Nails wearing down during practice

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
craigh
Posts: 64
Joined: Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:38 am

Nails wearing down during practice

Post by craigh » Sun Sep 02, 2018 3:54 am

I know there’s many discussions about this particular topic , but I have a different inquiry.
I’ve been playing for 20+ years and obviously have dealt with nail wear etc. But , what I’m curious about is whenever I get the ideal nail shape , after an hour or so the nails obviously have a little spot where it makes contact with the strings and that’s to be expected. But , what I’ve noticed is that when I try to buff it out using micro mesh or something similar , I can never get the “ ideal “ shape and feel back. I can make it workable , and even close up it looks nice and smooth. Anyone else have this issue ? Or some insight on what I am doing wrong ? For years I’ve just dealt with it , so that’s what I’m used to but I thought it was time to throw it into the forum ... thanks

davekear
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Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by davekear » Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:43 am

Well it's been 6 days, and no one's chimed in, so I'll give you my 2 cents. Every little thing you do with your nails will effect your feel and tone. The anatomy of tone as it relates to fingernails is a pretty interesting subject. As your nail wears, you will have a bit more of a challenge getting a fuller tone as the left edge wears away. The fuller the nail, the more the initial contact point will be the left (thumb) side of the nail. And as it wears, the initial contact point will be more towards the center of the nail. This can be controlled to a certain extent in how you angle your hand, but generally speaking this is true. You can reinforce just the contact point with some glue and wrap, (or n-Butyl cyanoacrylate if you got it) and this will decrease the amount of wear at this point. This is just one example of many nail adventures that can affect your tone.

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Sat Sep 08, 2018 2:33 am

Nail wear is going to happen due to the nature of playing. However excessive nail wear which significantly distorts the nail shape can be caused by poor preparation as you play. Over the years, as my technique has developed, I've grown comfortable not needing the "perfect" nail shape. It's a lot like needing a perfect seat height. Anything not exactly what I need becomes distracting. Being versatile I think is important for this point. With that said, having a good workable nail shape is important. When I start to hear my sound changing, or feeling a problem with the nail then I take to shape it again. My usual process is doing a nail "make over" about every week or so - to deal with the nail growing out and nail wear. Over the course of the week I'll buff and polish to deal with the smoothness wearing down and slight nail distortions if I feel it's necessary.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

simonm
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Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by simonm » Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:28 am

No experience as my nails are never anywhere near what they should be for serious playing. So a typical internet expert answer. :-)

The only thought that strikes me is that a more frequent "touch up" might help. i.e. touch-up after 30 mins playing or an hour.

craigh
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Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by craigh » Sun Sep 09, 2018 1:31 am

Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 2:33 am
Over the years, as my technique has developed, I've grown comfortable not needing the "perfect" nail shape.
Yes , I agree . I am the same way . My technique allows my nails normal wear , and now that I use fake nails for all fingers except the thumb , I've been able to experiment a bit more .I can still play well with the little burrs that develop on the corner. Sometimes a different angle of the hand or even I add a bit more flesh . Depends upon the piece. I have finally gotten the nail shape I need , and yes , if they do wear down I am able to go a ways until i need to do real filing on them . Buffing right now buys me enough time until I change out the fake nails every week or so . I also understand that with all the different nail treatments I've used in the past ( ping pong balls , acrylic , silk wraps ) , each will wear down differently . But , what I am using now wears slowly and I can get a week ( sometime 2 ) out of them . If not buffed properly they can sound plasticky ... but I'm willing to put in the extra effort to have nails that are pretty solid overall .

davekear
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Location: California

Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by davekear » Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:31 am

craigh, what type of artificial nails are you using? Do you apply them yourself? What about your ideal shape and feel are you losing? Are you losing diversity of tone? Highs? Clarity? Depending on what type of artificial nail you're using, there are various things you can do to customize your tone and feel before AND after application. That's one advantage of using artificial nails, the ability to experiment and customize your tone. We've had a lot of experience with this. Let me know what's up, I'll give you some suggestions.

craigh
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Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by craigh » Sun Sep 09, 2018 5:10 am

hey Dave ,
I am using something very similar to your pre-formed nails . I've tried a bunch of the OTC fake nails and the current batch I have are by far the best . I like warm guitar tones , so I'm not worried about losing the high end too much. If I need more high end , I just use more nail . My style is in the Baden Powell , Egberto Gismonti Brazilian guitar realm , and Ive actually had more issues with trying to get rid of high end than anything . Now , the tone is warm ( since I finally found the ideal nail shape ) and like i said if i need more high end clarity , i just play more on the nail . I did notice a difference a few weeks ago when I put silk wraps over the tops of the fake nails . I did it to see if it would slow down the wear even more . It seemed to a bit , but I did not expect the tonal difference . I had no idea just placing some glue and silk wrap over even the fake nail would " warm " up the tone . I think you even mention something like that in one of your tutorials . What I love about the fake nails is it allowed me to experiment to get the right shape . I used ping pong balls for years , and my teacher from 20 years ago still uses them to this day .But , gluing them under the nails eventually didn't work for me , and the preformed nails have a nice curve to them that doesn't require me to bend them with tweezers for 20 minutes . Funny thing is is that my natural nails are hard as rock. Never have a problem growing nails , but when I wanted experiment with the shape , I was too impatient for them to grow back if I wasn't happy with the outcome . So , I am a big big fan of artificial nails ...

