I've played piano since age 4, and picked up electric guitar two and a half years ago. Not long ago I began listening to Andy Mckee, and I've discovered the beauty of acoustic guitar. If anyone is familiar with his viral video Drifting, I learned to play that without too much difficulty - I have experience with tapping in electric, and there is very little fingerpicking in it. But he fingerpicks in all of his other songs, and that's uncharted territory for me.

A week ago I decided to dive right into it and started playing some of his other songs (like Ebon Coast and Nakagawa-san), and was surprised to see it come to me much faster than I expected. I'm wondering about growing my nails out though - is it necessary? Generally I keep my nails very short, as I find it uncomfortable when they're long, and as a result I've been plucking the strings with the meat of my fingers. Should I grow out my nails? How long should they be? Should I grow out the nails on all my fingers, or just the thumb? Is there any way I should trim them to maintain a certain shape? Is there anything else I should know? I've tried those artificial plastic/metal nails that you slip on your fingers, but I found those are uncomfortable and difficult to use, so I don't think I'll turn to that.

Any advice or input from a more experienced acoustic player would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
i keep mine short while i finger pick i like to play with the skin on my fingers because you can feel the strings unlike if you use your nails or it could just be my preference.
Im no expert at fingerpicking but I have definetly enjoyed it more than electric recently, but I havnt been playing all too long.

Anyways, I havent played with the fingertips you can buy, but it didnt seem to take to long to get good with just the fingers. It doesnt seem needed to buy those, since I think im doing pretty decent allready, but who knows if the metal ones would help me.

Its also alot easier to just pick up the acoustic and just start playing if all you need is the guitar and the fingers allready on your hand.

I hope that help
Hey guys, thanks for the responses. Malthorn, do you play steel string or nylon string? In my opinion nylon is better with the fingertips, but I'm not entirely sure about steel string (which is what I play, not sure if I was clear on that in my post)
Quote by Rael0505
Hey guys, thanks for the responses. Malthorn, do you play steel string or nylon string? In my opinion nylon is better with the fingertips, but I'm not entirely sure about steel string (which is what I play, not sure if I was clear on that in my post)

It just depends on what you like and what you're playing.

Personally, I fingerpick without the nails on a steel-string. And I agree with Malthorn - acoustic is far more fulfilling than electric.
I just use the meat of my fingers too. I like the soft sound of it. Plus, I wouldn't tolerate long nails.
I love the tone of skin rather than finger nail. Also guys with massive thumb nails look gross.
it's all just coming back
it's all coming back

it's all coming back to me
I've been "finger-picking" for fourty years + and never used my nails.......if you amplify your acoustic, it will help some, in some situations.

The trick to finger-picking is consistency in your pattern. No rules are required really.....you do what feels good to you, and according to the sound you wish to create.

Remember that "individualism" wins more attention than emulating someone else....create your OWN style of play......be unique.
"I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now"

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Thanks a lot guys. Soupy1957, by amplify, do you mean by putting a pickup on it so it can be played through an amp, or are you talking about an actual guitar modification? How could I do this?
If you get into ragtime or anything with a lot of bass-melody interplay, I've found a thumbpick a very helpful addition to my technique.
I have heard that Segovia regarded playing without nails as silly, or a waste of time. Then again Tarega, who wrote many wonderful peices of music for Segovia, played with nails for 50 years before he decided to go with just the finger tips. If I am not mistaken he died shortly thereafter but I am not totally sure about that.

Seriously though, I have fingerpicked for about 14 years without nails. I play with a pick too but mainly I fingerpick on a classical and two hand tap on my custom 8 string electric. There are definitely advantages to using nails but I have never been in an occupation where I could grow them out. I have never thought that having nails would help me that much. In fact having long nails would make two hand tapping alot more difficult because they would hit the fretboard. I am learning to play with a thumb pick now because I am a big fan of Chet Atkins and Tommy Emmanuel and those bass lines they can play. Leo Kottke used to play with his guitars with banjo picks but stopped after he got a really bad repetetive stress injury. He has been playing without nails or picks for a long time and is still considered one of the best.
Do what you like, but just make sure you have the right technique. I use nails for tirando
(free stroke) and the flesh for apoyando(rest stroke).