I saw the post below that includes a video of a very talented guitarist playing without nails, and not wanting to divert that thread, I have started a new topic.
Well, the performance shows that it's possible to play well without nails -- a necessity for the featured guitarist, since he was also (primarily?) a pianist. My own experience with nail-less playing consisted of my first year or so of lessons, in which I was mostly unaware of any deficiency in the approach. However, my guitar teacher convinced me to grow my nails just beyond the fingertips. Over time, I realized that this nail length was adequate for p, i and m, but for a, I needed a conspicuously long and strangely shaped nail.
Eventually, I found the right length and shape, and overall I must admit that my playing sounds better with nails. The one shortcoming is the perennial "metallic" sound made by the a finger. Rob MacKillop mentions this in his essay in support of nail-less playing. But, in spite of this, I still come down on the "with" side. This, obviously, is just my opinion, but my playing sounds better with nails than without: I am able to achieve a greater variety of tones and greater volume; it's easier for me to control the contrast in voices; and it's much easier to play quickly, especially certain types of ornamentation, like cross-string trills.
Still, I hate having that long a nail; and the thumbnail also sticks out like, uh, a sore thumb. So, as an experiment, I have taken up fake nails, secured by glue dots for the a and p fingers. Many of you have suggested this in these forums... but I was also skeptical of this approach, believing that there is no way glue dots could provide a strong enough bond. My finding, however, is that the ultra-thin glue dots hold very well, for the most part, for the duration of my practice sessions. I apply a total of four glue dots -- two to each nail (p and a)-- being careful to cover as much surface as possible, especially at the bottom of the nail, and also being careful to minimize the amount of overlap of the glue dots. The idea is to ensure that the layer of glue is as thin as possible; it's a mistake, I've found, to think that a thicker layer of glue will provide a better bond. The opposite is true: if the glue becomes thick because of the overlap of the dots, there's actually a greater tendency for the fake nail to pull away from the surface of your real nail. I assume this is because the glue has an elasticity, as distinct from the glue that is normally used to affix fake nails. So I keep a thin surface of adhesive, sometimes even cutting the glue dots in half vertically to avoid overlap. (This sounds like a lot of work, but I promise, once the nails are shaped properly, they can be used repeatedly; and it takes no more than 5 minutes to apply them).
The advantages of this solution are: 1) I don't need to walk around with long and weirdly shaped nails on a and p, which in my case I should have entered in the "cringiest things" about classical guitar thread; 2) the fake nails can be used over and over again, as I mentioned, by just peeling off the glue dots; 3) they can be used as templates: when they finally wear out, you can use them to shape their replacements; and 4) the a nail sounds much better than its natural counterpart: it has a much warmer, non-metallic tone that is more consistent with the natural nails on i, m and p. I guess this is either because of the plastic is thicker than my natural nail; or it's simply because the plastic is softer or more pliable. In any case, I promise, as long as it holds, it sounds much better than my real nail.
The main disadvantages is that the bond is not always perfect: when the whether is hot, the glue is softer and the nails seem not to adhere for as long. The slight pulling away from the surface results in that metallic sound returning. And when it begins to pull away, I find that, without being fully conscious of this, I begin to compensate by either favoring other fingers or by adjusting hand position. This cannot be good! So I have to remember to keep a mental check on how well the glue is holding.
Nevertheless, this has been working for me, and I thought I should pass this suggestion along. Maybe you, too, have students who don't want to or cannot grow nails; and this is not a bad solution. I figure the total cost for a year of daily glue dots (one practice session per day) and the fake nails is no more than $30.
By the way, if anyone knows of a very strong, non-toxic, water-based adhesive, please let me know. I would like to improve over the bond of the glue dots, somehow. Maybe there's another way?
All the best,
Last edited by markworthi on Mon Aug 08, 2016 9:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.