Finger pick manufacturers offer picks of varying sizes to fit most fingers, but some players find it necessary to modify the picks to fit more comfortably and bend the playing edge to suit their personal preference. Worn on the fingers, finger picks differ from "flat picks" (which are held rather than worn) and allow strings to be played in complex combinations not possible with a flat pick. Finger picks are usually worn in combination with a thumb pick and are made from metal or plastic. The method used to bend the picks is different for each material. Finger and thumb picks are also used by players of other stringed instruments, including the banjo, dulcimer and autoharp.
Bending Plastic Finger Picks
Choose picks that fit your fingers properly. A proper fit will be one that is not too tight but not loose enough that it will come off while playing. The pick is worn by placing it on the finger like a ring, with the pad of your finger resting against the playing side. The tip will curl around your fingertip, terminating just below your fingernail. The pick size and tip playing angle will be bent in the following steps.
Boil approximately one cup of water in a metal pan on the stove and remove from the burner.
Place the plastic finger picks into the hot water and allow them to soak for one minute or so.
Remove a single pick from the water with tongs and allow to cool briefly until you can handle it comfortably.
Place the pick on your finger and bend the finger rings with your fingers to fit comfortably. The ring is split at the top to allow it to be spread or compressed for fitting.
Bend the tip with your fingers until it is at your preferred playing angle. Some players prefer the tip to protrude slightly from the fingertip, while others prefer intimate fingertip contact. If the pick cools and any adjustment is difficult, insert the pick into the hot water again for another minute or so. Several attempts may be necessary.
Remove the adjusted finger pick and allow to cool thoroughly before use. You can mark the finger number on the pick with a permanent marker for easy identification and continue fitting and bending the other picks.
Bending Metal Finger Picks
Choose metal finger picks that fit comfortably. They are worn in the same manner as plastic picks as described in Step 1. Bending for custom fit and pick angle will be done in the following steps.
Place the pick on your finger and bend the finger rings with your fingers to fit comfortably. The ring is split at the top to allow it to be spread or compressed for fitting, and you may use needle-nose pliers if the metal is too stiff to bend with the fingers.
Bend the tip until it is at your preferred playing angle. Some players prefer the tip to protrude slightly from the fingertip, while others prefer intimate fingertip contact. You may use needle-nose pliers if the metal is difficult to bend with your fingers.
For easy identification, use a permanent marker to mark each pick with the finger number it was adjusted for.
Thumb picks may be sized in the same manner, but the pick angle is straight and is normally not bent for adjustment.
The choice of metal or plastic picks is a matter of preference. Metal picks will produce a "brighter" sound but can cause faster string wear than plastic picks. Plastic picks will cause less string wear, but the pick will wear out more quickly than metal.
You can boil water in a microwave oven in a microwave-safe container, if it is more convenient.
Although finger picks must be adjusted for a snug fit, picks that are too tight can cause restricted blood flow to the fingertips. If your fingers become numb, remove the picks and discontinue use until they are adjusted for a looser fit.
Use caution when handling boiling water and heated plastic picks. The pick must be hot enough to bend but not too hot to cause burns and discomfort while wearing and handling for adjustment.