Using the index fingernail as a pick

I don’t like using a pick. Not because I’m a finger-snob, but because I never could get comfortable having a pick between my fingers. It also hinders any possibility of switching to fingers and back to pick mid song.

So “I came up” with this use for my index fingernail.

I can get a relatively high speed with it, even using only the nail side of the finger and I find it very very comfortable.

I know that using the thumb as a pick is widely accepted, but it’s not quite the sound I’m after. I’m curious, because I never heard anyone talking about it nor have i seen it as a “documented” technique.

What are your thoughts?


I sometimes pick down with my fingernail and up with my thumbnail, sort of like strumming with them. But i prefer a pick.


I think davie covered “Through the fire and the flames” without a pick once and the thing for me about using a pick is effective alternate plucking, which he did as to get up to speed for the song. So he must have used the index as well as the thumb.

I’ve seen a few players do that but very rarely and even Davie played it with a pick later on. So for the possibility of playing fast with alternate plucking a real pick may still be preferrable.
I think in your case where it’s about the sound created that is a viable technique if you can pull it off smoothly and as you said it has the benefit of switching between techniques as needed without having to throw something away or put in a pocket or something.


My plucking starts to sound like picking if my nails grow a little too long. I have fun with it for a bit, then I cut them.
It works tho, and I could see letting them grow if ever needed / wanted that sound overall.


I know that some bass players use their index finger as a pick, mostly for live shows. Here is an example:

The songs are usually recorded using a pick for the picking part, but it would be difficult to grab a pick playing it live :sweat_smile:

I guess for bass players but I remember gigs playing guitar when I had to do finger plucking in a song but still played with the pick for the most part.
It is certainly possible to find places in your hand that you can hold still to hold something.
Then again as bass player with the resting thumb it may be harder but you could hold it between pinky and ring of the right hand and use your thumb to slide it out there and between index and thumb.

Also my strap has 3 pick-pockets. Pun intended.


There are pick holders for the body, mic stand, and you could stick the ones that go on the body anywhere really, amp head or cab, etc…

Unless the switch from pluck to pick needs to be seamless, and is between two 1/16th notes, it seems possible.

Well, I might need 4 measures, at 90bpm or less…:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
Not really
More like 1 at 100, haha​:joy::joy::joy:


I’ve done one cover with this technique. As a pick player (well I play more and more with fingers but I’m still mostly a pick player) I compared the two techniques and I greatly prefer the pick. it gives me way more control. But the fingernail technique is still a pretty interesting technique in my opinion, as it gives you the option to instantly mimic the use of pick without having an actual pick. pretty useful if you play a song with alternating fingers and you just want a part with the pick style (roughly).

as I already said, I think every technique is worth a try for everyone : even if you don’t like it, it will give you an option to enhance the range of expression you have with your instrument.


I bet it is. But in my case I really am not comfortable with a pick between the fingers. And i tried several types of picks. And that’s the major reason. I also like the ‘heavy’ sound of the clipped nail with the finger meat (bet you never read this sentence before)


I’ve been letting the nail of my fourth finger grow back out, and experimenting with using it as an occasional pick, while maintaining the closely trimmed nails on the index and middle finger. It could turn out to be an interesting technique.

I have a bunch of picks, and like the tone they produce, but just can’t seem to get into the groove of actually playing with one.


This has me thinking and trying my very thick thumb nail. On the down it’s got a real nice tone, however on the up it just make a clack sound. I just trimmed them yesterday so I may play further as it grows. @gcancella great topic.


He did, but I just checked and I was wrong. He used double thumb to play the fast part.

I still think the rest of what I said holds true. Another thing to add is that while I think it is a perfectly viable technique to create a different tone it still is only close to the sound of a pick. Then again you might like the sound your nails create better than a pick. I’m just saying there is a difference.