Given up on fingernails...

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
benb
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by benb » Tue Apr 12, 2016 12:24 pm

I played my first year with flesh since I've never had nails. I'm now growing them out but keeping them about 1mm longer than my tips and at a slight ramp due to M being hooked. I'm getting a lot of buzzing which I believe is bad technique. The buzzing happens when the front of my nail comes too close to a vibrating string and is very loud. I've definitely had to slow things down and work on my hand position/height a lot lately. I think playing without nails might have caused me to not develop good and consistent RH technique.
I'm not giving up since it took a while to grow them but I'm struggling. Occasionally, when I get things just right, I do get a really nice tone that makes it worth it.
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Rich Jarvis

Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by Rich Jarvis » Tue Apr 12, 2016 1:15 pm

I began to learn classical guitar late in life after years of biting my nails, which was not a problem as I played piano at the time. The guitar was for me the best solution to breaking the biting habit, and now luckily I have strong nails, but somewhat fat fingers!

I have recently heard (anecdotal though) that until the advent of nylon strings, when cat gut was the only material available, that no nails was the norm because of the damage that nails did to the cat gut. So Fernando Sor and his contemporaries had NO NAILS. It was not until Tarrega started to experiment with nails well into the 20th century that well formed nails became common and now the norm. So all of Sor's music was composed for a no nail performer. It's interesting that today beginners are often discouraged from playing classical guitar unless they have good nails.

Rich

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by RobMacKillop » Tue Apr 12, 2016 1:28 pm

Not quite, Rich. It is true that Sor disliked nails, as did many others of that period, but his friend and compatriot, Aguado, certainly did use nails. Many others did too. Further back in time, the great baroque guitarist, Corbetta, had to cancel a recital at short notice, having broken a nail. The gifted lute player, Picinnini, used a thumb nail. And there is a comment from someone who saw the sublime lutenist, Francesco da Milano, perform, reporting that he used silver nails or quills on his fingers - fingerpicks!

The truth is that both techniques have coexisted for centuries, and will most certainly do so for as long as people play guitar-like instruments. I celebrate that. I'm not saying to anyone that flesh is better, though I very often am subjected to the opposite from those who claim the nail technique is the "correct" way to play.

There are two types of flesh players: those who choose to do so, and those who have it thrust upon them, due to not being able to grow or use false nails. In neither case are they doing it wrong.

Let's allow more variety in our little world...

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by Tonyyyyy » Tue Apr 12, 2016 11:03 pm

RobMacKillop wrote:
Let's allow more variety in our little world...
Amen to that Rob

I'm back to minimal nails and gut strings, and enjoying the sound ....Probably back to nails and nylon latr in the year. Both are great

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by Tonyyyyy » Tue Apr 12, 2016 11:13 pm

benb wrote:I played my first year with flesh since I've never had nails. I'm now growing them out but keeping them about 1mm longer than my tips and at a slight ramp due to M being hooked. I'm getting a lot of buzzing which I believe is bad technique. The buzzing happens when the front of my nail comes too close to a vibrating string and is very loud. I've definitely had to slow things down and work on my hand position/height a lot lately. I think playing without nails might have caused me to not develop good and consistent RH technique.
I'm not giving up since it took a while to grow them but I'm struggling. Occasionally, when I get things just right, I do get a really nice tone that makes it worth it.
If you can post some kind of close-up video maybe someone here might help. Do you have a teacher who will help you shape your nails?

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by RobMacKillop » Tue Apr 12, 2016 11:14 pm

Good luck, Tony. Whatever the technique, let the music flourish!

Rich Jarvis

Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by Rich Jarvis » Wed Apr 13, 2016 12:00 pm

Rob .... Thanks for the clarification. I guess I'd better dig into the history more ..... I thought my 'anecdotal source' was somewhat of an authority ...... Hmmmmm.

too
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by too » Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:59 pm

Well over a year after the last entry in this thread, I feel like having to say a word, too. This is basically due to the fact that this thread seems to be the own one about nailless playing as it seems to date.

