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GregT
06-22-2016, 05:35 AM
Over the years I recall different threads on the topic of fingernails - good idea or not necessary. The latest (July 2016) issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine has a large section on playing nylon strung guitars, and their take is:
"While having long nails on your picking hand is not mandatory, long nails will provide you with a crisp and louder sound, whereas playing only with your fingertips will give you a dull, less lively sound (plus having long nails is kind of a cool, dead giveaway letting people know you play.....)".

janeray1940
06-22-2016, 05:39 AM
long nails will provide you with a crisp and louder sound, whereas playing only with your fingertips will give you a dull, less lively sound

This has been my experience with ukulele, although the actual definition of "long" may vary. For me, my right-hand nails need to just barely extend over the fingertips. Anything shorter than that dulls the sound, and anything longer than that can be problematic since I have these awful nails that sort of curl under and catch on the strings if I'm not careful.

JackLuis
06-22-2016, 05:54 AM
I was practicing for Seasons and noticed I had chipped a nail. I had to cut back my strumming finger so much that it altered the tone of my strumming. It'll take me a week before I can achieve my preferred tone again. My nails are rather weak and I was toying with the idea to use one of my wife's fake nails on my forefinger to try and avoid the erosion from playing.

MickeyD
06-22-2016, 06:14 AM
I would tend to agree with the quote - it's certainly not necessary, but provides an attack that you can't achieve without nails -

JackLuis - have you looked into using ping pong pieces as nails? I did this a few times when I studied classical a few times and other students swore by them. A quick google search will show what I mean. During my classical years, I've also broken a nail pretty far back and used a fake nail, and while it worked, I think I like the tone of the ping pong ball pieces better.

Mivo
06-22-2016, 06:36 AM
I've been experimenting with different nail lengths, and I don't have a clear preference yet (it depends a bit on the strings, too). I never play without any nails, though, I'm just uncertain what length I prefer. Usually they are like Janeray described, just a millimeter over the fleshy part (when looked at from the top). Sometimes they are longer, but then I tend to catch the string(s) with my thumb, which is probably a result of improper technique, but still. :)

Nails are a good excuse for eating gummy bears.

bonesigh
06-22-2016, 08:01 AM
I've got to have nails. It's just not the same without them. I do not have strong natural nails. At first I actually used fake nails and put them on with a band-aid (works remarkable well). It's a pain though and you'd find fingernailaids all over the house, lol.

Then I started getting my nails done at a salon. Just 3 nails. Acrylic for the thumb, index and middle of the strumming hand (of course). I loved that. I like them about 1/8th of an inch above the finger end. Then things got tight financially and I had to quit. Haven't tried ping pong balls. Tried strengthening my own nails, didn't work. Fake nails are great but constantly fall off so I felt like I spent more time on my nails that on the uke! Since just going on vacation I splurged on a set of nails at a salon and am dreading the day they come off.

spookelele
06-22-2016, 10:12 AM
If nails did nothing, we wouldn't even need this conversation.

As far as how much nail.. it seems to me, that the only part of the nail that makes the sound is the tip.

If my nails get too long... they add a rubbing sound that I hate before the string releases from the tip. This is especially true for me with wound strings. So I try to keep them just long enough to grab the strings.

Kayak Jim
06-22-2016, 12:15 PM
This has been my experience with ukulele, although the actual definition of "long" may vary. For me, my right-hand nails need to just barely extend over the fingertips. Anything shorter than that dulls the sound, and anything longer than that can be problematic since I have these awful nails that sort of curl under and catch on the strings if I'm not careful.

Pretty much true for me also.

Tootler
06-22-2016, 12:32 PM
The moment my fingernails grow beyond the end of my fingers, they split. I rarely play fingerstyle but when I do, I use a plectrum/pick. If I fingerpick song accompaniment, I just play with my fingertips. I'm quite happy with the sound I get.

SteveZ
06-22-2016, 12:44 PM
The moment my fingernails grow beyond the end of my fingers, they split. I rarely play fingerstyle but when I do, I use a plectrum/pick. If I fingerpick song accompaniment, I just play with my fingertips. I'm quite happy with the sound I get.

I gave up on nails a long time ago with nylon-stringed guitars. Have flat-picked ukuleles from the beginning. Over time, flat-pick use becomes second-nature, offering a variety of sounds.

stevepetergal
06-22-2016, 05:16 PM
Growing out your nails will unquestionably give you a wide variety of capabilities in sound production. There are timbres you can achieve with nails that you simply cannot without.

zztush
06-22-2016, 05:44 PM
The difference between nail and fingertip in terms of strumming and picking is direction to me. Nail requires much accurate direction against strings, although I don't much care about it with fingertip. Especially I have to care about nail direction on 1st string in upward picking. I have to control it with arm as long as hand.

