Guitar fingernail reinforcements - why?
Many guitarists can't maintain fingernails well enough for good fingerpicking technique and sound. Acoustic steel stringed instruments are particularly hard on nails.
Some people don't have strong or thick fingernails to begin with, due to genetics, diet, health or any other reason. Even if you have strong fingernails, they are easily nicked, torn or damaged in daily activities, particularly if you work with your hands.
Damaged or worn-down fingernails interfere with the fingerpicking experience. Overcompensation can make it hard to play some passages properly. The show must go on. Even pros reinforce fingernails...
Many professional guitarists take special measures to reinforce their fingernails. For example, when James Taylor appeared on the Oprah show in 2009, it was obvious he was wearing some sort of discreet fingernail reinforcement.
Edgar Cruz who play classical guitar can be seen with fingernail reinforcements in his videos online in YouTube. It is also widely rumored that Stevie Ray Vaughn glued on callouses when they fell off.
Commercial fingerpicks can be a hassle
When fingernails interfere with guitar playing, determined guitarists are forced to look for alternatives, such as fingerpicks; however it is easy to become frustrated with the various kinds of fingerpicks available.
For many, fingerpicks feel uncomfortable. They can be difficult to adjust, or don't fit right or cut off circulation. They can fall off or not give the preferred attack on the strings or sound.
For example, many guitarists find "Alaska fingerpicks" to be a newer design easier to play with or endure, but even Alaska picks, clever as they are, require that at least about 1/16" of fingernail extends out as a bracing to wedge the Alaska pick under. If the fingernails aren't long enough to play with to begin with Alaska picks can dislodge while playing, which is somewhat of a Catch-22.
There are several alternatives
On the Internet you'll discover various techniques people use or have tried. Some websites sell products that work, but the materials aren't cheap, especially for the 'good stuff' to 'do it right'.
Some of techniques require more time and craftsmanship than some people may want to invest.
You'll also find debate as to how good various techniques are. False nails can lead to fungal infections; silk reinforcements wear out quickly; artificial nails might look funny; manicurists often use chemicals emitting toxic fumes or don't really understand the needs of the guitarist, etc...
Some guitarists shun reinforcements, fearing of how they'll look, wanting to avoid the appearance of a personal or social statement. Others never really gave it much thought or didn't know where to begin.
Fortunately this website documents some techniques for creating great guitar fingernails that can be made to look a bit less conspicuous, or are easier to create or locate materials for locally, Check back from time to time as more techniques are listed and more products described.