Given up on fingernails...

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
kapustinnik

Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by kapustinnik » Thu Mar 31, 2016 7:53 am

As coming from a jazz background, I always played without nails... Maybe nail will be better for that bright corny classicals in major keys, but I find fingertips and thumb tone to be more warm, pianistic, and contemporary.

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by RobMacKillop » Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:44 am

I'm all for playing without nails, but what does "bright corny classicals in major keys" refer to?

I try never to disparage the tone or playing of others. Everyone is trying their best. I prefer to concentrate on making the best sound I can make, irrespective of what other people are doing. We all have different experiences, and hear different things. It's all good. Just try to enjoy playing the guitar, and not waste time criticising the playing of others. I play without nails because I'm driven to do so - I like the sound it makes - not because I don't like the sound other people make.

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tateharmann
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by tateharmann » Fri Apr 01, 2016 9:32 pm

I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately, probably much more than I should be :/

Today I went to a lute concert (a duo) and both lutenists were playing without nails on gut strings (gut frets too.) And the sound was lovely, it was easily loud enough to fill the whole small sized auditorium that the concert took place in. I've been listening to lute more than ever at this particular time in my life. I've really come to enjoy it along with vihuela and baroque guitar (oh and ukulele too). And it seems like in this genre the preferred technique is to play without nails.

I think if there were more famous classical guitar players today that played without nails it would be a more popular technique. Anyways, I like what's happening as of late (especially on this forum hehe) and on YouTube and places like Rob's site.

It's funny to me that the sound isn't even that different, especially to someone who doesn't play. The differences are subtle enough and to try to describe them in detail might be sort of silly as sound is a pretty subjective thing...but here's what I have come up with so far:

Nail-less playing - smooth, delicate, creamy, buttery (all adjectives that could be used to describe dairy products as well!)
Nail playing - articulate, penetrating, bright, loud.

Obviously, these are generalities as one can play smooth and buttery with nails or penetrating and loud without them.

Do whatever sounds good to you as you make your music.

I'd like to add that I've never had problems growing my nails, I've just cut them off to experiment with nail-less playing. It's been around six months now, here's my latest effort: viewtopic.php?f=48&t=103640

I DO think that long fingernails are quite disgusting, though...IMHO :p
Last edited by tateharmann on Fri Apr 01, 2016 9:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them."

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tateharmann
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by tateharmann » Fri Apr 01, 2016 9:33 pm

...
Last edited by tateharmann on Fri Apr 01, 2016 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them."

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tateharmann
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by tateharmann » Fri Apr 01, 2016 9:34 pm

Oops duplicate post..
"One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them."

cowboyinaf

Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by cowboyinaf » Sat Apr 02, 2016 8:36 am

I the exact same problem. Good Lord, I must have tried every quack remedy, short of sacrificing a live chicken. My nails are thin and so weak that they break before they achieve any length at all.

I appreciate the other perspectives about just learning to play nailless. I think that is probably good advice. But I went a different route, and I've never looked back. I made friends with the local nail parlor and they have worked with me to come up with a very sweet sounding nail. You can choose different widths, and you can file them to any shape you would like (though it does necessitate a very rough grain sanding board - the nail parlors have them).

They put the nail on and I adjust the length and shape when I get home. Initially, I also had problems with the mfg nails, because they would fall off inside of a week. But the nail person I work with found an organic product (SNS) that has fixed that, and now I only have to go in about once a month.

So, just an alternative idea. Once I got over my shyness from being the only guy in the nail parlor, it's all worked out very well. For me.

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tateharmann
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by tateharmann » Sun Apr 03, 2016 3:40 pm

cowboyinaf wrote:I made friends with the local nail parlor and they have worked with me to come up with a very sweet sounding nail. You can choose different widths, and you can file them to any shape you would like (though it does necessitate a very rough grain sanding board - the nail parlors have them).

They put the nail on and I adjust the length and shape when I get home. Initially, I also had problems with the mfg nails, because they would fall off inside of a week. But the nail person I work with found an organic product (SNS) that has fixed that, and now I only have to go in about once a month.

