use my fingers. You think anyone will come up with modelling software for acoustics like the software used to model all of our favorite amps? My bet is probably not. Still, it would be kind of freaky to have an amp to play your acoustic, and dial up "Doc Watson", Claraence White", "Michael Hedges", "Jorma Kaukonen", "Chet", and others. Just saying...
This is a constant source of exploration and sometimes frustration for me. For the songs which I play fingerstyle, I've tried bare flesh, picks on all fingers, and everything in between. I think I'm slowly narrowing down my preference. After years of using National and Dunlop thumb picks, I finally tried a Fred Kelly slick pick and don't think I'll ever look back. I had to file the "pick" part down a bit, so it's essentially a nub, but it works really well now.
For my index and middle fingers, I have a preference for bare fingers, generally speaking, until the oils and sweat start to build up on my finger tips while playing. When that happens, they tend to stick to the strings drastically slowing down my technique. Using metal picks renders this issue moot, but removes the tactile sensation I like while playing. On the other hand, I plan to learn to play banjo at some point, so getting used to finger picks now should help ease the transition. Always a constant battle...
As I become more and more adept at using a plectrum, I find I can emulate basic fingerstyle techniques via crosspicking which is great for songs which I alternate between strumming, flat picking, and fingerstyle.