As a relative beginner who plays with flesh rather than nails, I came across his thread recently and have found it both interesting and helpful.
Five years ago I began playing the CG seriously (after a false start fifty years ago when I gave up after a year or so when my teacher wanted me to play in a school concert). For two years I attempted to teach myself using Noad as a primer but making very slow progress I followed the advice given regularly on this forum to find a teacher. I didn’t gel with my first teacher and progressed very little. I changed teachers, and found somebody who was genuinely interested in helping me progress. With his encouragement, I’ve made some real progress at last, slow but sure.
One of his first suggestions was to improve my sound by playing with fingertips rather than nails. Whilst I initially felt I was beginning all over again and it took me many months to play the pieces I had been playing previously, the sound I produced improved beyond comparison and became considerably warmer and less metallic.
Recently though, I’ve been concerned that I was struggling to produce enough volume, about the weak treble sound I was producing and wondering if I would play more accurately and with better speed with nails. I began thinking – against my teacher’s advice – that I should grow them again.
I then came across this thread, which lead me to Rob MacKillop’s site http://rmclassicalguitar.com
Rob is a fan of playing with flesh rather than nails as an end rather than part of the learning process. On his site there’s much to encourage others to go down this route including historical information on Sor, Tarrega and Pujol, three players who promoted playing without nails and interviews with leading current players and ‘no-nail’ protagonists, Virginia Luque and Hector Garcia.
One particular quote from Pujol, Tarrega’s pupil and biographer, that really struck a chord with me was, “In order to obtain the tone with the fingertips that Tárrega did, it does not suffice to cut one’s nails short; the tone has to be formed: i.e., a certain balance between touch, resiliency and resistance must be developed in the flesh of the fingertips, which can only be acquired by constant practice and care”.
Rob’s site has given me newfound confidence to continue with and really master this method of playing. I’ve also found invaluable advice on the strings which are best for this method of playing and it turns out that whilst gut strings may be the very best, low tension strings are a real advantage. A move to Savarez Low Tension (“White Card”), one of the more mainstream recommendations on strings by Rob, rather than High Tension Savarez on my Amalio Burguet has brought real dividends in terms of improved treble sound.
In summary, for me, this has proved to be a gem of a thread and this is a method of playing that is just as relevant for experienced players as beginners like me.