Anyone not use nails?

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
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tateharmann
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by tateharmann » Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:46 pm

I think it's a debate that will probably never end - at the end of the day each individual will just have to try and choose for themselves between nails and no nails...or maybe a little of both :)
Stephen Kenyon wrote:I think you'll find that he started out with nails and stopped using them because they weakened due to health reasons - as many of us find as we get older, though in fact he suffered some quite bad health issues in his time. But that is the sort of question that often cannot be readily stated with definitive confidence, after all as we know in our own worlds, people often have a complex set of reasons for doing even quite simple things or making simple decisions.
That's right - it's not really a fact that it was due to poor health. This is disputed by two individuals (among others I imagine). Domingo Prat claims that the maestro did this due to poor health and Emilio Pujol sustains that he did it in search of a better sound. Maybe the reality is a bit of both? We'll probably never know :/
Last edited by tateharmann on Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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tateharmann
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by tateharmann » Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:47 pm

italian_job wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 4:08 pm
I'm talking about the timbral modulation and purity of sound.
BTW - folks on the other side of the debate would claim that the purity of sound comes only from playing without nails - this is totally subjective and up to the ears of each listener :)
"Speed is the enemy of emotion." - Emilio Pujol Vilarrubi

davekear
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by davekear » Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:17 pm

tateharmann wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:47 pm
italian_job wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 4:08 pm
I'm talking about the timbral modulation and purity of sound.
BTW - folks on the other side of the debate would claim that the purity of sound comes only from playing without nails - this is totally subjective and up to the ears of each listener :)
Of course italian_job is correct. The diversity of tone or timbral modulation is not a subjective thing. You simply cannot get the same tone palette without nails as you can with nails. More than 99% of all professional classical and flamenco players use their nails.The reason for this is that it allows for far more tone color and dexterity. You will sound and play better.There are a few, (very few), talented guitarists who don't use their nails. I think they are compromising their playing. I personally think even the best of them sound a bit muffled, lack clarity and diversity of tone, and basically sound dull. In my experience those who advocate playing with no nails go out of their way to find the few examples of guitarists that play this way, and ignore the vast majority of great guitarists who do use nails. The main reason for this is that they just find it too difficult to learn to use nails correctly and want to justify this position, or there are anatomical reasons. But just keep in mind that, with very few exceptions, all the great teachers that teach in the colleges and conservatories teach the use of fingernails in playing the classical guitar. All of the great classical guitar instruction books advocate using fingernails. There is a reason for this. And of course that reason is to infuriate those who advocate no nails. :D
If you want to get the most out of the classical guitar, learn to use your fingernails.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Adrian Allan » Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:23 pm

davekear wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:17 pm
tateharmann wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:47 pm
italian_job wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 4:08 pm
I'm talking about the timbral modulation and purity of sound.
BTW - folks on the other side of the debate would claim that the purity of sound comes only from playing without nails - this is totally subjective and up to the ears of each listener :)
Of course italian_job is correct. The diversity of tone or timbral modulation is not a subjective thing. You simply cannot get the same tone palette without nails as you can with nails. More than 99% of all professional classical and flamenco players use their nails.The reason for this is that it allows for far more tone color and dexterity. You will sound and play better.There are a few, (very few), talented guitarists who don't use their nails. I think they are compromising their playing. I personally think even the best of them sound a bit muffled, lack clarity and diversity of tone, and basically sound dull. In my experience those who advocate playing with no nails go out of their way to find the few examples of guitarists that play this way, and ignore the vast majority of great guitarists who do use nails. The main reason for this is that they just find it too difficult to learn to use nails correctly and want to justify this position, or there are anatomical reasons. But just keep in mind that, with very few exceptions, all the great teachers that teach in the colleges and conservatories teach the use of fingernails in playing the classical guitar. All of the great classical guitar instruction books advocate using fingernails. There is a reason for this. And of course that reason is to infuriate those who advocate no nails. :D
If you want to get the most out of the classical guitar, learn to use your fingernails.
Unless somebody has a period instrument with gut strings and wants to go for a historically-informed performance. There is some value in that - eg. playing Sor the way that Sor would have played it and his audiences would have heard it. For the modern works, eg. Rodrigo or anything 20th century, I think that playing with no nails makes zero sense, as the composers were writing with a modern nail sound in their mind.
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Thu Sep 07, 2017 8:08 pm

