Experimenting with nail solutions

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
essiecab
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Joined: Tue May 29, 2018 3:30 am

Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by essiecab » Sun Jan 27, 2019 8:13 pm

I have been playing some classical guitar for almost a year now, and up until now I have simply used my fingers, flesh only. I have never used any kind of fake nails in the past, or even nail polish, and have always kept all of my nails trimmed off, but now I am wanting to experiment with using nails. I play classical and also steel string so I need to find something that will work for both. With bare nails, it hurts a little (and the fingernails lift or bend slightly) when I do a free stroke on the steel string and it's affecting how I play.

So I have grown my nails a little bit past the tips of my fingers, and this weekend I tried doing silk wraps. I mainly used the James Taylor video for instructions, as well as reading quite a bit here and on youtube. They don't look good, but for my first try I'm pretty happy so far. I made them the same length as my natural nails. I like that they are so thin and don't feel bulky on my fingers. However, I'm not sure if they will hold up with the steel strings. They just don't feel hard enough, and I find myself not plucking as hard as I want to. It feels like it's only a slight improvement in strength.

The material I used is silk, and I'm not sure but it's my undertanding that fiberglass wraps are stronger? Wondering if anyone has experience with that.

Do those of you that use acrylic nails (self-applied) cover the entire nail bed with them? And do you extend them out so they're longer than your natural nails, or do you trim them to just cover your nail? It's all rather mysterious for this nail newbie!

dtoh
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Re: Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by dtoh » Mon Jan 28, 2019 6:16 am

Essiecab,

Different things work for different people. I only play nylon string (classical) guitars. I use soft gel. I have the gel treatments done every three weeks by a professional nailist/manicurist. I have the gel applied just on the top half of the nail. I used to do the entire nail, but I found that caused some drying and weakening of the nail. For me, soft gel is the best solution in terms of overall ease of nail care, good feel, good tone, and appearance (they look totally natural.) I think the only downside is the cost... about $35 per treatment. I file and polish my nails the same way I would natural nails.

In the past, I tried extending the length of my nails using gel. It works OK, but the once your nails achieve the right natural length, there is really no need to do this.

I believe many acoustic (steel string) guitar players use acrylic (either DIY or salon) treatments instead of soft gel. The durability is better with acrylics but it results in stiffer nails which causes some loss of feel and tone (IME.)

I would suggest you try different things and see what works for you including thickness of the silk wrap, gel or acrylic layer. For me soft gel has been miraculous, but I really think it depends on the person.

a human
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Re: Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by a human » Mon Jan 28, 2019 2:05 pm

I am a minimalist and do not expect extravagantly long guitar nails. Winter is hardest on my nails. My goal is a fairly natural shape and only a little long. I am currently using Sally Hansen hard as nails clear polish on my right hand. My thumb nail is growing out a disaster, so I use several layers of silk wrap over about half to reinforce it. I think wrapping the whole nail is not necessary and a bit fussy to maintain. I've not tried the fiberglass wraps. Lately, my main playing has been on the nylon string guitars. I like applying cuticle and hand cream daily, too.
1965 Krempel Classical (660ish mm)
The rest come and go.

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Christopher Freitag
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Location: New York, USA

Re: Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by Christopher Freitag » Mon Jan 28, 2019 4:24 pm

I started using Guitar Player Nails last Thanksgiving when both my "m" and "a" nails broke at the same time. It took me a couple of tries to get them on right, and practice has improved my application and cut the time down. I liked the sound with two fingers well enough that around the first of the year I cut my index nail short and put an artificial nail on that as well. My natural nail on that finder is very flat and hooks, so the fake nail is actually an improvement.

This past weekend my M and A nails had grown out to the point where I was able to take the fakes off, file and shape my nails, and play "au naturel." The nail beds look fine. But I must say I am already missing the slightly fuller sound I get from the player's nails and will probably trim my own nails back and put new ones on this weekend.

