Why use only one pick when you can have five? If you're willing to maintain them, acrylic fingernails are strong enough to outlast even hardcore jamming on steel string, electric, banjo and 12-string, and they have about as much snap as Fender heavy picks.

I've been using acrylic fingernails for a number of years now. I got this idea from Pierre Bensusan after I did the Krazy Glue and baking soda trick. Pierre said (in a French accent that adds a certain charm to his delivery): "Zee Krazy Glue will damage zee skeen and eez poison." Who could argue with that? He advocated going to a sculptured nail specialist. These little nail boutiques are in malls across North America and are usually run by Vietnamese. Since it’s only one hand you pay only half the standard fee. I suggest you ask them to pay special attention to the underside of the nail and to skip the polish. You can file and buff your nails as needed by using nail buffers designed for acrylics.

Aside from the funny looks I get, the only problem I have with these nail coatings is that once you start using the stuff you can't easily stop. The coating will begin to peel off after a few weeks if you don't have them filled, and if you allow them to peel off completely they will take the top layer of your natural nails with them. This will leave your nails so thin that you can't play with them until they grow out again. One summer I decided to go natural again by taking off the coating with acetone. During that summer I had a string of gigs in libraries doing lecture concerts on nineteenth century parlor music. I have a couple of antique guitars and I felt that I could get along without much fingernail for a month or three. About two weeks into it I had a phone call from somebody who needed a lead electric guitar player right away for a pickup band. My nails tore off in the first set and I was back in the nail boutique the next morning.

But the really good thing about acrylics is that if you maintain these nails they hardly ever break. And you can play anything: steel strings, electrics, banjos and twelve-strings. You can pick and strum without fear. This is very liberating. If you do end up breaking one you can get another one made for you in ten minutes. I confess that I'm hooked and am not going back anytime soon. Since we have been playing with our nails for the last century and a half or so, this allows those of us who aren't endowed with super strong fingernails by nature to play all night long without feeling compromised.