Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by pima76 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 5:29 am

I find that maybe 1/8 of an inch or slightly less past the finger tip works well for me. anything more and I lose control of my strokes. usually I am confined to playing without nails which can be a real pain in terms of volume and articulation but due to the physical nature of my job and my flakey weak nails they break with regularity. I have not found a solution to this as I refuse to use acrylics so I suffer quietly.

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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by D.Cass » Sun Jan 04, 2015 9:20 pm

If 1 to 2 mm is considered short then I favor shorter nails. It seems to provide a more robust sound and yet warm tone, at least for me. I have noticed that shorter nails tend to favor the free stroke more by not getting caught in the strings. But the shape also has to be considered too. However, my thumb nail is like a dagger. I guess I like bass.

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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by koa_35 » Thu Jan 28, 2016 8:43 pm

So my question, is there a compromise on the nails that allows the tonal characteristics of the ramp but speed and accuracy of a rounded nail.


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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by guit-box » Wed Feb 03, 2016 8:27 pm

About one of the early posts on Kaori Muraji's pointy nails. I know of several professional musicians who disagree with the Tenant and Kanengeiser approaches to filing the nail mostly flat with a slight ramp -- either an up ramp or a down ramp. When Effortless Classical Guitar and Pumping Nylon came out, there wasn't much else out there with these kinds of specifics on nails. Now we can look at a lot of hands and nails and notice the nail shapes vary a lot. One thing that I found very interesting is a recent video by Kanengieser where he again talks about nails, but goes into much greater detail than he did in his video from 25 years ago. He again mentions not to file the nail into a point, but he very shortly mentions that if a person played with a hand position that tilted a lot towards the index finger, so the nail/flesh contact point is much further down from the finger tip, that then the pointy shape can work--because it's basically still a ramp, but you start the stroke lower and exit in the center of the nail. So, it's important to think about where on the nail the player starts the stroke and how that can affect the chosen nail shape.

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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by Jeff Whitney » Wed Feb 10, 2016 4:16 pm

I've just recently purchased Noad's book 1 "Solo Guitar Playing", although I have more books than practice time.

In the Lesson one chapter, he states "The nail itself should be shaped in an even curve, following the contour of the fingertip, with no corners at the side that might catch unevenly on the string". Looking at the pictures of his nails in the book, they seem to me to be a rounded (normal?) look.
They do not seem to extend much beyond the tip, and no abnormal shape, that is not filed to any sort of angle.

My question then is, do others follow this practice? Nail shape seems to me to be a very personal issue.
I know that some play "nailless" and others shape and grow length that to me seem extreme, but then again, I am an amateur and play for enjoyment only.

Thanks to all who contribute their thoughts to this forum. I could spend hours perusing it (just ask my wife).

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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by celestemcc » Wed Feb 10, 2016 5:30 pm

It's a starting place, if you're growing nails in for the first time... I'd love to do it, but it doesn't work for me, so my own happen to be ramped. But, as has been said before... it is a very personal issue. I will guess that most people agree on needing the right balance of flesh and nail, and that affects how you shape the nail (depending on your nails/fingers unique characteristics.) And only you and your teacher will know what sounds best, and only you can know what feels best while using good technique. Whatever shape you choose, keep those edges smooth and polished, on that we can all agree.
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by precsmo » Fri Feb 12, 2016 2:07 pm

Shorter nails for better tones is a big no way to me. I thought the same in the earlier years. It is more important of how nail shapes and how with buffthe nails to have good tones. It has spent me so many so many years to find my best way to shape and buff my nails. For me, am having relatively long nails. Bu not too long as for some players though

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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by Pje53 » Fri Feb 12, 2016 2:19 pm

Short nails of approximately 2mm definitely works best for me. I too have weak nails that split and break if I let them go beyond this length. I also find that short helps keep my figure timings spot on giving a very smooth and even tremolo.

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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by Grace5 » Sat Feb 13, 2016 10:46 am

I have come across players who could produce warm tone with long nails, guess the way the strings are plucked plays an important role too.

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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by Jack Douglas » Tue Apr 26, 2016 1:33 am

Short, somewhat flat, slightly rounded but filed, buffed and polished like glass works best for me. Longer nails tend to clack and the tone is not as warm. But short as described produces a beautiful tone. I've watched with interest players with longer nails play, some beautifully, but seem to work at producing a warm clear tone. No complaints with their result, but for me short is so much easier.
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by 80guitarguy » Tue Apr 26, 2016 4:57 am

I've recently started playing with a shorter thumb nail and really like the results. I like the control I have when sweeping across multiple basses, doing arpeggiandos, and also when doing rest strokes. I like that it doesn't stick out as much from a visual point of view, and I am also less worried about it chipping. I've also started using a buffer block to get a nice glass-like finish on all my nails
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Tue Apr 26, 2016 4:09 pm

Segovia's nails were rounded to follow the shape of his finger tips. Another way that Segovia and I are alike! (I'm also male and play while sitting.)
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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by Jcrooks » Tue Apr 26, 2016 5:46 pm

I think it is very dependent on the players attack, hand position, length of fingers, and what material of string. That being said I would consider my nails medium length. If I was to play only classical they would probably be shorter because it is more precise I believe.

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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by msa3psu » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:40 pm

Short works for me. My nails are very flat in profile across the finger width so if they're too long it's just like playing with a pick. I think people who have more curve across width have more success with longer nails if filed properly. Short also helps keep mine clean doing construction work. Not good to play in public with nails full of crud.

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Re: Shorter Nails = Better Tone?

Post by Daires Roberto » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:58 pm

I think is more easy show in pictures
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