Guitar Picks

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How to customise a guitar pick

Here is your bog standard Thumbpick with
way too much plastic on for my liking.
Here's is the same pick after a bit of attention
with sandpaper/emery board

The big question 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 lot easier.

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.

Thumbpick & Fingerpicks.
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 nails.
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.

Nails Only.
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.

Bare Flesh.
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 Collings SJ.

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 picks.

In Conclusion
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 Twanging

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