The big question is....to
use guitar picks or nails.
Well actually it is even more complicated than that. If you are
fingerpicking your guitar, and obviously we are talking about acoustic
guitar here, then you need to think carefully about the balance between
the volume of sound you can produce and the playability.
Guitar picks and very
difficuilt to use at first and take a long time
to get used to. That is why I have the advice above. If you can make
your picks more comfortable to play with then things will get a
Having said that, there is an awful lot of benefit to using just plain
old fingers, and that is with or without nails.
Over the years I have tried every combination there is and have
finally, though only in recent times, concluded the following.
This combination will give the greatest volume from the guitar but is
also the most difficult to use correctly.
I have tried combinations of plastic and metal picks and found that a
plastic thumbpick prepared as above used in conjunction with metal
fingerpicks, (Jim Dunlop and get the thinnest ones you can) works best.
Thumbpick & your own
I used this
combination for quite a few years and found it ideal (at the time) for
playing instrumentals and ragtime/blues. You get plenty of volume on
the bass strings and a more delicate feel with the fingers. Of course
you need to keep your nails in good condition, which if easy if you do
not engage in any manual tasks but more difficult if you do manual work
as you always risk breaking the nails.
This is a good option if your risk of nail breakage is low but is no
good for people who work with their hands. The only problem with this
method is that the hand is held in what is, for me any way, a slightly
awkward position. This is so that the thumb nail can operate
effectively on the strings.
These days, for me, this is proving to be the best option. I tend not
to play in public much these days so I don't need a high volume level
as I am usually just teaching guitar. If I need higher volume I just
plug in and make use of the lovely Fishman pickup I have fitted to my
The biggest benefit of using bare flesh is the feel it gives. I can
play complex pieces this way that are simply impossible using nails or
You need to experiment and decide which is the best method for you.
The only comment I have is that it is best to be open minded on the
subject and experiment. Whichever method you finally decide on (It took
me 25 years to decide ;0)) rest assured that there will be benefits and
drawbacks to the other methods available.
Good luck and Happy