Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Is hybrid picking possible without nails?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by ADinNYC, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. ADinNYC

    ADinNYC Friend of Leo's

    Jan 2, 2010
    New York City
    Can you still dig in and get a chicken pickin' pop.

    I recently started playing bass and really want to use a proper two-finger technique but I can't because I grow my nails for hybrid picking on the guitar.

  2. Frodebro

    Frodebro Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Aug 17, 2012
    I keep my nails trimmed and have no problem with it, though I tend to "snap" the strings rather than "pluck" them. In that regard, I have found that if I don't keep them trimmed they tend to snag on the strings.
    cnlbb likes this.

  3. guitar dan

    guitar dan Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 19, 2011
    Exactly. Me too.
    haggardfan1 likes this.

  4. Bongocaster

    Bongocaster Friend of Leo's

    I don't use a pick and am constantly fooling with the length of mine trying to find that spot where I can use my nails but not break them all of the time doing other things. You might be surprised at how short they can be and still be usable.

    Now that's with hardly ever picking with just my nails but with nail and finger, and then the shorter they are the easier it is to grab just the flesh when you want to get that sound. Now if you are trying to do the Johnny Hiland thing...

    So you might find a length that allows you to do hybrid on your guitar and still use them on your bass.

  5. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 31, 2007
    victoria b.c. CANADA
    Yup. I used to spend way to much time babying my nails like I was a concert classical guitarist or a Jersey Shore girl. Eventually, like Bongocaster, it became evident that my nail length didn't need so much fussing in order to be of a useful length.

    In my experience for hybrid picking all you need is the nail to extend to the tip of the finger and maybe a bit beyond. What that does is simply reinforce the fingertip and allows the end of the nail to contact the string. I think of it like how many horn players will grown a soul patch because they believe it strengthens their embouchure.

  6. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 31, 2007
    victoria b.c. CANADA

  7. twangjeff

    twangjeff Tele-Holic

    Feb 2, 2010
    Houston, TX
    You don't need much nail to get the sound. To be honest with my technique I get a little bit of nail and a little bit of flesh on the string. Sounds mighty fine to me.

  8. ADinNYC

    ADinNYC Friend of Leo's

    Jan 2, 2010
    New York City
    But unfortunately I find I have to cut the nails all the way back or they'll hit the bass strings.

  9. Bongocaster

    Bongocaster Friend of Leo's

    I've got mine not even not past my fingertips. I'd like to keep them longer but then I'll break them on something. It gets kind of silly some times but I will even look ahead at what I will be doing (like working on something in the shop) and vary the length accordingly.

    I will take my fingers and kind of pick/pluck at my thumb, or thumb against my fingers and if I can feel that pretty strongly I feel that I'm good to go.

  10. honeycreek

    honeycreek Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 16, 2009
    Perhaps you need to relook at your technique on bass? I have no issue playing bass with nails long enough to hybrid pick. Of course, you may not have fat fingers like I do. :D Your statement makes me think of how my wife was playing the bass when she was trying to learn. She used the very tip of her finger to play the bass and kept her fingers very curled up. That is definitely not how I play bass.

  11. transmaniacon

    transmaniacon Tele-Holic

    Apr 16, 2003
    According to Tommy Emannuel his right hand finger nails dont work very well for picking so he uses the flesh of his fingers. I think Albert Lee does too. Maybe once you get some calluses on your fingertips happening all will be well. Please let us know how you go if you try this.


  12. banjohabit

    banjohabit Tele-Holic

    Mar 17, 2011
    +1 on the calluses. i keep my nails short and use the fleshy bits on the finger tip, which hardens over time into something like a callus. in my case, it's more like just a hardened flat space.

    the only nail i shape is my index finger, which is just a tad longer than the rest and cut straight across at about a 30 degree angle left (lower) to right (taller). it looks strange, but works great for playing straight rhthym, acoustic or electric, and has developed a kind of "roll", raised place right across the tip of it (which is what i keep in shape) which sounds just like a pick when i play it that way. i find WAY more tonal choices playing everything with my fingers than with a pick. playing with the pick being yet another tonal choice available.

    btw : i play acoustic a lot at home, i think the higher tension-thicker strings help develop all of the above. but you can't practice the tonal variations of picking the electric (especially the tele) with all the minute adjustments you can make with your fingers except plugged in. and preferably at stage volumes as well. it's just not the same on your little practice amp.

  13. uncletele

    uncletele Tele-Meister

    Feb 2, 2007
    enola, pa
    I've been chickenpickin' for 35 years with just fingertips on a Telecaster. You do get more of a snap, but that's cool to me.
    I use the same technique with a flatpick or thumbpick. Actually, with a thumbpick I can get nicer string seperation for complex chords employing the index finger. I'm faster with a flatpick, but fast isn't alway best.

  14. Telegeekster

    Telegeekster Tele-Meister

    Nov 10, 2012
    The Old Line State
    My $0.02--

    Just make sure you don't leave square corners when you cut your nails. Nails don't have to be long, just rounded to the sides or they tend to snag unexpectedly.

    If you are playing bass regularly with fingers (not a pick), you should develop some decent callouses that advance your chickin-pickin agenda quite nicely...

  15. clayfeat

    clayfeat Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 19, 2005
    bloomington, in

  16. Vladimir

    Vladimir Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Zagreb, Croatia
    When I grew up learning classical guitar, the rule I was told was: nylon=nails, metal=no nails.
    How does Mark Knopfler do it, he's been a fingerpicker forever, right?

  17. vincent

    vincent Tele-Holic

    Jul 22, 2007
    Big Rapids, Michigan
    ^^^ +1

  18. Bongocaster

    Bongocaster Friend of Leo's

    The larger diameter strings are easier on your nails too, when I grabbed a friends guitar with (shudder) 9s on it, ate right into them.

  19. telex76

    telex76 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jun 24, 2006
    Fort Worth,Tx.
    You don't need nails for hybrid chicken picking. I tried using nails for awhile (just barely long enough to use) but they would wear down or break no matter how much time I spent caring for them.
    I went to using just flesh and after a little time got to where it sounded very even.
    I guess the nails still make a little contact because they stay worn down without having to trim them.

  20. Bongocaster

    Bongocaster Friend of Leo's

    At 2 pennies that's a bargain and really good basic advice.

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