Nails vs. No-Nails: My Solution

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
markworthi
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Nails vs. No-Nails: My Solution

Post by markworthi » Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:51 pm

Hello Everyone:

I saw the post below that includes a video of a very talented guitarist playing without nails, and not wanting to divert that thread, I have started a new topic.

Well, the performance shows that it's possible to play well without nails -- a necessity for the featured guitarist, since he was also (primarily?) a pianist. My own experience with nail-less playing consisted of my first year or so of lessons, in which I was mostly unaware of any deficiency in the approach. However, my guitar teacher convinced me to grow my nails just beyond the fingertips. Over time, I realized that this nail length was adequate for p, i and m, but for a, I needed a conspicuously long and strangely shaped nail.

Eventually, I found the right length and shape, and overall I must admit that my playing sounds better with nails. The one shortcoming is the perennial "metallic" sound made by the a finger. Rob MacKillop mentions this in his essay in support of nail-less playing. But, in spite of this, I still come down on the "with" side. This, obviously, is just my opinion, but my playing sounds better with nails than without: I am able to achieve a greater variety of tones and greater volume; it's easier for me to control the contrast in voices; and it's much easier to play quickly, especially certain types of ornamentation, like cross-string trills.

Still, I hate having that long a nail; and the thumbnail also sticks out like, uh, a sore thumb. So, as an experiment, I have taken up fake nails, secured by glue dots for the a and p fingers. Many of you have suggested this in these forums... but I was also skeptical of this approach, believing that there is no way glue dots could provide a strong enough bond. My finding, however, is that the ultra-thin glue dots hold very well, for the most part, for the duration of my practice sessions. I apply a total of four glue dots -- two to each nail (p and a)-- being careful to cover as much surface as possible, especially at the bottom of the nail, and also being careful to minimize the amount of overlap of the glue dots. The idea is to ensure that the layer of glue is as thin as possible; it's a mistake, I've found, to think that a thicker layer of glue will provide a better bond. The opposite is true: if the glue becomes thick because of the overlap of the dots, there's actually a greater tendency for the fake nail to pull away from the surface of your real nail. I assume this is because the glue has an elasticity, as distinct from the glue that is normally used to affix fake nails. So I keep a thin surface of adhesive, sometimes even cutting the glue dots in half vertically to avoid overlap. (This sounds like a lot of work, but I promise, once the nails are shaped properly, they can be used repeatedly; and it takes no more than 5 minutes to apply them).

The advantages of this solution are: 1) I don't need to walk around with long and weirdly shaped nails on a and p, which in my case I should have entered in the "cringiest things" about classical guitar thread; 2) the fake nails can be used over and over again, as I mentioned, by just peeling off the glue dots; 3) they can be used as templates: when they finally wear out, you can use them to shape their replacements; and 4) the a nail sounds much better than its natural counterpart: it has a much warmer, non-metallic tone that is more consistent with the natural nails on i, m and p. I guess this is either because of the plastic is thicker than my natural nail; or it's simply because the plastic is softer or more pliable. In any case, I promise, as long as it holds, it sounds much better than my real nail.

The main disadvantages is that the bond is not always perfect: when the whether is hot, the glue is softer and the nails seem not to adhere for as long. The slight pulling away from the surface results in that metallic sound returning. And when it begins to pull away, I find that, without being fully conscious of this, I begin to compensate by either favoring other fingers or by adjusting hand position. This cannot be good! So I have to remember to keep a mental check on how well the glue is holding.

Nevertheless, this has been working for me, and I thought I should pass this suggestion along. Maybe you, too, have students who don't want to or cannot grow nails; and this is not a bad solution. I figure the total cost for a year of daily glue dots (one practice session per day) and the fake nails is no more than $30.

By the way, if anyone knows of a very strong, non-toxic, water-based adhesive, please let me know. I would like to improve over the bond of the glue dots, somehow. Maybe there's another way?

All the best,

Mark
Last edited by markworthi on Mon Aug 08, 2016 9:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: A Possible Solution

Post by RobMacKillop » Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:50 pm

Mark, I think your subject title is slightly misleading. It's not a case of "versus", and no "solution" is necessary. Many of us play with the flesh alone, as that is what we like. It's not a problem in need of a solution.

In your case you have decided that you sound better with nails, and you've found a solution (one many already use) in using false nails. I'm pleased for you, but I still don't see it as a "solution" to the nails/no-nails debate.

I love the sound of a guitar played with nails - but not everyone makes a nice sound, and not everyone wants to play with nails. It's not a competition. The reason I promote no-nails playing is that many people give up playing guitar after being told they can't do it without nails. I think that is a real shame. I also love the sound of flesh-only playing - the only reason I do it. I don't feel I'm lacking something, or in need of a fix to a problem.

So, I'm pleased you have made your helpful post, but we must be careful how we present the topic. To me there is no "versus" involved. It's all good, and there are many ways to play the classical guitar.

celestemcc
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: A Possible Solution

Post by celestemcc » Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:53 pm

Mark,
I use the glue-dots that come with drugstore press-on nails -- you can buy the dots separately and use with the fake nail of your choice. They're much stronger adhesive than the craft sort (the kind that come with Rico Nails), and will stay on for several days, while being less damaging than cyanoacrylic nail glue. They ultimately will weaken, and you can use rubbing alcohol to soften them and remove any residue.

Look for Nailene Ultra-Adhesive Nail Tabs, or words to that effect, on Amazon.

