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Classical guitar & bass dilemma

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Bardolph, Jan 9, 2006.

  1. Bardolph


    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    I've been playing bass for over 4 years now, and it's definitely my thing, I'll never stop. But recently I've really been getting into classical guitar, which I like almost as much. I know the real serious thing to do with classical guitar is to grow out your nails to use to pick the strings, and this is for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that it sounds way better than bare fingers. The thing is, I can't grow out my nails without seriously hindering my bass playing (incidentally, I also like to bowl). I know there are finger picks that you can wear, but the ones I've tried definitely were not a simulation of long nails. Is there something specifially for classical guitarists that is made for being like nails, except removable?
  2. justateenpoet

    justateenpoet Have you...killed the Venture brothers!?!?

    May 14, 2005
    I'm in a similar situation as yourself, but I've never grown out my nails, mostly because I can mess them up doing pretty most anything, let alone playing bass.

    I did read somewhere that Paul McCartney used fake nails on his last tour of the states, you might want to try that. They're fairly inexpensive, and you can buy pretty small boxes.
  3. Fake nails don't just 'pop off' when you're not playing guitar though. For them to be effective they need to be glued on.

    I think you can probably find a middle ground that will allow you to play classical guitar properly but still play the bass. There are a lot of guitarists that play with short nails, just barely coming over the quick. I've seen tons of bass players with nails at least, if not longer, than that. In my experience, nail shape is more important than length.
  4. I play classical guitar and bass, and I just use short nails for both. It helps if you play the bass with a relatively light touch.
  5. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    I play bass and classical guitar also(besides 12 string, 6 string acoustic, and electric) - I manage to do OK at classical with fairly short nails(although I don't trim 'em as closely as those on my fretting hand), and use a pick for bass - although that direction isn't for everyone... I can't imagine not playing classical atleast sometimes - they have such a nice sound... I'm thinking of adding a mandolin to my modest instrument collection next...

    - georgestrings
  6. The pick is definitely a good option.

    I had (and still have the same dilemma). Last year I had to play classical guitar on a subscription chamber music series (as well as the double bass). Anyway, I really had no choice but to grow my nails a bit.

    The trouble was, I make my living 99% playing the bass (double bass or electric) NOT playing guitar. So, I found a way to play the electric bass exclusively with a pick for a while.

    What I found was, and this is true of a lot of things in music, if you have certain strong impressions in your mind of what sound you want to make, there's almost always a way to get it regardless of what setup you're using.

    It took some time, but after experimenting with tone controls, firmness of pick grip, picking locations, angles, etc. I was able to get almost exactly the same kind of sound I got with my fingers. It didn't come without effort, but the sound I wanted did eventually return because the sound ultimately comes from your own mind.

    Of course this thinking doesn't always work - obviously it's hard to get the sound of nails on a guitar without actually having them - or we wouldn't be having this discussion. But it is way easier to 'darken' an ineherently brighter technique (i.e. a pick) than to try and brighten a dark sounding one.

    So try picking your bass more. You may be rather surprised just what a huge range of tone colours you can achieve with a pick.

    This all reminds me of a funny story I once heard about a well known symphony orchestra viola player. This guy had played for years on a pretty crappy instrument when finally he decided to invest in a very fine old Italian instrument. Aparently within about a month of getting the really expensive viola, he had it sounding just like his crappy old one! The sound really does come from inside. ;)
  7. You may be overestimating the nail length required for playing the guitar. All you need is enough to catch the string, and good enough aim to do so. Think about it: when you pluck a string, you always
    put your finger on it, with the string resting between your nail and fingertip, and then you actually pluck, rather than just swinging your finger by and catching it with your nail. Finger preparation, right? It doesn't take much nail to actually pluck. I don't play much classical guitar anymore, but my nails are still long enough to play with, and they don't affect my bass playing at all.

    EDIT: I think the required nail length is affected by how close to the tip of your finger the point where your nails stop being attached to your finger is. I also think that wearing your nails short will make that point draw back a little and give you more usable nail. I've got around 1/32" to 1mm of usable nail (the white part) on each finger, which is plenty, and none of my nails go past my fingertip.