davekear
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Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by davekear » Sun Sep 09, 2018 6:21 am

Yea, there's a lot of advantages using good artificial nails. I haven't used my real nails in over 30 years. All pre-formed nails are made out of ABS plastic, which is a bit soft. If they're too thick, you get no tone. So the ones we have are designed to be used with wrap. The result of this is a nail which has good diversity of tone. Which means a complete sound palette from a warm dolce to a bright ponticello. You should be able to get all of this with one nail. You can also use n-Butyl cyanoacrylate on top with no wrap. It's great stuff. Does not impart any brittleness to the underlying nail. A good rule of thumb when using artificial nails is to apply them so that there's no gap at the front of the nail where the natural and artificial nail meet. That way you get a standard result. Angle of application really matters a lot. I usually like to increase the downward angle a bit from there for a bit more bite. Also you can adjust the tone after application by bending the nail to customize your tone. Should be done after wrap is added.

craigh
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Joined: Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:38 am

Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by craigh » Sun Sep 09, 2018 6:10 pm

Yeah , I remember a few times when I had first start using artificial nails , that I didn’t size them right for my fingers and actually had a bigger nail than I naturally had. It was an interesting experiment to have more nail surface area hitting the string. My technique has changed a bit since then and that shape wouldn’t work now , but I wouldn’t be opposed to trying it again. I do want to try your GPNs one of these days to see what other possibilities there are.
Also , since I wrote the original post , I’ve had minimal issues with wear and buffing/polishing. Seems like with the current shape I am using I haven’t had to touch them other than light buffing every 3rd day or so.

davekear
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Location: California

Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by davekear » Sun Sep 09, 2018 6:46 pm

Well, bottom line with nails is if what you're doing is working, stick with it. I personally love artificial nails because of the ability to customize my tone. I like a nice full sound, but at the same time I also have the ability to achieve a clear, bright tone with minimal effort. This is important especially for pieces that call for a lot of dexterity. And I'm a huge Bach fan...so I need it. Here's an example of what I'm referring to. Here's my version of Bach's BWV 998 Allegro. You got to be really light on your fingers for this one:
The other nice thing about using artificial nails is that you never have any nail worries. No nail emergencies. I can remove an old nail, put on a new one, and be ready to play in 3 minutes. Nail heaven!

craigh
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Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by craigh » Wed Sep 12, 2018 6:00 am

Great playing Dave ! Bach is my favorite for sure to play on guitar. I’d need to get my hands on that piece myself. Great one. What guitar are you playing ?

davekear
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Location: California

Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by davekear » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:13 pm

craigh wrote:
Wed Sep 12, 2018 6:00 am
Great playing Dave ! Bach is my favorite for sure to play on guitar. I’d need to get my hands on that piece myself. Great one. What guitar are you playing ?
Thanks craigh. Yea, that's a great Bach piece. The guitar is a Kenny Hill La Curva. It's a bit dead, but not bad for what it is. I'm an old rock-n-roller, so I'm spoiled by upper fret access :) . That's why all of my guitars are cutaways. I just happen to feel function trumps tradition. Which limits my guitar selection quite a bit. I play a lot of pop tunes, I have over 50 hours repertoire memorized, and in a lot of those tunes my arrangements include full chords above the 12th fret. I am thinking of throwing in the towel and maybe getting a Yulong Guo Double-Top. Mostly just for recording. They have a bit of a raised fingerboard, but still not the same. I had a Michael Thames at one time.... great guitar, but kept hitting that 12th fret barrier. I'm getting old, too much work. Thus the cutaway. C'mon, where would Hendrix be with just 12 frets?

ronjazz
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Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by ronjazz » Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:55 pm

Hendrix would be exactly where he now resides, no matter how many frets, unfortunately. But perhaps you should find a luthier to build you a really good guitar with a cutaway, it can be done. I agree with you, but I'm a jazzer as well as a classical and flamenco player, and my Godin Multiac Nylon 7-string with cutaway is really great. In concert, I generally use a conventional concert flamenco guitar by Paco de Lucia's American maker Lester Devoe, but I play the classical and flamenco repertoire, so don't really need the cutaway, but I know that it would be even better to have one!!
Lester Devoe Flamenco Negra
Lester Devoe Flamenco Blanca
Aparicio Flamenco Blanca with RMC pickup
Bartolex 7-string with RMC pickup
Giannini 7-string with Shadow pickup
Sal Pace 7-string archtop

davekear
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Location: California

Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by davekear » Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:53 pm

ronjazz wrote:
Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:55 pm
Hendrix would be exactly where he now resides, no matter how many frets, unfortunately.
I don't know, strats have 22 frets. Don't think Jimi would've been too happy with access to just over twelve.

guit-box
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Re: Nails wearing down during practice

Post by guit-box » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:30 am

There's another approach to installing acrylic nails that involves dipping the nail into the acrylic powder instead of the other way of shaping a bead on top of the nail. What interests me with this method is that it can be easily done left handed (DIY), it can go on evenly and thinner if you like that, it reinforces the natural nail instead of creating a fake nail (unless you want a nail tip, I prefer my own nail underneath), and apparently there's no bad smell like traditional acrylic application. For our purposes we'd use the clear powder obviously, but you can search youtube for tutorials if interested. Search "acrylic nail dipping application tutorial"
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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