I play guitars well over 40 years now and I always felt need for well prepared right hand nails when playing guitars but also need for no nails at all when doing what I did a lot in my younger years - alpinism in general and severe rock climbing in particular. I needed very short nails, then, to hold on tiny rock ledgers. I always wanted to climb well and be strong enough to hold even those tiny rock holds as well as I wanted to play classical guitar or more contemporary fingerstyle music.

In the last 10 or so years my alpinistic and rock climbing activities calmed down ... but I started playing the harp three years ago instead. To play the harp, short - read: no! - finger nails are best. Again I experienced the discrepancy of the need for long(er) nails on guitar and very short nails for the harp.

Late summer 2017 I discovered Rob MacKillops YouTube videos and found his tone to be exceptionally sweet, moodful an warm - exactly what I like in my now older years. So I thought, I'd give it a try for some weeks, knowing my nails would grow fast and strong again whenever I let them.

After about three month of trying to get a good and pleasurable tone from my right hand I am quite satisfied and pleased now, that it really works. I could need some advice now, having gained my limited knowledge on what I could see and hear in Rob's videos and also from his detailed website so far. Nevertheless, my playing feels good to me and it also sounds good to me today, I started to getting used to the different right hand work as well to the tonal quality.

It is an interesting experience and I am very grateful that there is no other judge than my ears and my feelings doing it this way. I feel very relaxed about all this and - best of all - I regained great love and motivation to playing classical guitar again.

Thanks to Rob for his great and continued demonstration and support and also a "heads up" to everyone thinking about trying nailless playing, hopefully.

I would like to find a thread or a sub forum here where fellow nailless players can share their impressions and experiences on a long term to encourage and support eacht other.

Have a happy New Year 2018 everybody!

too
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RobMacKillop
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by RobMacKillop » Sat Dec 30, 2017 12:13 am

Cheers, too. Glad it's working for you. You'll sound even better a year from now, as it takes a while for very, very subtle muscular changes to take effect, but you are well on the path. A lot of people break a nail, and that finger sounds awful in comparison to their nail fingers, so they assume flesh playing would be awful, and some people go without nails for just a week or two. It takes time for the fingers to get used to their new role, so I'm pleased you managed three months, and are seeing results. It will just get better from now on. Keep it up!

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ameriken
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by ameriken » Sat Dec 30, 2017 1:45 am

Quick question since I too have awful nails, can tremolo be played successfully without nails?
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tateharmann
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by tateharmann » Sat Dec 30, 2017 4:38 am

Yes, it can be done: Emilio Pujol, Renata Tarrago, Manuel Cubedo and others all played tremolo without nails ;)
"Speed is the enemy of emotion." - Emilio Pujol Vilarrubi

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by RobMacKillop » Sat Dec 30, 2017 10:42 am

Yes, certainly. The fact that I'm not good at it should not be an argument against flesh playing, as I couldn't play tremolo when I had nails - it's just not something I like, listen to, or practise. But many can. There was a TV guitar competition on Sky, I think, a couple of years ago, and the winner played Recuerdos in the final without nails.

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tateharmann
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by tateharmann » Sat Dec 30, 2017 3:45 pm

RobMacKillop wrote:
Sat Dec 30, 2017 10:42 am
.. I couldn't play tremolo when I had nails ..
I couldn't either haha. It's in my set of goals to work up some tremolo pieces without nails on the gut strings, though. I like a very slow and rubato-filled tremolo, like Pablo Sainz Villegas' - I think it would be quite doable with the no nails approach. There's also the Dowland "tremolo" fantasy that lutenists play without nails. Not exactly the same as modern tremolo but impressive nonetheless.
"Speed is the enemy of emotion." - Emilio Pujol Vilarrubi

MAK
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by MAK » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:07 am

I cut and filed my nails short/off in May last year and have not looked back. its the best thing I have done since I started playing guitar. My nails all have different shapes and it was quite difficult to shape them all differently and correctly.

I'm still working on my tone, especially "i". When I play, I need to avoid a callous on the side of "i". I've tried filing the callous. Any suggestions are welcome. All my fingertips now have callouses and I try to keep them soft.

Michele

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by RobMacKillop » Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:56 pm

I keep mine soft too, by using pure beeswax, just a little before and after playing. Well done for making the change!

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