Guitarists often use an entire arsenal of gear, including pedals or stomp-boxes, pedalboards, amplifiers, tuners, and a ton of other accessories that are used for a wide range of purposes, including things like truss rod tools and string action gauges.
Some of these accessories are clearly visible, including those they wear on their fingers. In this article, we’re going to explore some of the accessories that guitarists put on their fingers.
Guitarists wear several different items on their fingers, including slides, thumb picks, tape, and fingertip protectors. Some of them even have their nails longer than normal for fingerstyle.
We’ll explore each one of these in the section below, and explain what they do, exactly.
Accessories Guitarists Use On Their Fingers
A slide is a tubular piece of steel or glass that guitarists slip on to the end of their fingers.
It’s used for a very specific purpose: to slide up and down the strings and frets in such a way where it produces a very unique and distinct sound.
Slide guitar is best described as a tactic that guitarists use to create very deep vibrato sounds and glissando effects. A glissando, in other words, is just another word for a slide between notes.
The glissando is just a slide from one note to the other, and it’s used across a variety of different genres, including classical, jazz, blues, metal, bluegrass, country and western, etc.
At one point in time, slide guitar was a lot more popular, including in the blues and rock era. These days, I would say that the slide will almost never be heard on Top 40 Mainstream Radio, although, you won’t hear many guitars, in general, on the Top 40 Radio.
Like I mentioned above, a slide comes in a variety of different materials, including glass, metal, and other materials, but glass and metal are undoubtedly the most common, with many guitarists preferring one over the other.
Perhaps one of the most famous songs that use a Slide is the song from White Zombie, “More Human Than Human.” The very first guitar riff uses a slide and it’s immediately recognizable. Make sure to check it out on YouTube to hear what it sounds like.
Additionally, a slide can be used on different fingers, depending on the player. Some people put it on the index finger, while others prefer to put the slide on the pinky finger, that way the rest of the hand’s fingers are fretting the notes as usual, but having the additional effect of using the slide as well.
With that said, it’s most common for guitarists to wear the slide on the pinky finger, rather than the middle or pointer finger.
2) Thumb Picks
A thumb pick is like what it sounds like. It’s a pick that you slide on to your thumb, and it’s most commonly used by acoustic guitarists who play fingerstyle guitar riffs.
I used to use a thumb pick whenever I wanted to play songs from artists like Antoine Dufour and other instrumentalists. A thumb pick is a handy tool that allows you to use your thumb in a more distinguished and defined way.
They also come in a variety of different materials and sizes, and it’s not uncommon for guitarists to file the edges down on them to make it more suitable to their unique playing-style and timbre.
I’ve done this to my pick which you can see in the image above.
Antoine Dufour uses a thumb pick for the song “Spiritual Groove,” which you can also check out on YouTube.
Additionally, some guitarists use tape on parts of their hands as a way to protect their hands from scaping up against the strings. One of the most famous guitarists to put tape on their hand is Metallica’s lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett.
It’s more common for guitarists to put tape on the one side of their palm, especially in the case of needing to do a lot of palm-muting, which is mostly a thing for metal guitarists, such as the aforementioned Metallica guitar player.
If you think about it, it’s not hard to imagine why this is a fairly common practice for touring musicians.
If you’re on the road, playing guitar for long stretches of time, every single night of the year, eventually, there will be some wear and tear on the player’s palm, and this is why some players use it.
Putting it simply, while you may not see the purpose of this if you’re just a regular guitar player, strumming on the instrument in your house, someone who’s playing for 3 hours a day every single day for 20+ years may need some kind of protection for the palm of their hand.
4) Fingertip Protectors
Finger-tip protectors look a lot like thimbles. And they’re placed on the end of each finger. This is one of the products on the list that is the least effective, and also the least common.
Fingertip protectors are, in my opinion, something that no guitar player should actually use. The more you play the instrument, the more the fingers grow accustomed to it.
Over time, fingers will develop calluses and naturally adjust to the instrument’s demands. If you choose to use finger-tip protectors, you’ll never build up the necessary durability to continue playing.
The title is quite self-explanatory, fingertip protectors are little pieces of material that a player may slide on to the ends of their fingertips of their fretting hand. It’s for people who don’t like the pain at their fingertips.
I can’t think of any famous touring musician who uses fingertip protectors, mostly because of the compromises you’ll be making in tone and playability.
On the other hand, I could see how these might come in handy every once in a while, especially if you haven’t played guitar in months and the fingers are quite raw and sensitive.
In that case, you may want to use these as a way of protecting your fingers after a few months off, but for the most part, I would recommend staying away from these.
5) Long Nails
This is one I hesitated including on the list because it’s not something that you wear, but it’s a natural extension of your body’s physiology.
Long nails are often used by fingerstyle guitarists to help them pluck the strings in such a way that mimics a thumb pick.
If you think about it, longer nails on the picking hand will introduce an added sound and timbre to the way the finger plucks the string. As the finger pulls or presses on the string, the nail scrapes across it at the same time and adds a particular quality.
My second guitar teacher used to have the longest nails for playing the guitar.
This, in addition to fingertip protectors, are the only things I’ve never actually tried. It may be something you want to try out if you’ve never done it before, especially if you play fingerstyle guitar.
Long fingernails are the most common among classical guitarists who pluck nylon-string acoustic guitars.
YouTube Video Tutorial
These are all of the things that I can think of that guitarists wear on their fingers. I’m sure there are other accessories and gear that guitar-players use that is tailored to a specific purpose.
It’s up to you to experiment with what you think sounds best.