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I came across fingerpicks while browsing through the web:

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Alaska-Pik-Finger-Guitar-Pick-110630-i1123794.gc

Is it recommended that I buy them and use them for practice? I mean my nails are short because I have a bad habit of biting my nails. Or is it better to grow my nails instead?

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The first choice would be growing your own nails. You don't even have to quit biting, there is still plenty of nails on your fretting hand. In addition, keep a nail buffing block with you at all times. When you have an urge yo bite, buff instead. You can tell I have that particular problem too. Only if this for some reason doesn't work, consider the alternatives. –  n.m. Jun 25 at 4:51
    
thanks for the answers there. It's very informative. As mentioned from Kirk A there are rest stroke and free stroke when playing classical guitar. Are there any comparison (sound samples) of it? I am really curious as how it should sound correctly. –  alextanhongpin Jun 25 at 6:50
    
If you search for apoyando and tirando, I think the wikipedia pages for them have sound samples. –  Dr Mayhem Jun 25 at 9:43
    
thanks I will check it out :) –  alextanhongpin Jun 25 at 10:03

5 Answers 5

It is entirely down to you. I personally don't like them, because I like the ability to choose whether to use my nails or the pads of my fingers, thus giving me a wider range of sounds, but they can give you a consistent pick.

This is one of those questions with no real answer other than - try them and see what you think.

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when i pick with the pads if my finger, the sound is really soft. is it because of the guitar too? –  alextanhongpin Jun 25 at 10:04

I recommend trying them before buying them. I ordered a set of Alaska Piks online and found two issues (which other people may or may not experience):

  1. They didn't fit well. They require long nails (they won't fit under short nails) and they were incompatible with the particular curvature pattern of my nails. Besides, I bought them so that I wouldn't have to put up with long nails, yet they didn't stay in place without long nails.
  2. They're uncomfortable, because you have to wedge them underneath your nails and they pull on your nails.

In the end, I decided that buying Alaska Piks had been a mistake.

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now that you mention it, I have not even thought of the comfort of wearing fingerpicks. I probably should check if it comes in a size that fits me first. Thanks! –  alextanhongpin Jun 25 at 10:17

EDIT: No, I would NOT recommend finger picks because they preclude the rest stroke -- a very important technique for classical fingerstyle guitar. I WOULD recommend that you let you nails grow, but not too long -- just enough white to accent the release the release of the string during a rest stroke. (The shaping of your fingernail is important as well.)

ORIGINAL ANSWER FOLLOWS: I suppose that depends upon your fingerstyle style. In classical guitar, two different styles are used: the the rest stroke and the free stroke.

In the rest stroke, the flesh of the fingertip plays the note (accented by the fingernail). The finger follows through and comes to a rest against the neighboring string. Of the two techniques, this is more powerful and more precise. The rest provides an anchor for the following note(s) using other digits.

In the free stroke, as with most fingerstyle, the hand floats above the strings. The nails (or picks) are used predominantly, rather than the fingertip. Since the hand is floating, it can be more error-prone. And while the nail (or pick) generates a nice sound, it is not as powerful as the fingertip.

The two techniques each have their niche. I wouldn't do anything to preclude one for the other. I'd recommend that you let you nails grow, but not too long. Just enough white to accent the release.

Having said that, yet another alternative is "chicken-pickin'". One advocate of that style wears two long acrylic nails on his middle and ring fingers.

There are many styles. Suit yourself...

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2  
How does this answer the question? –  JCPedroza Jun 25 at 3:32
    
The newly edited first paragraph gets straight to the point that was in the fourth paragraph of the original answer. –  Kirk A Jun 25 at 10:25
    
The type of picks linked to in the answer work as nails, rather than the traditional finger picks that cover the pads of the fingers. So rest strokes are possible. –  Meaningful Username Jun 25 at 10:44
    
IMHO, rest strokes are inhibited by excessively long nails, such as these add-ons. A nail too long will not release the string you are playing before the pad comes to rest on the neighboring string. –  Kirk A Jun 25 at 11:04

I prefer using my finger tips. Finger picks are very impractical, generally have a design flaw that makes them even more impractical, and they always move positions and squeeze your fingers and nails. Nails don't sound as good as finger tips despite common consensus, they break easily especially on metal strings, and cutting your nails for guitar looks ridiculous. Nails pretty much only work if you use silk strings, which I hear are quite expensive and more of a Chinese zither thing.

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If this is about classical guitar, then ignore the following. But many styles of "fingerpicked" blues really require metal picks for the authentic sound. This is especially true for 12-string guitar, btw. Remember that these guys were often playing in the street or in a crowded bar, so they needed to make some noise! A lot of this music only uses the thumb and the first two fingers, because you only wear two fingerpicks and a thumb pick when playing. Many folk and blues players compromise and use just the thumb pick to get the bass fat and loud. There are also special picks that are hollow in the middle so that you can choose to involve the soft pads of your fingers if you'd like to change the sound.

There's no denying, though, that it's hard when you shift over, kind of like being a soccer player who tries to play hockey. Things'll feel very slippery for a while, but once you get it, you can really make some sound!

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