Now, the downside of these nails is that they look pretty obvious...as if walking around with long nails isn't problem enough. I'm so used to the occasional odd looks that it doesn't bother me, but as someone new to playing it might bother you. Another option to consider are the Rico Nails, which you attach with Glue Dots and remove after you play. I've used those with success, and they also have a very nice sound. But for me, the hassle of putting them on and taking them off at each practice session makes them less attractive as anything other than an emergency replacement.
Chris Freitag

2013 German Vasquez Rubio Concert Special "Bernardi"; German spruce/Brazilian rosewood
2014 Garrett (Gary) Lee spruce/cedar double top; Brazilian rosewood

a human
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Re: Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by a human » Mon Jan 28, 2019 4:36 pm

The other consideration is the impact of a nail failure to you. It can range from being an annoyance or inconvenience to
forcing you to play poorly in front of a large paying or important audience. This will drive how much time and money you will want to invest. Example - JT makes a sizeable living playing his guitar, so his tolerance for nail failures is quite low.
1965 Krempel Classical (660ish mm)
The rest come and go.

celestemcc
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Re: Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by celestemcc » Mon Jan 28, 2019 5:28 pm

I use natural nails whenever I can, and fakes if I do break one... I've had best luck with Guitar Player Nails preformed (their new Type 2 nail is terrific) and the drugstore press-on or glue-on fake nails. I've favored those in the past because my hands are small and I can get a good fit, but they do look a bit girly. Whichever you use though, the method Dave Kear describes at GPN works very well, I recommend it.
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

essiecab
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Joined: Tue May 29, 2018 3:30 am

Re: Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by essiecab » Tue Jan 29, 2019 1:01 pm

Thanks everyone. I forgot to say that I have tried Rico Nails and they are okay, but I felt like it was too much fussing around, and I felt that same hesitancy to pluck strongly. I have just started learning about gels, I will read up some more on that. I think I will try fiberglass next, and after that Guitar Player Nails.

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bear
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Re: Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by bear » Tue Jan 29, 2019 1:16 pm

I play both cg and electric (jazz). I have thin nails and I use nail for both. My solution is short nails with multiple coats of "Sally Hansen Double Duty".
2013 Jeff Medlin '37 Hauser 640mm sp
2006 Michele Della Giustina Concert 10 string 650mm ce
2005 Jose Ramirez 4E 650mm ce
2005 Manuel Rodriguez Model C3F 650mm sp
2003 Manuel Rodriguez Model D 650mm ce

westcoastblues
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Location: London

Re: Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by westcoastblues » Thu Mar 07, 2019 1:40 pm

I use acrylic nails, applied in a nail bar. I tried doing it myself but it is harder than it looks.
They are rock hard and will survive nylon or steel wound strings. I have never broken one in more than a year of use. I like the very clear, loud sound they produce, but it is probably easier to play with a more subtle feel with natural nails. Keep the acrylic nails short to allow some flesh to make contact with the string.

essiecab
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Joined: Tue May 29, 2018 3:30 am

Re: Experimenting with nail solutions

Post by essiecab » Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:50 pm

So here's what I've tried so far:

Sally Hansen Hard as Nails: I like this stuff but it seemed like my nails broke very easily while wearing it.

Nailtiques 2 (and 2 Plus): It felt too flexible and didn't seem to strengthen my nails that much.

Silk Wrap: I liked it but it felt only marginally stronger than Nailtiques. I haven't found the fiberglass wrap yet but will try that at some point.

GPN Type 1 with silk wrap: I liked them, they have a "springy" feel that is fast along the strings. I hate that they are not clear though. I need to try them without the wrap to see if they are strong enough and if they sound too bright to me. I don't really know what kind of tone I like yet.

GPN Type 2 without wrap: These are the clear nails. I liked the sound of them, and they are strong, but they had a weird kind of "soft" feel that felt like it dragged very slightly on the strings. That could very easily have been because I'm still new to all of this and didn't file under my nails enough. But I prefer the "feel" of the type 1 nails. I also broke two thumbnails in one week.

I definitely like the way the fake nails sound, so I am going to continue experimenting. westcoastblues, I have heard about acrylics and am going to try acrylic powder pretty soon. Am also interested in hard gels but I'll probably try those at a later date. This is all very confusing and so much of the terminology sounds the same, it's been really tough wrapping my brain around it, even with all the help on here and at GPN. I guess it will just take time to sort it all out!

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