Anyone not use nails?

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

Post by davekear » Wed May 10, 2017 3:23 am

One thing is for sure, those who can't understand why it's better to use nails than to not, should cut off their nails and learn to play the guitar that way. Much easier. You don't have to worry or care for nails, and after all, nails aren't better, they're just different. So my advice to most of you on this thread is to go and cut off all of your nails. Because all of the great guitarists and teachers of today got it wrong.
But for those who come across this thread who have an ability to differentiate the pros and cons of this topic, I'll leave you once again with some great advice from one of the most respected classical guitar teachers of our time. Once again from Aaron Shearer, who's viewpoint here reflects 99.9% of all of the great guitarists of our time.
For a variety of reasons, some students are unable to keep their nails in good playing condition, but they should not be discouraged in their efforts to play the guitar, as much pleasure can be obtained from playing the instrument without nails. However, the serious and aspiring student of the classic guitar must consider the use of the nails to be absolutely necessary. Without the nails, execution and volume lack brilliance; and, most important, the tonal resources of the guitar, to a greater extent, remain dormant".
OK, I'm done.

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tateharmann
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by tateharmann » Wed May 10, 2017 4:04 am

That's Mr. Shearer's opinion. It may be the most popular opinion, but it's still just an opinion.

Another example: the AKC (American Kennel Club) reports that the black lab has been the most popular dog for the last 26 years. http://www.akc.org/content/news/article ... -in-a-row/

So, is it the "best" dog? Should you run out to buy one? They are great dogs and you could do worse...but maybe a different breed would suit you better. Not everyone...just you.
"Speed is the enemy of emotion." - Emilio Pujol Vilarrubi

DevonBadger
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by DevonBadger » Wed May 10, 2017 4:19 am

Hi davekear,

Do you have any advice on the optimum length and shape of nails?

I see you run a website which sells artificial nails; do these come in different lengths / shapes?

Thanks in advance.

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Michael.N.
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Michael.N. » Wed May 10, 2017 7:12 am

There, we've all been told. Luque = muffled sound, poor dynamics, limited speed, not as good as Elliot Fisk.
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed May 10, 2017 8:42 am

Michael.N. wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 7:12 am
There, we've all been told. Luque = muffled sound, poor dynamics, limited speed, not as good as Elliot Fisk.
Oh well, I'm going to fail to resist temptation ...

I remember having a conversation with Rob about Virginia Luque on a previous occasion this topic appeared and at the time I backed off because, well, its difficult. I had come across the lady before, probably because she plays a Hauser, and basically, I didn't like her sound, without knowing anything about the technical approach she takes. But here's the thing; it may or may not be entirely because of her nail-spported flesh technique. Undoubtedly she is a wonderful musician, although some of her videos (for example the Bach prelude one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBl7tQbZ1pg seem to me fairly doubtful. But whatever she does, she makes it work to the satisfaction of many. But not me. And that's all there is to it. I don't much like Fisk either, whose nails as I remember at least used to be, pretty huge.

But even insofar as she succeeds in her technique, this alone is no proof of anything beyond itself. Specifically, it does not, surely, in itself prove that no-nails works, is superior, inferior, whatever. Because like us all she is a unique individual. In principal, she might be the only person ever to make that approach work that well.

Seems to me, so many of the 'statements of the obvious' in this thread (no doubt including this post) tell us little beyond the personal taste of the writer, but what we clearly should be able to say is that you can do what you want, and take the consequences, and learn what you will learn. Nobody can, I think, deny that the great majority of serious players in modern times use nails, but that is not in itself a statement of superiority, merely of fact. If in two centuries the majority of players use no-nails the reverse would be true and one would presume that the general taste of players and listeners would have shifted accordingly. There is then an issue of debate over fact as to whether greater variety of tone is objectively available with nails. I sense that no-nailers who deny this may be doing so from a weak position, but they can probably argue about degrees of variety within that envelope. But I'd say its a smaller envelope within which to have variety.

Off to apply 'stuff' to the groove in my 'a' finger!
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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Wed May 10, 2017 10:34 am

James Stephens wrote:That's good to know Mark.
I've always been a nail player and have always insisted my students use nails since that's​ currently the more common technique.
I choose to play with nails myself James - but I've taught many to play without.
James Stephens wrote:I want to be able to teach students without nails even though I'm a nail player. It looks like the right strings and perhaps coming up under the string a bit more is necessary? Any other tips?
Not especially - I don't consider the two methods to be particularly different. I teach an oblique, deep, pushing tirando as the primary stroke, to be followed by apoyando once I judge the correct mechanics to have been acquired.

An "under the string" approach is not a necessity - in my experience it depends on the profile of the fingertip and the amount of flexion of the distal and intermediate phalanges.

In the first instance I find that lower tension strings are helpful. After between 6-12 months a slight change in the skin on the fingertip can usually be observed (not a callous but a sort of "firming up") at which point we switch to medium tension.

I have no view on which is "better", but to suggest that one cannot become a professional without nails is demonstrably false. The lack of nail can easily be seen as advantageous in the pursuit of one range of timbre whilst not another - vive la difference.

Majority tastes change that's all.

S. Alfonso in Sanz’s Introducción de Musica 1674 wrote:There are some who play with the nails, who ravish the senses, and others who grate the nerves.
Thomas Mace in Musicke's Monument 1676 wrote:take notice, that you Strike not your Strings with your Nails, as some do, who maintain it the Best way of Play, but I do not, and for this reason ; because the Nail cannot draw so sweet a sound from a Lute, as the nibble end of the Flesh can do.
Mateo Carcassi in Méthode complète 1835 wrote:To obtain a full and soft sound one should pluck firmly, but without rigidity using the tips of the fingers whilst avoiding contact with the nails against the strings which should be plucked a little obliquely. (My translation)
There have been dozens of opinions over the last 400 years - some are unequivocal like Mace and Carcassi. Others take a more open view e.g. Emilio Pujol in his "Metodo Razionale" where he describes both approaches.