So, just an alternative idea. Once I got over my shyness from being the only guy in the nail parlor, it's all worked out very well. For me.
That is an awesome story! :)
"One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them."

KeithRoddey

Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by KeithRoddey » Sun Apr 03, 2016 4:34 pm

For those who do choose to play with nails, the one thing I found that makes a big difference in keeping ones nails from accidental breakage (and then having to resort to crazy glue and mesh, which is certainly not a good thing...but you lose a nail it's like losing a finger), is to always carry around a little piece of 400-600 grade sandpaper in ones pocket. You feel a rough spot, smooth it out there and then. Don't wait until it's too late, it catches on something and breaks. Always be prepared; carry a little square of sand paper.

Bechstein65437

Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by Bechstein65437 » Mon Apr 04, 2016 8:54 am

:merci: to all for the interesting replies! It's good to know that I'm far from alone in this predicament :)

Rob - your website has given me the motivation I needed to do something constructive about solving the problem. Thanks a ton! I know that I'll probably have to do quite a lot of experimenting before I find what works best for me, but just knowing that it can work is what I need just now...

In addition to classical guitar, I also play a lot of Bavarian folk music, which involves mostly plucked chords - fatal for soft fingernails :( I think I'll try out some sort of finger picks for that, as I need a lot of volume so as not to be overpowered by my trio partners - a very enthusiastic accordionist and a slightly more modest double bassist :wink:

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by RobMacKillop » Mon Apr 04, 2016 10:57 am

Glad to be of service!

Emaxxy

Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by Emaxxy » Tue Apr 05, 2016 11:36 pm

I've been a flesh player for about 4 years now. So basically my entire playing career. Mostly because I've had the bad habit of biting my nails. I finally quit and I'm going to try out nails. In my ensemble I always try to get the bass part due to usually being able to use my thumb for most of the music.

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rikart
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by rikart » Sat Apr 09, 2016 9:13 am

I have become somewhat obsessed with listening to the lute over the last few months - a glance at my Lute playlists [username Varvitski] on Youtube (a couple of hours there), and on Spotify (over 900 tracks to date), will confirm this.

So, I bought a lute.

As regards nails, my preference is 'without' on lute, and 'with' on guitar. If anyone can let me know how to grow back nails within, say, ten minutes, I'd be grateful. Failing that (!), has anyone found a good non-glue false nail solution? I've tried a couple of ideas without success so far.

tateharmann wrote:
Today I went to a lute concert (a duo) and both lutenists were playing without nails on gut strings (gut frets too.) And the sound was lovely, it was easily loud enough to fill the whole small sized auditorium that the concert took place in.

The differences (in the sound) are subtle enough and to try to describe them in detail might be sort of silly as sound is a pretty subjective thing...but here's what I have come up with so far:

Nail-less playing - smooth, delicate, creamy, buttery.
Nail playing - articulate, penetrating, bright, loud.

rikart /warwick harte

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by RobMacKillop » Sat Apr 09, 2016 10:55 am

Some lute players in the old days used nails. It's a myth that the never did.

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by Tonyyyyy » Sun Apr 10, 2016 3:41 pm

rikart wrote: As regards nails, my preference is 'without' on lute, and 'with' on guitar.
One compromise is to have just a little nail on the left-side, enough to catch when playing guitar . With a standard(?!) pinky on soundboard lute playing position you tend to play from the right side where mostly flesh contacts the string.

I don't use my ring fingermuch on lute and have the nail a little longer which can help bring out a melody on guitar.

I vary a bit depending on whether I am focusing more on guitar or lute

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Cat
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Re: Given up on fingernails...

Post by Cat » Sun Apr 10, 2016 5:53 pm

I'm dealing with nail frustration as we type. I usually get splitting that catches my clothing and needs to be filed and it gets very small just to avoid cutting it entirely. Not sure I'm willing to cut them yet, but I agree with Scott and keeping them short....

Laura
2015 Marlon Navarro Alvarez Student Classical, Spruce

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