Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
Ancient
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby Ancient » Tue Dec 02, 2014 11:39 pm

I have played with long nails and short nails. I have better control and a better sound with shorter nails.

botswanajohn
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby botswanajohn » Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:17 am

I prefer my nails about a mm beyond the fingertip at the centre and tapering down towards the side, this way by changing the angle of the finger as it contacts the string I can effectively change the length of the nail that contacts the string. In this way I can produce a sweet gentle sound when I want it and still have enough nail for a even controlled tremolo as well as good volume when I depress the string fully drawing the nail across it.

Scratchiness from a slightly longer nail can be greatly improved by gently dressing the underside of the nail with 1200 or 1500 grade wet and dry paper from a hardware store..two or three strokes is usually sufficient.
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Drainky
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby Drainky » Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:10 pm

thanks for the suggestion Zach

Matthew Stidham

Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby Matthew Stidham » Thu Dec 04, 2014 10:17 pm

I have been experimenting with shorter nails as of late. Mainly because I'm doing some woodworking projects and I always seem to break a nail. I thought by shortening them beforehand I might save some frustration. I haven't quite found the best shape for the shorter nails, but I'm enjoying the change just the same.

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Mick the Ramirez Man
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby Mick the Ramirez Man » Fri Dec 05, 2014 12:04 am

I've tried short nails, long nails, no nails ... For me shorter nails seems to be the ticket. Perfect combination of nail & flesh. :limaeunghie:
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Justfun
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby Justfun » Mon Dec 22, 2014 11:35 pm

My nails are short length about 2mm.
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mike.janel
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby mike.janel » Thu Dec 25, 2014 2:23 pm

Matthew Stidham wrote:I haven't quite found the best shape for the shorter nails, but I'm enjoying the change just the same.


After spending a couple of months, I came to the conclusion that what works best for me is short nails that are filed straight with slight outward ramp on I and M ( like /|) and slight inwards ramp for A (like |\ with less angle of course).
Very much as explained in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFpLo2HtE5A
I like this arrangement because it is very easy to do the nails and get a consistently good result.
Before that, filing my nails was an adventure with unexpected results, what exactly following the finger contour means? Each time I ended up with something that sounded and felt quite different.
With the straight ramps, I can file the nails a bit before each session, and in half a minute, I am, back to the desired feel and tone.

The hardest thing was to get good tremolo back with short nails.
When I do get the tremolo right, it sounds loud clear and without clicking and scratching, which is nice, I just can't get it continuously over all strings without loosing some notes, but as always it is practice, practice...
Michael
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2013 Amalio Burguet 3M (Cedar)
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rojarosguitar
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby rojarosguitar » Thu Dec 25, 2014 4:02 pm

Just as a side remark - a bit off topic: I recently took part in a flamenco workshop given by Antonio Rey and Mahmoud Turkmani. When Rey explained how his picado works he showed us his nails and they were surprisingly short (far from the monster nails so many flamenco players prod themselves of) and he explained that hew uses no flesh contact at all - pure nail. His picado is very full and substantial, nothing you would expect from nail only playing.

It shows again a bit that the length of the mail per sé is not the issue but how you implement what you have into your playing...
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...

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Cloth Ears
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby Cloth Ears » Thu Dec 25, 2014 4:47 pm

rojarosguitar wrote:Just as a side remark - a bit off topic: I recently took part in a flamenco workshop given by Antonio Rey and Mahmoud Turkmani. When Rey explained how his picado works he showed us his nails and they were surprisingly short (far from the monster nails so many flamenco players prod themselves of) and he explained that hew uses no flesh contact at all - pure nail. His picado is very full and substantial, nothing you would expect from nail only playing.

It shows again a bit that the length of the mail per sé is not the issue but how you implement what you have into your playing...


Although I am self taught in this area...I also have short nails (weak and silk/superglue covered) and find that picado is cleaner and loses less energy if just run through with finger nails rather than with pad/nail combination. There is no time to lose energy to friction of the finger pads here. Once strength is built by doing daily scales, then picado runs become a breeze: slightly bending the I & M and then holding the little finger like when us brits drink tea :lol: and the A relaxed between.

I would say that the silk and superglue is a must for me, but probably detracts from my tone on classical. Hey ho.

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rojarosguitar
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby rojarosguitar » Thu Dec 25, 2014 6:48 pm

Cloth Ears wrote:...
I would say that the silk and superglue is a must for me, but probably detracts from my tone on classical. Hey ho.


