How Tiptonic® Fingernail Picks Work


How Tiptonic Fingernail Picks Work

The Design

The design of Tiptonic Fingernail Picks is based on a simple realization: conventional flat picks and fingerpicks do not feel as natural as fingertips or fingernails, but neither of these make a very good pick. Bare fingertips are muted, muddy, and lack articulation, while fingernails aren’t strong enough for the job, constantly breaking and requiring high maintenance. Working with these problems firmly in mind, we’ve spent many years figuring out exactly how to make great picks that feel as much like a natural nail as possible, while significantly surpassing the functional capabilities of the human fingernail.

Our patented Fingernail Pick product is the culmination of all of these years of R&D. It solves the problem in a novel way. First, the pick includes a very thin layer of plastic that gets adhered to the nail plate (the part of the nail that is attached to your finger). This plastic layer then wraps around the free edge of the nail (the part that cantilevers out beyond the nail plate) to form (a) an underside playing surface for upstrokes and (b) two slotted sidewalls that grab underneath the corners of the free edge of the nail for added support.

Fingernail Pick inventor Jack West—who has hundreds of patents and many successful products in the market (more here)—has an interesting approach to product design. He believes that a product design is not done until it achieves the goals in the simplest possible way. But he further stresses that a truly great product must also have something about it that surprises you. By this definition, the Fingernail Pick design is definitely done! These picks are strikingly simple. And there are at least two aspects of the product that surprise everyone: how well they stay on and how natural they feel.

How They Stay On

Fingernail Picks stay tightly locked to the fingernail by virtue of a dual-locking mechanism that combines a very unique adhesive with a specially formed slotted sidewall that grabs the corners of the free edge of the nail. The adhesive is an excellent non-toxic, medical-grade adhesive that provides the exact right amount of tack and reusability. And, in particular, our adhesive is excellent at resisting high impact, short duration loads, such as when a string hits the pick. But here’s the magic: the adhesive totally lets go if you push it slowly with a constant force, such as when you want to take it back off. So, the adhesive holds the pick in place during picking, but the pick is easy to pull back off if you push it slowly with steady pressure.

The slotted sidewalls connect to the corners of the free edge of the nail to further stabilize the pick under side-to-side shear loads. When you find the pick that is a perfect fit for a given finger, the sidewall slot perfectly aligns with the corners of the free edge (which are at the ends of the crescent shape of the free overhanging edge of the nail).

The adhesive is so strong that there are a number of musicians who love their Fingernail Picks even though they bite their nails, and thus have zero free edge (or overhang) for the slotted sidewalls to grab in the corners. We’ve found that many players with no free edge at all can use the product, but the picks will not last as long for these players since they are relying 100% on the adhesive. In general, we recommend that you grow your nails out to 1 mm (1/16”) or more right at the corners of the free edge. Also note that if you break a nail, it rarely breaks in the corner, so broken nails pose no problems at all for Fingernail picks.

Fingernail Pick adhesive also has the awesome property of being able to be reactivated back to its original strength before each use. Placing the picks in the Activator Case and running for 1-2 minutes is sufficient to rejuvenate the adhesive, typically for 2-6 months, depending on how often you play. Avoid touching the adhesive with anything oily, including the skin, to prolong it’s use. Once the adhesive is spent, you just need to buy a new pick in your size and you’re rockin’ again. For comparison, a set of Fingernail Picks is similar to the price of a set of strings, but you probably won’t need to buy them as often as strings.

Why They Feel So Natural

The result of the Fingernail Pick design is that the string contacts the pick in almost the exact same location that it would contact the natural nail, except slightly closer to the string by only about half the thickness of the pick. Since it is closer in the same direction that the pick is moving to contact the string, it only takes one or two upstrokes to adjust to this almost imperceptible difference. Incidentally, this difference is less than the amount that a typical fingerpick slides around by during performance; so it is well within the range of what a musician can easily compensate for automatically without thinking about it. The same basic concept is true for downstrokes as well. The upshot is that the pick feels like a natural nail in terms of the mechanics of how it strikes the string.

The pick also feels incredibly natural because it stays rigidly locked to the fingernail even during the most aggressive strumming. This results in the pick always being in the same place every stroke, every night of the year. The same cannot be said for natural and acrylic nails (which grow out) or conventional fingerpicks (which slide around slightly during play). The increased reliability factor with Fingernail Picks further enhances the natural feel and allows the musician to significantly improve their precision and control.

The Playing Surfaces

The outside surfaces of each Fingernail Pick have been very carefully designed to form an underside playing surface for upstrokes and a topside playing surface for downstrokes. These playing surfaces are the primary places where the string contacts the pick. We have spent many hours perfecting the shape of these surfaces because this is where the tone begins. Each surface provides the right amount of surface area, mass, smoothness, and edge to provide an exceptionally well-balanced tone with silky and clear highs, strong bass, and increased volume (when you play harder). In contrast, fingernails sound thin, fingertips sound muddy, and fingerpicks sound brittle.

The playing surfaces have been optimized to ensure that the string does not catch on the end or edge of the surfaces in an unnatural way. For example, those who use acrylic nails have problems with the string catching near the cuticle when the nail grows out a bit. Fingernail Picks solve this by always tucking right up against the cuticle. Since you place the Fingernail Pick on your finger right before you play each time, you always place it against the cuticle to prevent unwanted catching of the string in this location.

Playing Styles

Fingernail Picks also work well with every style of stringed music, including classical, flamenco, folk, blues, rock, and jazz, and every type of string, including nylon, gut, and steel. You can easily switch between strumming, fingerpicking, blistering single-note runs, and even two-hand tapping. Many flat pickers find that a single Fingernail Pick on the index finger works like a superior flat pick by simply rotating the finger slightly to orient the Fingernail Pick like you would a flat pick, then lightly pressing the thumb against the index finger as if you were holding a flat pick. This same technique is also great for those wearing a full set of Fingernail Picks when they want to switch between fingerpicking and flat picking in the same song.

Many Classical guitarists prefer the minimum length of about 1.5 mm (1/16″) out past the end of their nails. Others prefer a much longer extension to their nails. We often find that once a player switches to using Fingernail Picks they first start with short picks, then realize that they can play louder and faster with longer picks, so they switch to longer picks over time. We offer a variety of lengths to fit any style or level of play on any stringed instrument. So you can experiment with different sizes to find what works best for you.

How to use Fingernail Picks

Before getting started with Fingernail Picks, you first need to determine your sizes by purchasing the Starter Kit, then order the exact sizes you want on the Fingernail Pick product page. Once you have your picks, the process of using Fingernail Picks is very simple: activate the picks for 1-2 minutes, press the picks onto your nails, and play. When you are done, you just slide them back off and place in the Activator Case until your next session. Many musicians get in the habit of turning on the Activator while tuning up and by the time you are in tune, the picks are activated and ready for action.

Please see the Owner’s Manual (link) for more detailed instructions on proper care and use of your Fingernail Picks and Activator.

Want To Get More Technical about Tiptonic Fingernail Picks?

In addition to being pickers ourselves, we are engineers, and we absolutely love to talk technology when it comes to these game-changing picks. If you have any questions about how Tiptonic Fingernail Picks can help you achieve better tone and articulation from your instrument, or if you would like to learn how to purchase some Tiptonic Fingernail Picks, please contact us (link) today.