tateharmann wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:46 pm
... Domingo Prat claims that the maestro did this due to poor health and Emilio Pujol sustains that he did it in search of a better sound. Maybe the reality is a bit of both? We'll probably never know :/
Exactly, since poor nails tend to sound bad, either inconsistent because the break too often and lengths are different, or like my 'a' finger nail which has developed a ridge and it looks like I'll be using a false nail unless/until it gets better. The false sounds much better than the real thing...
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davekear
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by davekear » Thu Sep 07, 2017 9:12 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:23 pm

Unless somebody has a period instrument with gut strings and wants to go for a historically-informed performance. There is some value in that - eg. playing Sor the way that Sor would have played it and his audiences would have heard it. For the modern works, eg. Rodrigo or anything 20th century, I think that playing with no nails makes zero sense, as the composers were writing with a modern nail sound in their mind.
Absolutely Adrian. Unless you have a physical disability, or you're just into playing for a hobby, and don't have the time to devote to learning how to properly use your nails. But if you're serious about learning to play this great instrument with all of its potential, learn to use your nails.

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tateharmann
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by tateharmann » Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:28 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:23 pm
Unless somebody has a period instrument with gut strings and wants to go for a historically-informed performance. There is some value in that - eg. playing Sor the way that Sor would have played it and his audiences would have heard it. For the modern works, eg. Rodrigo or anything 20th century, I think that playing with no nails makes zero sense, as the composers were writing with a modern nail sound in their mind.
This is perhaps the biggest reason why I'm currently playing on gut strings and no nails, it's a valid point. But remember how we define "modern"....nylon strings weren't even introduced until the 1940's so the repertoire before then was played on gut strings.
"Speed is the enemy of emotion." - Emilio Pujol Vilarrubi

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Adrian Allan » Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:15 am

tateharmann wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:28 pm
Adrian Allan wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:23 pm
Unless somebody has a period instrument with gut strings and wants to go for a historically-informed performance. There is some value in that - eg. playing Sor the way that Sor would have played it and his audiences would have heard it. For the modern works, eg. Rodrigo or anything 20th century, I think that playing with no nails makes zero sense, as the composers were writing with a modern nail sound in their mind.
This is perhaps the biggest reason why I'm currently playing on gut strings and no nails, it's a valid point. But remember how we define "modern"....nylon strings weren't even introduced until the 1940's so the repertoire before then was played on gut strings.
That is true. However, by the 20th century, the first half of which was of course dominated by Segovia, it was still nails, but on gut strings.

In essence , the classical repertoire played without nails is entirely valid on a period instrument or reproduction in a small setting. I would even argue it is less valid in a larger setting, as the upper partials produced by nails will be missing from the sound, and it will probably sound like a dull thud without amplification.

For modern repertoire on a modern instrument, it would make no sense at all. The guitars and the compositions were designed with nails in mind.
Playing Walton's Bagatelles on a Greg Smallman without nails in a fairly large hall would be plain silly.

If you are playing to yourself or a group of friends, do what you like. So it all depends on context. I am saying that there are some cases where no nails is entirely inappropriate.
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James Lister
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by James Lister » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:26 am

davekear wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 9:12 pm
Adrian Allan wrote:
Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:23 pm

Unless somebody has a period instrument with gut strings and wants to go for a historically-informed performance. There is some value in that - eg. playing Sor the way that Sor would have played it and his audiences would have heard it. For the modern works, eg. Rodrigo or anything 20th century, I think that playing with no nails makes zero sense, as the composers were writing with a modern nail sound in their mind.
Absolutely Adrian. Unless you have a physical disability, or you're just into playing for a hobby, and don't have the time to devote to learning how to properly use your nails. But if you're serious about learning to play this great instrument with all of its potential, learn to use your nails.
To suggest that playing without nails is just for those who have a disability or who "just" play as a "hobby" seems a little insulting to those who have made that choice. That's all it is - a choice. Playing with or without nails are both perfectly valid, both historically and musically. I choose to play with nails, because I tried playing without nails once, and wasn't at all satisfied with the results, and I wasn't prepared to put the extra work in to learn how to play without nails (or to develop the calluses). There is no "better", just "different".