Could you elaborate a bit on how exactly you apply silk and superglue. I have tried so many things ...
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...

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Cloth Ears
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby Cloth Ears » Thu Dec 25, 2014 8:42 pm

Yes.

I buy strips of adhesive backed china silk online. I cut strips 5mm wide or so. I then make a 5mm square for the left hand corner of my right thumb. I also cut lengths to cover the central 70% of the middle and anular.

I file my nails at 45 degrees, rounding the corners back to the flesh to stop them hooking on the strings.

There are two methods depending on the glue used (regular SG and 'Power Flex SG' which contains rubber for durability):

For normal Loctite superglue would first apply the adhesive silk to nail with a millimetre or two sticking over the edge, and the dab superglue on and let dry for a minute. Once dry I would cut the leading edge back and file back flush with the nail. Then I would dab some more SG on the leading edge for strength, dry and repeat. Finally buff down the SG. For extra toughness, you can add baking soda which mixes with the SG for more durability, but can make a mess! Without the baking soda, you may find that you need to replace these coverings after 30 minutes of the more percussive palos (bulerias for instance).

What I find lasts longer is 'Loctite Power Flex Gel Control' which I have posted about elsewhere. I do not mix this with baking soda. It does not soak into the china silk from on top, so needs to be applied before the silk and tamped down into place with a metal needle (cleaned of previous glue to stop the silk sticking onto the needle). Doing this will cause the gel to mix into the silk fibres. Cut back, file flush, cover leading edge, dry, buff flat.

Don't forget to wipe clean the SG nozzles afterwards and keep them clean with the needle. :)

My own hands are naturally sweaty. I know a CG player who has dry hands (and strong natural nails :x ). The acidic sweat comes through the nails, and after a day or so the coverings become weaker and can be peeled of easily to repeat the process.

What can happen is the leading edge or sides lift while playing and ruin your tone. In this case I just pull them off on the fly (run my thumb nail under to shear them off) and keep playing the piece.

I keep meaning to experiment more with methods of applying the baking soda as this is very effective but can be messy. If you find a good method, let me know!

TheJazzer

Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby TheJazzer » Thu Dec 25, 2014 9:57 pm

I have short nails. Looking at my palm you can see about 1mm of nail above the flesh. It gives a warmer tone. The reason for this is that usually the stroke is a combination of nail and flesh, whereas long long nails tend to be just nail.

My thumb nail is about the same and what I noted was that my nail didn't even hit the string. The nail just supported and strengthened the flesh.

I don't think there is any right or wrong. It's only wrong when you are not producing the tone you want.

I keep my nails this short for practical reasons too. I work in my garden, and do a lot of other physical things that tend to threaten long nail length. It's not all compromise as I prefer the sound I get from a shorter nail.

To prevent them cracking too often you should keep your hands moisturized, both inside (good diet) and out. Also keeping them polished not only helps improve tone but it does offer a strong surface.

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mike.janel
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby mike.janel » Fri Dec 26, 2014 7:58 pm

Cloth Ears wrote:My own hands are naturally sweaty. I know a CG player who has dry hands (and strong natural nails :x ). The acidic sweat comes through the nails, and after a day or so the coverings become weaker and can be peeled of easily to repeat the process.

What can happen is the leading edge or sides lift while playing and ruin your tone. In this case I just pull them off on the fly (run my thumb nail under to shear them off) and keep playing the piece.
!

Have you been using this for long?
Doesn't that peal off and weakn your nails?
Michael
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2013 Amalio Burguet 3M (Cedar)
1989 Yamaha CG 110 (Spruce)
1982 Yamaha G 255S (Spruce)

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Cloth Ears
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby Cloth Ears » Sat Dec 27, 2014 10:28 pm

It does not weaken my nails, but we are all different.

In fact it has pronounced the arch in my medios which is weak in the middle and the scales can split causing notching. Such lateral splitting means one thing: filing back to the cuticle and missing practice for a week or two. I have rarely had this problem in the five years or more that I have been using this method.

I live in the damp UK, so humidity stops the nails from drying. When I travel to Spain I rub olive oil into the nails half an hour before making them to keep them from drying out. I am thinking that because of the climate in Israel, you would want to use oil of some sort.

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keithwwk
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Postby keithwwk » Tue Dec 30, 2014 4:33 am

Good day CG lovers!
I am new here. I still experiencing i, m, a fingers nail lenght effects. May I know what is your comment of thumbnail? Mine is quite long, just measured, is about 5mm!! I going to shorten it tonight to feel the difference....


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