are fingernails a part of your sound?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by nonsqtr, Apr 20, 2004.

  1. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    So bass players who do fingerstyle, sometimes as you let your fingernails grow they'll reach that magical height where they become perfect picks. Then you can use them to get these wonderful piano-wire sounds from your bass, and you can get some great feel and responsiveness, allowing you to do stuff that's fast and clean with relative ease. Does anyone use this method in their playing style? In other words, there are techniques that can only be done (effectively) when the fingernails are at the perfect height. Has anyone noticed this? What's your take on it?
  2. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    You can get some great tones using your nails.

    Randy Jackson and Nathan East use their nails instead of picks.Sounds great. :)
  3. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Generally no, but from careful grooming my index finger is perfectly formed to add a quick sharp attack if needs be.

    Some times I do use my fingernails for harmonics, because sometimes I like to have a lot of bite when playing a harmonic. But I'd say the majority of the time I more or less exclude my fingernails.

    Well, there are some flamenco strumming patterns I learned that make use of the fingernails, so that's still an exception, but I rarely ever use them in a playing situation.
  4. ONYX


    Apr 14, 2000
    Usually keep my nails very short. The only time I might use a nail is on the "backstroke" of a finger style run.
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    My fingernails are so short I have trouble picking up coins or CDs from the floor. :D
  6. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    I'd say a lack of fingernails on my index and middle fingers is a key component to my sound. I've played around with the "fingernail as pick" trick before (great for Geddy Lee stuff), but really prefer the tone of a pure, meaty, fingertip myself. Maybe one of these days I'll wake up, see the light, and let 'em grow again! :D
  7. Joe Turski

    Joe Turski

    Jul 29, 2003
    If I only had nails. :bawl:
  8. Me Too!

    I always clip my nails extremely short.

  9. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001

    My kids come to me all the time to open packages of this and that - I usually can't get them due to lack of nails :meh: My nails don't get out anywhere near the tips of my fingers.

    I hate the sound of fingernails on bass strings. I cut mine short


    or to strum chords...
  10. I always carry a small swiss army knife and often have to use it to open wrappings on cassettes, minidiscs etc. due to my nails being kept short.

    I also keep my thumbnails short- otherwise the paint above the pickups would wear through even faster.
  11. Tom Crofts

    Tom Crofts

    Mar 15, 2001
    I bite mine real short...
  12. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001

    Eeeeeew! Don't bite your nails - doesn't that make you get worms or something, or is that just an old wives tail? :meh: I just cut mine short enough that it hurts just slightly while I'm trimming. About a week later, when I start to see white at the tips, it's time to cut 'em again.
  13. Tom Crofts

    Tom Crofts

    Mar 15, 2001
    Maybe if you play with dirt or something... I dunno, sounds like an old wives tale... :D

    I don't think I have worms, and I sometimes kind of mean to stop biting them, then forget and I'll just be sitting on here reading through talkbass then suddenly realise I'm biting my nails. Ah well, it tastes kinda good and it's something to do. And it saves me having to cut them ;)
  14. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I hate when my nails hit the strings. I then chew em off (no you dont get worms)
  15. Eyescream


    Feb 4, 2004
    Knoxville, TN
    They're a part of my sound when I go too long without clipping my nails.

    I hate how it sounds.
  16. Having longer nails can sometimes be cool, it depends on what style you play. Geddy Lee plays with longer nails.
  17. I keep a nail file in my case. I use it to maintain a very particular shape on my index and middle fingernails similar to a "almost flat C" in dimension. I also file at an angle (about 45 degrees) to keep the nail from "catching" at any point. There are little bits of nail left at the corners that cause my calluses to span the entire fingertip. This enables me to play "traditionally" by moving across the strings with the bulk of the pad or "attacking" in an almost straight down approach. I started doing this to keep from separating my nail from my fingertip (due to my heavy hand) and over time I stumbled upon and settled on a shape that actually benefited my playing style. So yes, my fingernails are a part of my sound. They just don't touch the strings!
  18. Bad Brains

    Bad Brains Banned

    Jan 7, 2004
    Detroit, michigan
    i keep mine short, when they get long i tend to like to rub them across the string to get that bizarre zipper song. This wears my nails down and makes them look ugly.
  19. Erlendur Már

    Erlendur Már

    May 24, 2000
    My fingernails are short, I personally don't like long nails.
  20. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    And many else, too... Even my fingertips are a bit worn off...

    As for tone with nail, you either have to have very strong nails, or the tone will suck - and your finger hurt. Tone without nails is much better imo