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|Two Questions: The Chet Style and Nails|
I have a couple questions. I'm new to Chet style, but not new to guitar (4 years). I really like Chet style, I just have trouble getting the hang of it. I'm trying to figure out how to get my thumb to work independent from the fingers. I'm practicing the alternating bass line and a simple strum of strings with other fingers, but adding in different rhythms eludes me. Is there a "clicking point" where a player just simply gains independence one day?
Also I'm wondering about acrylic nails or nail hardener. I have trouble plucking the string with the pads of my fingertips. It feels like they catch on the string, its not a smooth feeling. I know its probably because I'm new to finger style, but I think if I was hitting the strings with a harder substance it would sound better and be easier than these clumsy pads. What is your take?
Well, let's start with nails. The vast consensus among fingerpickers is that you're correct in that you need something harder than your fingertip, not only for the 'feel' issue, but to get more power and precision. Your nails should be just a skosh longer than your finger (maybe 1/16" or so) so that the finger pad sits on the string (where you get fat tone from) but then the nail 'clicks' over the string as the stroke goes by (the clear hard attack and precision part). If you have natural nails that are good and strong, just grow them, keeping them trimmed very round and smooth to prevent chipping and breaking. Otherwise, going to the nail salon about every 3 weeks and getting a coat of acrylic applied is my idea of the best answer. I've still never run onto any hardeners or conditioners that really work well enough on natural nails. They just aren't industrial enough for playing guitar.
The Chet style. Hmmm. Well, the alternating bass thing does become automatic eventually, but it takes a lot of time. I don't know if there's really a 'clicking point' where you can suddenly do it, but maybe... sort of. As far as further independence to play multiple lines or a walking bass or 2 songs at once, that never becomes totally automatic. You'll get better and faster at it, but it's always work. On the Chet style, if you're up for it sometime, we could do a Skype lesson or two where I could give you a couple of specific exercises and a tune that I've found works well to get folks off the ground. Either way though, just keep on keeping on. The most important ingredients are time, exploration and repetition...