Guitar Nails: Care and Grooming | Hub Guitar

Guitar Nails: Care and Grooming

Note: For right-handed players the fret hand is the left hand and the picking hand is the right hand. For left-handed players, it’s the reverse.

Fret-Hand Nails

The Effect of Fret-Hand Nails on Guitar Playing

Most people, particularly men, do not have nails which protrude past the length of the finger. If you hold your nails up from the side, you are unlikely to see nail growth passing the tip of the finger. However, when your fingers are pressing into the guitar, the nail can get in the way. If you hold a ruler flat against your fingertip, ideally the ruler won’t even touch your nail. If it does, that means the nail might interfere with your playing by making it harder to push into the fretboard.

Ideal Length of Fret-Hand Nails

Shorter is better, but be sure not to trim the nails too short. Overzealous trimming can cause you to expose the sensitive nail bed underneath the nail, and this can be painful. As a rule of thumb, leave a small sliver of white when you trim your fretting-hand nails.

Maintenance of Fret-hand Nails

Guitar beginners often attempt to play the guitar with fret hand nails that are too long, leading to frustrating results

Keeping your nails in good shape for guitar is more important than you may realize. If your fret-hand nails become overgrown, you will feel frustrated as you try to play the notes on the guitar neck. You can clip your nails anywhere, as long as it’s classy. You can clip them while watching a video or waiting for a pot of water to boil. Just exercise some awareness of the social situation you are in, as in some circumstances it may not be polite to suddenly start doing your nails.

It’s a good idea to keep a pair of nail clippers with you wherever you go. You can buy several and put them in your guitar case, in your bag, office, etc …

Recommended: Clyppi Nail Clippers[?]Affiliate Link.

Picking-Hand Nails

Picking Hand Nails and Guitar Playing

Many guitar players do not need to worry about their picking hand nails being too long, or too short. Players who only play pick stylePick style refers to methods of playing the guitar that use a pick or plectrum, a small tab of plastic or other material used to strike strings. This is in contrast with fingerstyle, where strings are attacked with the fingers. guitar often don’t worry about this. But there are two styles of guitar which require special attention to the nails of the picking hand: rock/heavy metal, which sometimes requires shorter fingernails, and fingerstyleSometimes used to refer to a particular technique of playing with the fingers, but also often used as a general term for playing the guitar strings with the picking-hand fingers. which often requires longer fingernails.

Tapping and Rock Guitar

Fret tapping is a technique used in a number of styles including rock, heavy metal, new age, and more. The technique can be used on almost any guitar, but it is probably best known as the picking-hand technique that allows for lightning-fast guitar riffs in heavy metal. That’s because tapping uses fingers of both hands to attack notes, and the result is many more notes per second.

For tapping, it is ideal to have shorter fingernails on the picking hand for the same reason that you would normally have shorter fingers on the fret hand. The picking hand will strike the fretboard, and you wouldn’t want your nail to get in the way. Actually, it’s even more important for tapping as it’s pretty hard to effectively strike the note with the interference of long nails.

Long Nails and Fingerstyle Guitar

A wide variety of guitar styles make use of the fingers, including pop, country, bluegrass, classical and Spanish guitar. Fingerstyle technique generally requires nails longer than those on the fret hand. This allows the nail to assist in triggering the attack of the note.

Fingernails are not necessarily like picks

It’s important to understand that in this style, fingernails are not being used as a replacement for the pick, and many players prefer fingernails that are slightly longer than usual but not much so. The role of the fingernail in this style is not necessarily to strike the string, but to allow the finger to release it.

In addition, fingerstyle guitar players suffer from a problem of adaptation. That is, they can grow their nails an inch long, and become used to playing this way. If their nails are trimmed they feel like a bird without feathers. But in time, they can adapt to playing with nails of almost any length, including none at all.

Some players prefer longer picking claws

Some players do indeed prefer longer picking talons. These can be grown naturally, but they are prone to breaking.

You can also use fingerpicks such as Dunlop Fingerpicks (Nickel Silver)[?]Affiliate Link, but you should experiment with both metal and plastic. And it’s important to size them right.

Other players prefer to have artificial gel nails put on at a nail salon. This can be effective, but be warned: these nails are unnaturally thick, need frequent replacement, and will leave your real fingernails temporarily brittle, should you decide to switch back.

A useful starting point

For beginning fingerstyle players, a compromise between two extremes is suggested: a fingernail length of no longer than 2-3mm, shaped by a nail file. Eventually you will discover your own preference.

Nail Filing

It’s not enough to keep your nails at the right size, they must also be the right shape.

Filing Fret-Hand Nails

Fret hand nails (and picking-hand nails, if kept short) need little attention from the nail file. Just enough to smooth out sharp edges or loose nail material.

Filing Picking-Hand Nails

Filing Picking-hand nails is a bit more important. When the fingers pluck the strings, the skin contacts the string and the nail assists the finger by creating a platform with lower friction, allowing the string to smoothly release from the finger.

So it’s most important that the side of the fingernail that contacts the string (normally the thumb side) is filed into a smooth slope, acting as a ramp for the string to glide off of.

For a starting point, try to round both sides of the nail into an almond shape that follows the contour of the finger. This will allow the strings to slide off of the side of the fingernail. It is best to file the nails not from the side, but from underneath, and with a 90° angle.

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