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Fingernails or not...and what to do either way

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Hamlet7768, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Okay, recently I realized I rather liked the tone I got with fingernails while playing fingerstyle, as I could actually lighten my touch (I seem to have a problem with this) and still get the clack I want. However, it's taking its toll on the nails: They tend to chip, which is annoying, to say the least, and I'm afraid of doing worse to them.

    On the other hand, I was never a fan of the tone I got with just my fingertips' flesh, but then again, I might be doing it wrong. I feel like the only two bassists I know of who use fingernails are Steve Harris and Geddy Lee, and Geddy mostly uses the stupid-fast flamenco style, which, while cool, isn't something I want to cop ("find your own style" and all that).

    I'm rambling again, I think. Bassic question: can I get good click without nails? What should I do generally to get that click? Or, should I just tough it out and look into ways to maintain my nails?

    On a side note, I only have my index and middle nails at this length. The others are pared back more...normally.
  2. PBnJBassist


    Mar 8, 2011
    Dallas, TX
    Up the midrange and treble/brightness on your amp + turn on every horn/tweeter you have. That should get you close to clanking with regular flesh-fingers. That, or pick with your fingernails when you need the clank. I alternate between finger-style and nail-picking all the time (using actual picks are not my style) since fingernail-picking is sometimes inconsistent and - as you stated - nails become brittle and chip/break.

    The only plus side to longer fingernails for finger-style is when no one is looking, you can scoop out boogers easier and pick up coins with ease. A trait most women look for in a man.

    (Okay, that last part was bogus, but the first part was a serious reply.)
  3. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    If using your nails gets the sound you like, use 'em!
    You may want to try using some type of nail strengthener on on them, like Hard as Nails or any of those type products that our female friends have been using for decades..
    Recommend clear. Unless you're into the early '70's Freddie Mercury look... just sayin'
  4. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Hehehe, yeah, clear's probably the way to go. I heard olive oil works well...of course, I can't try anything yet, as I'm stuck in a hotel with no bass, and no olive oil.
  5. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    (Un)fortunately, I have concluded that the "fingernails experiment" is not worth it. I'm going without nails now, and still getting good tone!
  6. If you're looking for clack, you may want to look at the action of your bass. I run mine pretty low to get clack (and my touch keeps getting lighter, so I can go lower and lower) without hurting sustain too much. I keep my fingernails pretty well trimmed, as I don't like the sound of them hitting the strings, too twangy for me.

  7. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Yeah, I've kept my action pretty low towards that end. The instructor I'm going to be seeing this fall has mentioned he's going to show me how to get clank and not get clank with something other than just hitting the strings hard enough. :p
  8. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Not sure about the fingernail thing with Steve Harris... I could be wrong though.

    As he basically taught me how to play bass (via tape deck) I've got his mojo down pretty good. Basically (what I do when playing Maiden tunes) is really attack the strings with the right hand. Hit 'em hard so they slap against the neck. Finesse is key, of course. Too much of a good thing is too much (read: modern Maiden).

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