Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
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jdart3000
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Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by jdart3000 » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:20 pm

Through this forum, I was directed to Martin Taylor, a phenomenal jazz guitarist that I had somehow never heard of. In one of his videos, he mentioned his use of nails. I didn't realize that steel-string players played with nails. The last time I played a steel-string guitar, it really chewed up my nails. Any experience here with this?

Thank you,
John
"Art is not something which you can take or leave. It is a necessity of human life" -- Oscar Wilde

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Gaius46
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Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & Nails?

Post by Gaius46 » Mon Apr 14, 2014 8:10 pm

jdart3000 wrote:Through this forum, I was directed to Martin Taylor, a phenomenal jazz guitarist that I had somehow never heard of. In one of his videos, he mentioned his use of nails. I didn't realize that steel-string players played with nails. The last time I played a steel-string guitar, it really chewed up my nails. Any experience here with this?

Thank you,
John
The guitarist in my jazz trio (I play bass in that group) plays exclusively with his nails. And I occasionally play my wife's Stratocaster with my nails but honestly not enough to have formed an opinion about it.

Lots of folkies play with their nails and at least three rockers (Derek Trucks, Mark Knopfler and Lindsay Buckingham) that I can think of so I'm guessing there are ways to get around nail issues.


. HD
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Scot Tremblay
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Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by Scot Tremblay » Mon Apr 14, 2014 8:56 pm

I dabble in finger style jazz on a steel string archtop so have a few observations which might be helpful....Generally, it's harder to get a good tone with nails on a steel string so many (not all) of the jazz fingerstylists use a shorter nail and a more equal nail/flesh strike than classical players. Those that play "plugged in" use a much lighter touch than a classical player would. This is one issue I find switching back and forth is that I need a lighter touch on the steel string or the strings will buzz, the action is low, rest stroke is mostly out and doesn't make a noticable difference as it might on classical. And then when I switch back to classical it takes me a moment to get used to needing a stronger right hand attack. I don't find that my nails suffer much with steel strings but then I don't exclusively play steel string instruments. If I did perhaps it would be another matter.

Most of the finger players also use flat wound strings so there is less wear on the nail (fewer left hand squeeks too...kind of a serious no - no in jazz :shock: ) and many build up their nails with various materials as many classical players do. I don't remember Martin Taylor mentioning it in any of his interviews or articles/books but it looks like he does use reinforcement on his nails from the glimpses I've seen online. In person, I don't remember even looking at his nails, it was just too interesting watching him play as a whole...amazing player.

Edit. Actually I just looked in his Guitar Method and there is a small section on nails...he uses "Silk Wraps".

Nylon string jazz instuments and players are becoming more common with instrument from Godin, Cordoba, Yamaha and even hand made nylon string archtops http://www.nylonstringjazzguitar.com/ . As a classical player I think this might be a good compromise for the nail using finger player. The tone is a little different from the rather unique accepted jazz tone but I think many listeners will be forgiving... :wink:
Scot Tremblay Guitars

"One picture is worth a thousand words. So, for me, one good note put where it should be put, will say what it will take some people many notes to say. ~B.B. King, 1986

JohnPierce

Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by JohnPierce » Mon Apr 14, 2014 9:57 pm

Michael Chapdelaine and Stephen Yates both use nails on steel string. Chapdelaine's seem to be quite long in the videos; I can't tell if they're real or not. There aren't any closeups of Yates' right hand, so I can't tell how long the nails are, but given the angle of attack of his fingers I'd say they're quite a lot shorter than Chapdelaine's. Neither seems to have a problem generating whatever tone they want on either nylon or steel. But I guess that's sort of like noting that Rob MacKillop gets whatever tone he wants without nails at all, and on many types of instruments... practice, practice, practice, ....

I personally never had any problems with nails on steel strings, and I played that way a lot for a long time. However, given the number of people on this forum who have nail problems just with nylon, I can see where steel strings, or even an electric, might cause them a whole lot more grief.

wianno

Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by wianno » Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:36 am

Charlie Byrd used nails on nylon to play jazz, and through his love affair with Brazilian music. He also played on steel, though I recall that he used a thumb pick when he did.

Jack

Cincy2
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Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by Cincy2 » Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:52 am

Scot Tremblay wrote: Most of the finger players also use flat wound strings so there is less wear on the nail
I play a beautiful Benedetto Bravo archtop and also use Scot's method to protect my nails. Not good for acoustic playing but just fine for amplified use. Life is too short to play just one style of guitar!

