Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
DaveLeeNC
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Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby DaveLeeNC » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:00 am

I have been fighting nail problems for months now (basically since I returned to playing my classical guitar). I have simply given up (even though all avenues have not been tried) and p, i, m, a are going to be permanently reinforced and/or lengthened with ping pong ball pieces. The ppball piece came out of my i finger today (my 'best nail' from a durability perspective), and I noticed that the nail was pretty much enough to be OK without being lengthened. I decided not to even take the chance of a major tear that would preclude easy use of ping pong balls under the nail, so I just put in a new ping pong ball piece.

How many others use PP balls on a permanent kind of basis?

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

davekear
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Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby davekear » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:54 am

There are a couple of problems you'll run into when applying artificial nails under your natural nails as opposed to on top. First is, exactly what your concern is, which is having enough nail to adhere to underneath. This problem goes away when you apply the nail on top of your natural nail. The second problem is when applying under the nail, your nail (nails) will then be very thick, and this will affect your tone and feel adversely. Which of course will result in inhibiting your dexterity and overall musicianship. Another problem underneath is the gap between the pad of your finger and the nail will be reduced, making it harder to get a clear, bright "ponticello" tone. If you apply the nail on top of your natural nail, you will be able to minimize the bulk and thickness of the nail. This will result in more diversity and clarity of tone. Rule of thumb when you are applying an artificial nail to the top of your natural nail plate, is to apply it so that there is no gap at the tip of your natural nail where the two nails meet. In a nutshell; apply on top your natural nail; use a rotary nail file to remove artificial nails instead on chemicals; build up the natural nail if too thin; only apply artificial nails to no more than 3/4 of your nail plate; make sure to keep the nail sealed at all times. Give it a shot, see what you think.

robert e
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Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby robert e » Mon Feb 13, 2017 3:47 pm

Jason Vieaux "permanently" uses a pp ball extension on his thumbnail. He glues it to the underside of his nail, which is already pretty long. If you google "jason vieaux ping pong ball" you'll turn up a number of articles and a video. In the video he explains that the extension compensates for a disproportionately short thumb, and shows you the piece he'll glue on.

In an NPR article he relates a mid-concert detachment, and he offers this lesson learned: "to fully secure the plastic piece to the remaining portion of my thumbnail, it would be prudent to file off some ping-pong ball dust into the seam."

Are you using plastic or cellulose balls? I think they sound different, but it's possible that one might stay glued on better than the other.

Kenbobpdx
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Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby Kenbobpdx » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:10 pm

When I was studying CG intensely many years ago I would have to use PP balls to maintain consistent tone as I have soft, hooked nails. I pretty much wore them everyday for about three years. In those days the standard was to glue them under one's nails with super glue. Other than odd looks from people that saw my nails it worked pretty well. Not so sure about the long term effects of the super glue though.

Since that time I just suffer through with variable nail shapes and hooks. Of course, now I don't have to sweat recitals, masterclasses, and a demanding teacher.
"If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe."
Abraham Lincoln

DaveLeeNC
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Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby DaveLeeNC » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:53 pm

Regarding PPB judgment I am a poor choice (OTOH, I am the OP here) as I returned to guitar last spring (2016) after many decades away from the instrument. And I started out on my jazz box guitar (Gibson ES-175D) and no pick/no nails. Late summer I started to mix in my classical guitar and the nail battle began. I would judge that the last time that I had four 'useful nails' was back in the mid 80's (when I quit playing).

I ended up with Alaska Pik's which were OK, but not great. A month or two back I moved to ping pong balls (under the nail) and that is where I am now. I have never noticed a meaningful difference between PPB nails and real nails. But I am a relatively low skill player, so that could be a factor. There was a difference WRT the Alaska Pik's, BTW. In particular they were louder and 'just felt a bit clunky' - but FAR better than no nails for sure. But they didn't file well at all and felt like a temporary solution to me in the end.

