Finger Nails, and playing stringed instruments

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by mans0n, Jul 23, 2003.

  1. mans0n


    Jun 15, 2002
    I play classical guitar a lot, with my fingernails. My sister is an excellent classical guitarist, over 2 years of training from an experienced player. Most of my musician friends who have had over 5 years of "normal" "guitar lessons" (i.e. power chords and rock music, some jazz) envy her playing. I have learned much from her!

    The most important thing I learned from her was how to go about cutting/shaping my nails. Her instructor mentioned professional players taking years to perfect the technique of getting their nails 'just right' on both hands for playing.

    As of right now, my fretting hand has nails very short, enough to "click" on a desk barely, but not measureable. My picking hands nails are about 2mm to 3mm long, now... my friends seem to think this look is insane, one hand long fingernails one short. I cant convince them this helps me play the songs they seemed so amazed to see someone play, i.e. Beethoven - Fur Elise (these people listen to punk and metal and are enthralled by this song played on a guitar!)

    The short nails do not hinder my fretting (longer ones do while chording hard chords) and the Long nails help me play very controlled, and are filed so they are strong enough to play a bass.

    Does anyone else cut their finger nails in a fasion which was intentionally done to play music? Have you heard any of this as being a technique to help playing? Do you have any tips?
  2. Careful attention paid to fingernail care is simply common sense among classical and those fingerstyle guitarists who go for that approach. They shape the part of you which is setting the strings in motion, affecting the clarity, sonority and loudness of your music - why wouldn't you be ultra careful?

    I took considerable care with my right hand during the brief time I was focusing on the acoustic guitar. You should be aware that splitting and chipping nails are common and can be very detrimental to your playing, and there are fixes out there for that. I've heard of stregthening nail laquer or people using glued on artificials - neutrally coloured, usually - but you'll probably want to talk to a species of actual guitarist to confirm that.

    To sum up, screw your friends - music doesn't care what your nails look like. :)
  3. Erlendur Már

    Erlendur Már

    May 24, 2000
    When I played classical guitar, I thought a lot about the fingernails. I just always bite my nails...
  4. NV43345


    Apr 1, 2003
    I am right handed, so I keep the nail on my middle finger a little longer than the others,and I am real careful about "shaping" it. I use it for false harmonics, I will "pick" with the nail and "fret" with the outside edge of my thumb.
    I keep the Thumb nail on my right hand filed down smooth, so it does not dig into the edge of the pickups if I rest it there while playing, somtimes it rest's on the lowest string and
    with the nail nice & short & smooth there is no acidental string noise when I move it. The same goes for the thumb nail on my left hand, keeping it short & smooth keeps it from digging into
    the skin,while pressing on the back of the neck.
    the only other time I use the nails is on my Acoustic Bass (ABG) I have a Flemenco strumming style I use the top of the nails on my right hand
    when strumming.:)
  5. mans0n


    Jun 15, 2002
    Luckily, im left handed and play a right handed bass (for me i feel this is the TRUE way people should play). Anyways, the long fingers on my non-dominant hand dont effect anything else i do, as i assume they would if i had longer nails on my left hand!

    Im lucky enough not to have broken a nail yet! tho i do end up scratching people on accident a lot hah *dam your nails are long*
  6. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    I keep my right pinky nail 1/2" long.


  7. Prahainspring


    Oct 22, 2002
    New Jersey
    I dont have any fingernails.:D
  8. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    I have always wanted ot learn classical guitar, but then I woudl need to grow my nails out. For palying bass, I keep my nails clipped as short as possible without them hurting. they don't tap on anything. if my nails get long, my toen is terrible and shounds like I'm picking. looks like I'll just have to stick with bass... :D
  9. Hmm... is there anyway :rolleyes: to play bass with fingernails?

    I am trying to play both acoustic finger style and bass together. I know the existence of such things as clip-on-nails, but they do not feel natural.

    Seems that if I have got nails, I can only play using a pick?
  10. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    I play fingerstyle and like a clean, pure tone from the fingertip. Therefore, I clip my nails very short....almost to the point whre I have no nail beyone the rounded fleshy tip of my finger. That way, there's no chance of the nail grazing the string for that "zingy", pick tone. However, in the past when I was not gigging on a regular basis and the length of my nails was not as important, when they get a bit longer I could use them as a "plectrum" device to get a great Geddy Lee sound. :)
  11. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    SF Bay Area
    I've played both bass and nylon string guitar for years. It can be done. I think there are compromises, but for me they're worth it. I keep nails on my right hand and use them on bass, so you don't have to play with a pick unless you want to. To be perfectly honest, in a perfect world, I'd like to be able to retract my nails when playing bass and push them out again when playing guitar, but obviously that ain't happening. I don't agonize over it, just make the best of what I've got.
  12. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I keep all my nails trimmed to as short as possible at all times. My wife thinks I am even obsessive/compulsive about it.

    I trim them about every other day and use a file to round over the tops.

    I play fingerstyle guitar also. I just use the fingertips instead of the nails. It's a different tone, but nails drive me nuts on a bass.
  14. nails on bass sounds terrible. i cut mine to the point that they would hurt if they were any shorter. the worst is when they're kind of long but not so long that they hit every time and every other note has the fingernail tone.
  15. I have always kept my nail very short - I can actually bite them pretty square.....although I really should stop biting my nails!