Finger picks brighten and clarify your fingerpicking. Using the flesh of your fingers to individually pick the strings usually creates a muted and muddy sound. But by attaching a plectrum to the end of each picking finger, each note is picked with added power and brightness – cutting through more clearly.
In classical guitar, guitarists often grow out their natural nails to achieve this type of power and clarity in their fingerstrokes. Or some use acrylic nails to extend and strengthen their nails.
For many players, though, long fingernails and acrylics are not a good day-to-day option. And, if you’re playing bluegrass, in particular, fingernails are not the traditional way to play guitar, banjo, or dobro.
For these players, finger picks are the best option.
There are a few types of fingerpicks – metal and nylon, traditional shape and some innovative designs. So here is a quick look at 7 popular finger picks that will clarify and brighten your fingerpicking.
(Thumb picks are usually used with finger picks, but have a different design. See this post for recommendations on thumb picks.)
1. Dunlop 33P.018 Nickel Silver Finger & Thumbpicks.018″
The Dunlop Nickel is the classic finger pick. If you’ve run into finger picks before, this probably what you picture.
These picks are metal, have a very bright sound, and can be molded easily to fit your finger size.
Note: At first glance, these picks look like you attach them as “claws” but they actually go the other way around. The curved metal pick should come up from the pad of your finger toward your nail, mirroring the curve of the flesh of your finger.
2. Dunlop 9020TP Shell Plastic Finger & Thumbpicks
The Dunlop plastic finger picks have the traditional shape, but are made of plastic. This gives a warmer sound and some flexibility. The flexibility in the plastic (relative to the Dunlop Nickels) means that these feel a bit more “organic” and “natural”.
3. National NP1-8B Thumb & Finger Pick Pack
The National finger picks are similar to the Dunlop Nickel in shape, and are made of stainless steel for that bright, crisp attack. It’s interesting to note, though, that National packages these with thumb picks made from ABS thermoplastic, which has a little warmer feel and sound. So you get brightness and punch from your fingers, and some softer warmth from you thumb (which is naturally stronger and louder).
4. Fred Kelly Picks D7FF-L-3 Delrin Freedom Finger Pick
Right away, you can see this pick looks different. It goes over the whole finger like a sheath, a more comfortable fit. The Fred Kelly pick is made from Delrin, a strong material with still a softer tone.
5. aLaska Pik Finger Picks
And these picks look even more different! The innovative design is aimed at classical guitarists. The pick comes over the top of the fingernail and the picking edge ends up sitting right below the fingernail. The picking attack can feel more natural with these, because the pick is oriented the way a normal finger nail is.
6. Open Design, Metal Finger Picks
With a minimalist approach, these finger picks allow the flesh of your finger tips to work with a thin, metal picking edge. The stainless steel metal can be shaped a bit to fit your finger size and desired position.
7. Ernie Ball Pickey Pickeys
The Ernie Ball model is similar to our first Dunlop Nickel – but it has a narrower plectrum. These are designed to be light, and yet still give that bright, clear attack. The narrower plectrum tip should also be tested by the player to see how attack and finger position are effected.
A Note About Size & Fit
Some finger picks (like the Dunlop Nickels) are adjustable. Others come in sizes, typically Small, Medium, and Large. Read the Q&A sections in the Amazon listing. There’s helpful comments there from folks who have tried different sizes.
Also, a commonly recommended trick for plastic thumb and finger picks is to heat them in hot water and then put them on your thumb/finger to shape them. The hot water softens the material and makes it pliable.