Regarding the PPB type, from what I recall reading there are two different materials used these days. One of them will wear pretty quickly and one is much better in that regard. I have no idea which kind I have but they do have a seam (I think that is a identifiable/differentiating characteristic) and that kind seems to wear just fine. OTOH, for me the life of a PPB nail is about a week at best (they come off eventually).

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

celestemcc
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Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby celestemcc » Mon Feb 13, 2017 6:26 pm

Oh wow... used PPB nails many moons ago, never worked very well for me! I have a lot more luck now with either GPN pre-formed or drugstore fakes glued the GPN way that Dave recommends. Took me a while to learn to do it right but it absolutely does work, and very well, too. Recently removed an i fake, which I glued on Dave's way. Stayed on a solid three weeks, enough for the natural nail to grow back to a playable length and no damage to it that I can see. Of course if the PPB nails work for you, fantastic, but it may be worth giving Dave's method a try.
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

davekear
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Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby davekear » Mon Feb 13, 2017 7:56 pm

celestemcc wrote:Of course if the PPB nails work for you, fantastic, but it may be worth giving Dave's method a try.

Yea, that's right. It's an option. Gluing material under your nails will work, and you may even like it better than on top. But there are advantages to applying an artificial nail on top of your natural nail. If you have no nail, or a very short nail, you don't really have a choice; you have to apply it on top of your natural nail. And if you do learn to apply a nail on top, you can get really great performance and feel if done correctly.

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Evocacion
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Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby Evocacion » Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:14 pm

Alaska Piks would be a better solution, IMHO. No risk of damage to your own nails. I occasionally use one when I've broken a nail.
There's a gentleman called M Delcamp demonstrating the here: http://alturl.com/2izyk

davekear
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Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby davekear » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:26 am

Yea, you know anyone can use Alaska piks. Probably most of us have. Including myself. But the reason why you won't see, or rarely will see, any professional classical or flamenco guitarists using them on a regular basis, is because they don't have the feel or response that a natural or good artificial nail has. You can give a great pool player a broom handle, and he'll still play pretty good. But not as good as with a really good cue. Same thing here. If having great nails for playing classical guitar was as easy as putting on finger picks, we'd all be doin it. But it's not. It's not difficult to learn to create great artificial nails that do have the great feel, tone and response as a natural nail. But so far there hasn't been a finger pick invented that will do so. That includes Alaska Piks.

Jack Douglas
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Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby Jack Douglas » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:57 pm

DaveLeeNC wrote:I have been fighting nail problems for months now (basically since I returned to playing my classical guitar). I have simply given up (even though all avenues have not been tried) and p, i, m, a are going to be permanently reinforced and/or lengthened with ping pong ball pieces. The ppball piece came out of my i finger today (my 'best nail' from a durability perspective), and I noticed that the nail was pretty much enough to be OK without being lengthened. I decided not to even take the chance of a major tear that would preclude easy use of ping pong balls under the nail, so I just put in a new ping pong ball piece.

How many others use PP balls on a permanent kind of basis?

dave


Hi Dave,

A couple of data items would help get comments from Delcamp members. A few pictures of your natural nails would help in understanding your issues. Another would be your age and finally a description of your nail care routine and all the specific items you use to shape and polish your nails. Also, do you have any 'hooks' in your nail shapes?
Your post is about the use of PPB's but maybe an in depth view of why you have nail growth issues would be helpful.

I'm aware that you are in NC which has in the winter dramatic temperature and humidity fluctuations during the winter months that creates very brittle nails and dry skin unless you use some type of moisturizer.
I'm in Virginia and in the winter months I find that a daily application of Vitamin E oil helps keep my natural nails flexible and healthy. In addition, I buff and polish my nails on a daily basis to keep any small snags from forming. These are the ones you can't see but get caught on socks and towels and set you back a couple of weeks.
I mentioned 'hooks' that I have so I use a heated spoon to straighten my nails before the daily buffing. Before discovering this method I used to tear nails that would catch when playing.