Cincy
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kheaphey
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Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by kheaphey » Wed Apr 16, 2014 4:48 pm

I play a lot of fingerstyle on a steel string guitar and haven't had any problems with the strings damaging my nails. I use a slightly different angle of attack with my right hand on steel string guitars as opposed to classical - a little more flesh - maybe that's why my nails don't seem to mind being used on steel strings.
Karen
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PedroRamirez

Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by PedroRamirez » Thu Apr 17, 2014 6:05 pm

The great Jazzman Joe Pass played with picks or fingers; I think when playing with no accompaniment he more often went pick-less. In tapes I have of him I could see some length to his right nails, but not like what I've seen on many classical folks. As mentioned above, less abrasive flat wound strings were often used by those guys (as I do on my '67 Gibson L5). The danger to me is when I'm practicing on my L5 unamplified, I tend to pluck harder and then I can damage the old talons...

ashepps
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Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by ashepps » Sat Apr 19, 2014 8:48 pm

Hi, this is my first post in the forum section, hopefully I am doing it right. In my recent introduction I mentioned I was had issues that kept me from playing classical guitar for approximately 30 years. 2 things stood out, my nails were very dry and would crack off just after getting them grown out again and the other was trying to crazy glue or cover the missing nail with fake nails. Nothing seemed to work. Throughout those 30 years I may have picked up the guitar and played a couple of notes and this would peak my interest, but before a day or 2 would go by I would lose a nail and then get frustrated. I happened to see on the net that there were two different brands of wearable plastic picks for finger-style or classical guitar available. Now I felt that if a nail broke I could slip one of these on and my ambition to get back at it went sky high. I got my guitar out and my nails were not to bad, I was always in the habit to have them ready, so I started practicing again and ordered the nails. It's funny I have had the new nails 2 weeks now and have not needed to try them out. I will have to experiment with them once I break a nail, but the main thing is I now have my interest back and know I have no excuses to not play the guitar. Are we able to give the make/name/seller of commercial items in these posts? If so I can at least indicate what I have and describe them and once I break a nail I can give a critique. The main thing though is that I am back trying to read some of my music, doing the best I can and loving every minute of it. Thanks - Alan
Alan Sheppard
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barry haywood
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Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by barry haywood » Sat Apr 19, 2014 9:02 pm

Cincy2 wrote: Life is too short to play just one style of guitar! Cincy
:bravo:
If you don't grow up, you'll never grow old.

ashepps
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Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:06 pm
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by ashepps » Sat Apr 19, 2014 11:39 pm

Can we post commercial names such as referencing the nails I bought? I want to make sure this is legal to do so.
Alan Sheppard
1986 630mm Asturias JM-15 Spruce
1955 650mm Framus SL-32R
2015 650mm Yamaha SLG110N

Nicolablack

Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by Nicolablack » Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:55 am

Hello, I play both steel and classical, and both with nails. Strumming style on steel definitely causes a lot of damage and I do try to use a plectrum, but picking styles are a lot less problematic. I'm with the contributor who was saying he uses more fingerpad with steel, the angle is quite different for me with the different guitars. Interestingly ukulele seemed to be the most damaging!

wianno

Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by wianno » Wed Apr 23, 2014 1:18 pm

Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers comedy team is an accomplished guitarist. He plays with a plectrum for the bass strings and finger picks the trebles.

Jack

FrankBlack

Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by FrankBlack » Thu Apr 24, 2014 10:20 pm

I concur with those stating that the use of flat-wound strings helps greatly. When I first started using a steel-string guitar, I had standard round-wound strings on the instrument and found they damaged my nails. But, years later, after discovering flat-wound strings I found the issue was virtually eliminated. And, as has been mentioned, this can be an issue for some depending on the tone you prefer and if you are able to play amplified or not. I have a set of TI flat-wound bass strings and standard nylon strings on one of my guitars and it is a joy to play. Not only are they easier on my nails, but the squeak is completely eliminated. But, the tone is not the same as round-wound strings and you will need to be amplified in order to have better dynamics and to be heard clearer. For me, that isn't an issue. For those who prefer the traditional method of playing without amplification, it will render this solution impossible.

Nate Miller

Re: Fingerstyle Jazz & - Nails?

Post by Nate Miller » Tue May 06, 2014 2:51 pm

I have jazz trio, and with those guys I'll play with fingers in the right situation, but the thing to remember is that it really isn't the same as the right hand playing on nylon for more reasons than the obvious.

For one, most guys aren't one way or the other. When I am using fingers, I may also have the pick cradled in my right hand. I'm only using the m and a fingers and the pick is still between my thumb and i finger. A lot of guys do it this way and go back and forth between strait picking and the combination of pick and fingers. The combination works really well when you are playing a walking bassline and some chords.

What Joe Pass does is he plays with his fingers and keeps the pick in his mouth. When he's about to rip a single line of notes, he takes the pick out of his mouth, plays the riff, and puts the pick back in his mouth. When you see him play, its clear he has done this all his life because its natural as anything.

Another thing is that you have amplification to help you. You don't need to play nearly as hard. I don't even think of it as being similar. To me, I'm thinking textures all the time, and so I'll go back and forth between picks and fingers or even thumb flesh like Wes Montgomery.

So work with it and incorporate it if it works for you and the way you like to play

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