Guzheng Picks 古箏指甲
Preparing Guzheng Picks
Guzheng picks are important to Guzheng players. They can directly affect the quality of sound. When wearing picks correctly, one may feel easier to pluck a string. In addition, the sound is likely to be better, clearer and crisper. My first Guzheng teacher taught me the traditional approach:
- Put a pick towards the end of a piece of tape, but leaving some space (approx. 1 – 1.5 cm)
- Place your finger on the pick
- Stick the short side to your real fingernail
- Start rolling the long side and wrapping it around the finger.
The biggest advantage of this method is that it is easy. Many teachers teach and use this method. However, after using it for a period of time, I find that when playing certain Guzheng techniques, such as Yao Zhi, the picks start to move quite easily. I prefer a method that gives my picks more stability.
To overcome the problem, I prefer the following method:
- Stick the short end of the tape to the pick.
- Place your finger on the pick.
- Roll up the long end to wrap the tape around your finger.
(See the following section for details and pictures)
The key of this method is that we don’t put our fingers directly on the picks. Instead, there is a piece of tape in between our finger and the pick. In other words, your finger tip lays on top of the tape but not directly on the nail. The tape provides friction; hence, it reduces the movement and enhances stability. This method provides greater stability than the traditional method.
Wearing Guzheng Picks
My first Guzheng teacher said, “Simply put the tape around the finger, and make sure your Guzheng nail and your real nail are parallel.” Sounds like a very easy instruction to follow. But then I found a problem.
When the surface of a Guzheng nail does not touch the string completely , the sound becomes dull and unclear. (Note: a Guzheng pick has to be parallel when touching a string. Otherwise it can create unwanted noise, failing to produce a crisp sound.) When our hands are in their most natural relaxing state, our fingernails are all actually facing slightly different angles. So, if we want to touch the strings head-on in parallel, each finger needs to slightly adjust their angles in order to touch a string properly. This is especially when true for the thumb, which faces quite a different direction compared to the other fingers when plucking strings. Adjusting the angle takes time to become a habit. A Guzheng player needs to constantly remind him/herself to do so.
The good news is there is a trick. When sticking a Guzheng nail on our fingertip, make sure the index finger Guzheng nail and the ring finger Guzheng nail are slightly placed towards the thumb. As you can see from the pictures, when the picks are placed slightly towards the thumb, we don’t have to adjust our angle as much in order to pluck a string in parallel. As for the thumb, the Guzheng nail can be tilted slightly towards left.Although one would still need to adjust the finger angle when plucking a string, the adjustment is not as much as the traditional method.
- The tip of each pick should not stick out too much or little.
- Fasten your pick by wrapping it around your finger with tape.
- Your thumbs require a different way to be fastened with picks. As mentioned above, the pick for your thumb can be slightly tilted when being adhered to a piece of tape.
- Tapes should not be too long. A long piece of tape makes your fingers look bulky. But if it is too short, your pick would come off easily.
- If your tape is too loose, your pick will fall off easily. But if your tape is too tight, it can affect blood circulation and possibly cause pain.