There are nail growth supplements, but depending on your age and health I would advise caution. For example, if you are prone to eye problems these supplements may cause an increase in ocular pressure. I'm not a doctor, just read labels!

Since you play both steel and nylon string I'm wondering how long you feel your nails ought to be and to say 'Short' is best!

It might be worth a month of disciplined nail care just to see how your nails might improve with daily care and winter moisture care.

Best of successes with your nails.

Jack
Hauser III 2014!

DaveLeeNC
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Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:31 pm
Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby DaveLeeNC » Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:30 pm

I have tried the Vitamin E path and clear iodine. I have not tried dietary supplements but I do take a daily multiple vitamin. Maybe if I did this for a few more months .....

When I played back in the 1980's I don't recall having this problem. I didn't play at all for decades, and now that I am in my late 60's things are different. I don't have a serious hook issue on any nail. However the distance between where my nail 'exits' my fingertip and the actual end of my fingertip seems pretty long to me (4 to 5 mm). That is probably a factor.

Unless I hear or learn something that I have not encountered thus far, I have decided to live with ping pong nails (hence this thread). What is really ironic here is that once you install ping pong nails it is pretty much impossible to split, chip, or tear a nail. So if you use them then you won't need them :-)

Thanks for the thoughts. And I am far from convinced that there are not steps that I could take that would at least improve my nail performance. I just don't have the patience to work on this any more.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

Jack Douglas
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Location: Ashland, Va

Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby Jack Douglas » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:39 pm

DaveLeeNC,
I just measured my P nail which is 3.07 mm and my m finger nail is 2.0 mm. My A nail is normally about 2.3 mm but I shortened it too much with a new file the other day. If I do let my nails grow out I don't let them get much longer than 4.0 mm for P, and 3.0 mm average for i, m, a.
For me longer nails sound clacky and are much more prone to splits.
I'm not sure age has anything to do with breaking nails. I'm 70. However, long nails are definitely precarious!
Hauser III 2014!

DaveLeeNC
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Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby DaveLeeNC » Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:14 am

Jack, for me 2.0 mm on my 'm' finger would be the equivalent of no nails at all as it takes 4.5 mm just to reach the end of my finger. 'p' is close to 6mm (to reach the end of my p finger),

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

Jack Douglas
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Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2015 2:37 am
Location: Ashland, Va

Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby Jack Douglas » Wed Feb 15, 2017 3:40 am

DaveLeeNC wrote:Jack, for me 2.0 mm on my 'm' finger would be the equivalent of no nails at all as it takes 4.5 mm just to reach the end of my finger. 'p' is close to 6mm (to reach the end of my p finger),

dave


I think I'm beginning to understand why nail extenders like ping pong balls are necessary for you. I just looked at the backside of my fingers and I see some nail extending a very short distance past the end of my finger. I could stand a little more length but not much. When I play I use some flesh and the left side of nails to drive downward and through the strings. If my nails get too long they catch on the string with that kind of stroke.
Sorry, I got off track. I see why some form of nail extension is a necessity for you!
Hauser III 2014!

DaveLeeNC
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Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Ping Pong Ball Nails as a Way of Life

Postby DaveLeeNC » Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:51 am

Here is a fine gotcha'. The 'a' finger PPB piece came out yesterday. So I put a new piece in. And when I woke up this morning I had this 2-3mm tear in that nail. It was right at the base of the PPB just where the nail exits the skin and it kind of 'mirrored' the path of the PPB under the nail. It would seem that I had left a TEENSEY piece of PPG sticking out from the very lower edge of my 'a' nail. And (I am guessing) that caught on a thread sometime during the night (I don't recall every feeling anything, but my nails tend to tear like tissue paper). This should not be a problem as I can use superglue to keep it under control until it grows out just a bit and I can get a new PPG piece underneath the tear.

Or I suppose I could put a PPB cleat over the top of the tear :-)

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric


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