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by James Lister » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:32 am

Adrian Allan wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:15 am
For modern repertoire on a modern instrument, it would make no sense at all. The guitars and the compositions were designed with nails in mind.
Perhaps, but not many players restrict themselves to just modern or just classical repertoire, so a choice has to be made.

James
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by James Lister » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:36 am

P.S. The moderators have removed some posts from this thread, and there are others that could be considered to cross the line. Please try to respect the opinions of others, and refrain from making personal insults.

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:51 am

James Lister wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:36 am
P.S. The moderators have removed some posts from this thread, and there are others that could be considered to cross the line. Please try to respect the opinions of others, and refrain from making personal insults.

James
:merci:
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Adrian Allan
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Adrian Allan » Fri Sep 08, 2017 12:25 pm

James Lister wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:32 am
Adrian Allan wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:15 am
For modern repertoire on a modern instrument, it would make no sense at all. The guitars and the compositions were designed with nails in mind.
Perhaps, but not many players restrict themselves to just modern or just classical repertoire, so a choice has to be made.

James
I get your point, but when it comes to the twentieth century part of the programme, does anybody think that quite strident modern pieces like Walton's Bagatelles would be effective when played with no nails? I can't see it myself, but I am prepared to be proved wrong. It is at that point when fingertips only are at a clear disadvantage.
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tateharmann
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by tateharmann » Fri Sep 08, 2017 1:22 pm

Indeed, Walton is a very good example of a modern composer who wrote music for the modern sound. I still think you could play him with gut strings on a Torres-esque instrument, though. Playing him in concert without nails on a Smallman?? Never! Haha I'm sure that could sound just awful, but I'm also prepared to be proved wrong!

My studies take me all the way up to the first half of the 20th century (and sometimes beyond for fun). Spain, in particular, had a number of very accomplished guitarists playing without nails on gut strings in this time period: Tarrega, Pujol, Fortea, Robledo, etc. Some of their recordings have even survived and can be heard on vol. 12 of the album "Segovia & His Contemporaries". That's the sound that I'm after. Here's a recent one of mine: http://classicalguitardelcamp.com/viewt ... eafc5f5e51
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Fri Sep 08, 2017 1:45 pm

tateharmann wrote:
Fri Sep 08, 2017 1:22 pm
Indeed, Walton is a very good example of a modern composer who wrote music for the modern sound. I still think you could play him with gut strings on a Torres-esque instrument, though. ...
I once reviewed a recital in a small but popular London venue, by an established early-music practitioner, who at the time (1995) was aiming to spread the no-nails-in-modern-repertoire message. Basically, gentle sweet passages sounded nice, but anything needing power, such as the final part of the Torroba Sonatina, were completely unconvincing.
I wasn't, therefore, at all convinced then, and still am not; neither were many others, not least as the audience on that occasion consisted entirely of me, the player's spouse and a Japanese tourist.
It still remains perfectly possible that it can be done, and I do recall that part of the problem with the above recital was that the player wasn't totally on top of the repertoire, which hardly helped. But all the no-nailers linked to in the earlier parts of the thread (and others cited by Rob) have sounded very unsatisfying, not least, somewhat amateurish in tone - by which I mean, I have several adult students whose tone I prefer to some of those noted, professional players.
There's another little dimension I always think of here as well though. When we play for instance, early 19th century repertoire, some can seem terribly impoverished, and yet, sympathetically played on a historical instrument, can come to life. So there is a sense that some musics have little chance to move away from their immediate context, and my view is that essentially, the stronger a composition is the more readily it can move away. The obvious example is Bach, who is still a genius if played on an ensemble of kazoo, comb-and-paper and tuned flower pots (no, I don't have an example to hand).
I wonder if the reliance on the charismatic tone of a modern instrument powered by nails is a reflection today's repertoire too.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)

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