I am (was? ) an advanced player.
It's been 4 days... I've dedicated a few hrs each day since to explore this with an open mind.
I'd like to share some observations with the aim that my account could help inform someone else's decision to try this.
First things first:
- Soul searching to make sure I wasn't self-sabotaging due to latent bias vis-a-vis nailless technique. I ultimately concluded that I was able to give it an honest shake. (essential)
- I read a fair amount about no-nail technique, browsed topics on DC, listened to no-nail performers... (highly recommended)
- Knowing that my modern guitars with their high-tension strings would be perhaps less recommended for nailless technique, I decided to just start there, see what happened and once the strings were worn out, try other recommended solutions. This made sense to me because I was quite aware of what I could do on those guitars with those strings with nails and felt this would form a good initial baseline. (personal taste)
- Knowing that I would need to adjust my finger placement and articulation I began experimenting with current repertory. Immediately discovered that for now anyway I would need to shorten my nails *as far as I possibly could* without bleeding. My nails are very thick, so even after doing this, I found that I needed to file the curb of the nail at an angle.
- Began focusing on plucking motion, finger placement, angles, etc. while listening for the full, warm sound that I knew was possible. This yielded surprisingly positive results. So I would just play some stuff, listen, think about it, maybe try some different RH approaches, play some more... take breaks.
- Intuitively went straight to Sor's music for further experimentation - he was a consummate musician, guitarist, and nailless player. Since following Jorge's recent deep dive on op.60, I decided this would be a perfect place to start. Interestingly two thoughts occurred to me right away: Sor's fingerings (general use of p,m,i and LH in pieces) made more sense - almost magically - as does the notion to use lower or open positions when possible
- Very loose experimentation with techniques that I knew could be problematic (fast loud anything really). For this I tested some of my (previously?) core repertory: El Decameron Negro, Tango en Skai... I found several problems here, but also (oddly) concluded that I didn't find anything that I felt couldn't be overcome with dedicated effort to re-form plucking/articulation technique. With the Brouwer I'm still not convinced I'll get a clear gallop in the valley of echoes at 1/8 = 200 or so, but this may be okay. The intro to Sor op.9 is easier...
- It is much easier to moderate dynamics and to play softly in general. (playing with nails clearly and with good tone and projection but at piano is very, very difficult in my experience - nailless playing will likely bring it's own challenges here)
- Harmonics are generally easier to articulate - both in terms of volume and clarity
- LH slurs make more sense in terms of tone production, e.g. they don't contrast so sharply with the plucking articulation and accordingly don't interfere with sense of rhythmic onset patterns in the same way.
- Any roughness of the skin on RH pads causes scratchy sound, and skinny, hight tension strings, e.g. high E seem to make this more obvious. I've taken to smoothing my fingertips with sandpaper (there's some irony there).
- So far my P and A fingers are producing the best tone - trying to solve the riddle of why A sounds so much better than I and M. I suspect it's angle of attack, size/characteristics of finger pad. Anyway...
AND.... my ren lute is way, way, more fun to play now.
There's some thoughts to consider for now - and best of luck and wishes for anyone else embarking on a similar journey!