Interestingly, for one who was taught by Tárrega (famously forced to play using flesh in latter years) Pujol ultimately expresses a preference for nails.

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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by James Stephens » Wed May 10, 2017 11:59 am

Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 10:34 am
.....
I have no view on which is "better", but to suggest that one cannot become a professional without nails is demonstrably false. The lack of nail can easily be seen as advantageous in the pursuit of one range of timbre whilst not another - vive la difference.
.....
I agree and thanks for the rest of your thoughtful reply. I appreciate it.

:merci:
James

ddray
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by ddray » Wed May 10, 2017 12:07 pm

DevonBadger wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 4:19 am
Hi davekear,

Do you have any advice on the optimum length and shape of nails?

I see you run a website which sells artificial nails; do these come in different lengths / shapes?

Thanks in advance.
That's another potentially contentious subject. According to Scott Tennant my nails (which I haven't trimmed in a while and are as long as my fingertip) are at optimum length right now. Parkening has very long nails. Which authority is correct?
I get the suspicion sometimes that a lot of this is over-analysis and making non-essentials essential, which can happen in the arts.

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Isabelle Frizac
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by Isabelle Frizac » Wed May 10, 2017 12:37 pm

The length of the nails does not value the guitarist.


Musicality, sensitivity and interpretation are more important values for me (I play without nail) :guitare:
keep hope !
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ddray
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by ddray » Wed May 10, 2017 1:05 pm

Isabelle Frizac wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 12:37 pm
The length of the nails does not value the guitarist.


Musicality, sensitivity and interpretation are more important values for me (I play without nail) :guitare:
I believe that's true. I have a lot of respect for the learning and skill of Eliot Fisk and Andrew York. I believe both have nice long nails and the posture etc seems to be kosher...but yet I find their interpretations of Bach to be horrendous. Nails-on-blackboard horrendous.

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tateharmann
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by tateharmann » Wed May 10, 2017 5:26 pm

It's kind of comical that the O.P. didn't even ask whether or not it's generally acceptable to play without nails. He asked if anyone else played without nails...and we took him away on a debate/tangent.

Short and simple - yes, others play without nails.

Right here on the forum:
Rob
Isabel
Kacper
myself (since half-way through 2015)

And many, many more throughout history. Some at a very competent professional level :)
"Speed is the enemy of emotion." - Emilio Pujol Vilarrubi

ddray
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by ddray » Wed May 10, 2017 5:38 pm

tateharmann wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 5:26 pm
It's kind of comical that the O.P. didn't even ask whether or not it's generally acceptable to play without nails. He asked if anyone else played without nails...and we took him away on a debate/tangent.

Short and simple - yes, others play without nails.

Right here on the forum:
Rob
Isabel
Kacper
myself (since half-way through 2015)

And many, many more throughout history. Some at a very competent professional level :)
Well you have to go off on a tangent to defend your "freakishness" or "heresy". It's not possible to say "I play primarily without nails" and let it go at that.

I'll tell you though, like I said my nails are at a length right now that Tennant says is optimal. I may just leave pima on the right hand unshorn and try playing with nails for a couple of weeks or so.

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tateharmann
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by tateharmann » Wed May 10, 2017 6:44 pm

ddray wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 5:38 pm
I'll tell you though, like I said my nails are at a length right now that Tennant says is optimal. I may just leave pima on the right hand unshorn and try playing with nails for a couple of weeks or so.
Yes! And there's nothing wrong with that :) I don't file mine down every day so sometimes they do get longish enough to get a more brilliant nail-like sound. I actually use a more Luque-esque approach by allowing the white part of the nail to grow out and conform to the tip shape.

Typically in my playing, however, in any given stroke only the flesh ever makes contact with the string...even on the follow through.

Cheers!
"Speed is the enemy of emotion." - Emilio Pujol Vilarrubi

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eno
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by eno » Wed May 10, 2017 9:07 pm

ddray wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 12:07 pm
That's another potentially contentious subject. According to Scott Tennant my nails (which I haven't trimmed in a while and are as long as my fingertip) are at optimum length right now. Parkening has very long nails. Which authority is correct?
I get the suspicion sometimes that a lot of this is over-analysis and making non-essentials essential, which can happen in the arts.
Neither authority is correct. Again, differnt lengths produce different sounds and it's entirely a matter of taste and personal preference.
I use short nails sticking ~1mm above the flesh and I know many other guitarists with similarly short nails, but we are probably still a minority. Most of the guitarists use nails length around what is defined "optimum" according to Tenant, and yet many others use even longer nails.

I find playing with shorter nails technically easier (for me) and I prefer smoother sound they produce as opposed to longer nails. But other people prefer longer nails for brighter sound, faster attack etc.

Another aspect is the shape. There is a big variety of shapes but the most common I think is slightly elliptical. I use perfectly round shapes for the same reason again - they produce smoother sound and they are easier to play because they require minimum effort to pluck. Elliptical shapes produce brighter sound and can reach higher volumes (important for concert performers) so many people prefer that. But I still use elliptical shape for the thumb.

Anyone should experiment with different lengths and shapes and decide what works best for their particular taste.
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ddray
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Re: Anyone not use nails?

Post by ddray » Wed May 10, 2017 10:25 pm

Thanks tateharmann and Eno for your insight and information. I'm just learning. I will try playing with nails though of the "short" variety that I have now, maybe filed a bit here and there. It's just not practical or possible to go around with very long nails. It'll take some adjustments and even more learning but I'm going to give it a try. Thanks again to all.

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