(I kinda hate to admit using that kind of nail, but for my smaller hands, as a stopgap till my regular thumbnail grows back, they work.)
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

a human
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: A Possible Solution

Post by a human » Mon Aug 08, 2016 9:20 pm

I saw glue dot packages in our local dollar store, if you need a supply.
1965 Krempel Classical (660ish mm)
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2011 Cordoba Cadete Classical (615 mm)
2014 Martin DX1AE (std)

markworthi
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: A Possible Solution

Post by markworthi » Mon Aug 08, 2016 9:39 pm

RobMacKillop wrote:Mark, I think your subject title is slightly misleading. It's not a case of "versus", and no "solution" is necessary. Many of us play with the flesh alone, as that is what we like. It's not a problem in need of a solution.

In your case you have decided that you sound better with nails, and you've found a solution (one many already use) in using false nails. I'm pleased for you, but I still don't see it as a "solution" to the nails/no-nails debate.

I love the sound of a guitar played with nails - but not everyone makes a nice sound, and not everyone wants to play with nails. It's not a competition. The reason I promote no-nails playing is that many people give up playing guitar after being told they can't do it without nails. I think that is a real shame. I also love the sound of flesh-only playing - the only reason I do it. I don't feel I'm lacking something, or in need of a fix to a problem.

So, I'm pleased you have made your helpful post, but we must be careful how we present the topic. To me there is no "versus" involved. It's all good, and there are many ways to play the classical guitar.

Hi Rob,

I understand what you're saying and have duly changed the title to "My Solution". Indeed, this is a way out of my own dilemma and it may be a solution for others who prefer their own sound with nails but hate actually having to grow and maintain them. If I could play as well as you do, of course, there would be no problem in need of a solution. :)

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: My Solution

Post by RobMacKillop » Mon Aug 08, 2016 10:42 pm

Cheers, Mark.

Johnny Geudel
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: My Solution

Post by Johnny Geudel » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:51 pm

Alaska pics, for finger and thumb, require only a minimal amount of nail.
Thus, one can switch from nail to no-nail and vice versa, at will.
They also work for the acoustic and the electric.

markworthi
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: A Possible Solution

Post by markworthi » Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:41 pm

celestemcc wrote:Mark,
I use the glue-dots that come with drugstore press-on nails -- you can buy the dots separately and use with the fake nail of your choice. They're much stronger adhesive than the craft sort (the kind that come with Rico Nails), and will stay on for several days, while being less damaging than cyanoacrylic nail glue. They ultimately will weaken, and you can use rubbing alcohol to soften them and remove any residue.

Look for Nailene Ultra-Adhesive Nail Tabs, or words to that effect, on Amazon.

(I kinda hate to admit using that kind of nail, but for my smaller hands, as a stopgap till my regular thumbnail grows back, they work.)
That's good advice, Celeste. I should have mentioned that I get my supply from a company on-line that sells them in different strengths and thicknesses. My preference is for the ultra-thin dots, which oddly provide a stronger bond than the permanent variety the company sells.

All the best,

Mark

markworthi
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: My Solution

Post by markworthi » Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:51 pm

Johnny Geudel wrote:Alaska pics, for finger and thumb, require only a minimal amount of nail.
Thus, one can switch from nail to no-nail and vice versa, at will.
They also work for the acoustic and the electric.
Another interesting idea! I am a little skeptical of this product, since it is partly secured by wrapping around the finger. I am worried this might lessen finger dexterity; also, I found similar picks to be a bit uncomfortable, although those ones did not fit under the existing nail.

Still, I should probably give them a try before dismissing them outright. Thanks for the advice.

Mark

celestemcc
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: My Solution

Post by celestemcc » Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:56 pm

Mark: are the dots you use waterproof, eg, will they last a few days at least? If so, please PM me with the name of the company you order from! Much thanks, too.
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

Johnny Geudel
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: My Solution

Post by Johnny Geudel » Tue Aug 09, 2016 4:01 pm

markworthi wrote: Another interesting idea! I am a little skeptical of this product, since it is partly secured by wrapping around the finger. I am worried this might lessen finger dexterity; also, I found similar picks to be a bit uncomfortable, although those ones did not fit under the existing nail
Mark
I've tried a few alternatives: Fred Kelly, Propik, Dunlop,etc..
It is a mystery to me how the manufacturers have convinced themselves that these are fit for CG.
The aLaska piks require a search process, like natural nails.
They're in brass or plastic ( forget the brass ones).
First you have to find the right size for each finger, as they come in different sizes: small, medium, large, extra large (I use XL for the thumb).
Next, you need to cut and file them. As opposed to natural nails, you can experiment as much as you want without having to wait for the nail to grow again. If an experiment fails, you just take a new one and try again.
Best by test, in my book.

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fast eddie
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Re: Nails vs. No-Nails: My Solution

Post by fast eddie » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:34 am

I bought 4 Alaska picks about a month ago and a few days ago ordered 3 Fred Kelly picks. My thumb nail is too short and the Alaska Pick barely stays on. They do ok on my 3 fingers and I have become accustomed to them. Still hitting wrong strings inadvertently, but that is becoming less frequent. Wanted to try Fred Kelly to see how well they stayed on. I had no idea of what size, so I ordered Large. I believe they are slightly too small. Does anyone know how to adjust the size? I put them in hot water I heated with the microwave and retrieved them with a spoon. I tried to make them a little larger, but that did not seem to work. Maybe the water was not hot enough or I didn't leave them in the hot water long enough. Any ideas are appreciated.
Fast Eddie
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