Mivo
06-22-2016, 11:34 PM
Interesting article on fingernails. Slightly off topic but some bits may be useful.
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160622-what-lives-under-your-fingernails

Did you know that 90% of the cells that a human body consists of aren't actually our own cells, but belong to other lifeforms? The bit of life stuff under our fingernails is a tiny portion of that. ;)

wayfarer75
06-22-2016, 11:59 PM
I prefer the sound I get without long nails. Nice and mellow. Low maintenance too!

padlin
06-23-2016, 01:01 AM
Maybe it's just being a rookie, but I find the nails of the fretting hand, at least the fingers, more important to playing. I have to keep them as short as possible.

janeray1940
06-23-2016, 05:25 AM
Maybe it's just being a rookie, but I find the nails of the fretting hand, at least the fingers, more important to playing. I have to keep them as short as possible.

Not a rookie thing at all! Those nails get in the way on the left hand. I keep mine as short as possible too.

All of which basically means a five-minute routine once a week or so - clip the left-hand nails short, and when I'm done, run a file over the right-hand nails to keep them at the just-right length.

Mivo
06-23-2016, 06:16 AM
Speaking of fingers... I wish I had consequently used four fingers to pick (PIMA) right from the start. With the linear tuning of the baritone (I had shunned linear tuning previously, but I'm slowly warming up to it), using four fingers makes more sense to me. So now I'm re-learning fingerstyle pattern, and I keep falling back into PI and PIM constantly. Also showed me how relatively weak my ring finger is. But well, gut opportunity to improve!

quiltingshirley
06-23-2016, 06:17 AM
Got to say I've never figured out how to use a pick well with my ukuleles or nylon string guitars. I play better with using fingers with nail just beyond flesh. Nothing long. Now here's the problem. The only thing that wears down is the very center of my strumming fingernail. A very odd look so when I need to be heard I'm using a finger pick shaped short. Hoping to even out the nails until the next time I've been jamming too long. I'd use finger pads but it's too soft to hear well.

Down Up Dick
06-23-2016, 06:19 AM
I mostly Clawhammer with steel strings, so fingernails are important to me. I think that old people's nails become dry and weakened, and they chip and split very easily. Mine are mostly okay so far, but I hafta be very careful with
them. So I try not to use them for anything else like picking at price tags or scotch tape off of paper, etc.

I keep the fretting hand nails very short of course. :old:

Raygf
06-24-2016, 04:31 AM
I've got to have nails. It's just not the same without them. I do not have strong natural nails. At first I actually used fake nails and put them on with a band-aid (works remarkable well). It's a pain though and you'd find fingernailaids all over the house, lol.

Then I started getting my nails done at a salon. Just 3 nails. Acrylic for the thumb, index and middle of the strumming hand (of course). I loved that. I like them about 1/8th of an inch above the finger end. Then things got tight financially and I had to quit. Haven't tried ping pong balls. Tried strengthening my own nails, didn't work. Fake nails are great but constantly fall off so I felt like I spent more time on my nails that on the uke! Since just going on vacation I splurged on a set of nails at a salon and am dreading the day they come off.

I too must have nails. Several years ago I started to have problem with a vertical split in my thumb nail that I struggle with to this day. Being a finger style player it was quite a set back. I tired a variety of solutions. One good thing out of it, it forced me to learn how to use a thumb pick, but it still doesn't replace having a thumb nail. I want and need flesh and nail contact with the string. I also began using super glue and acrylic powder to repair the split and build a thumb nail. This would chip and I could never leave it alone and always ended up picking it off, which often led to painfully ripping the split open. The last time I lost it I decided to just file it off, apply nail strengthener and use thumb flesh or a thumb pick. That was 2 months ago.

Another very good solution were rico nails that apply with craft glue dots. They stayed on while playing ukulele, steel and nylon string guitar, are were easy to remove. Craft glue dots are cheap​. I would think that you could apply the fake nails the same way. No need to buy the rico nails. You should give them a try Janet.

Down Up Dick
06-24-2016, 05:46 AM
I've read about all the "solutions" for weak, chipping, cracking or exploding nails, and I've decided not to use any of 'em. I don't like fuss. When my nails get so bad that I can't use 'em, I'll change my playing style or use some kinda picks or maybe even play bare fingered.

Anything to keep on keeping on . . . :old: