View Full Version : Strumming and fingernail issue

08-17-2014, 09:29 AM

I've been playing guitar for 20+ years, and took up ukulele about a month ago. With my background I'm progressing pretty quickly, but I keep having a problem with strumming: it's wearing down the nail on my index finger, specifically the edge that is next to the middle finger.

I also play fingerstyle guitar, so I'd like to keep the nails on my right hand in good shape. Also, I think I could get a better/louder strumming sound with a decent fingernail.

Is there something wrong with my technique, or is this just bound to happen?

Jim Hanks
08-17-2014, 09:52 AM
Are you playing with wound strings? Maybe you should try unwound? Could also investigate picks, either felt or Wedgie picks work well with uke.

Down Up Dick
08-17-2014, 10:03 AM
Maybe you're strumming too hard. If you've been playing guitar all that time, maybe you're using the same amount of pressure on your Uke. Some Ukers strum with their thumb I think. There's a thread or two on the UU about strumming and fingernails. You can try the "search thread", though I haven't had a lot of luck with it. It's on the maroon line at the top of the thread.

08-17-2014, 11:48 AM

08-17-2014, 02:11 PM
I've found that the best option for searching UU (and a lot of other sites with limited search engines) is to use Google instead, adding this to your search string: "site:domainName", like:

fingernail site:forum.ukuleleunderground.com

This restricts the Google search to the named domain.

08-17-2014, 02:39 PM
Perhaps different tension and string composition may be the answer.

I was having a hard time strumming with only my forefinger on my concert strung with Aquila Nylguts. I thought there was something wrong with my technique when I tried to do one of Aldrine's UU videos on strumming. I have pretty good nails, but I was having similar issues as the OP. I do a great thumb/forefinger strum with it, though.

Then, I got a decent soprano ukulele and put Aquila Reds on it. Now, I am going back and redoing/relearning a lot of basic strumming videos because it is so much easier on this ukulele.

08-18-2014, 03:14 PM
I hope you get the issue figured out. I can strum pretty hard for a pretty long period of time without doing any nail damage (unpolished and unprotected). I play Worth clear strings and Aquilas. The Worths are a little easier on the fingers, I think.

08-18-2014, 03:33 PM
Adding a chondroitin/glucosamine supplement to my diet (for my arthritis) made my soft bendy nails thick and tough. Seems to have helped my hips and knees too. Even the steel string Tacoma Papoose I have been playing around with the last two weeks hasn't done damage but then I caught a corner of my right thumbnail on something doing chores and busted half so clipped it off, but the other half seems to still be holding up well. previously it would probably have ripped into the quick, ouch. You could also try a layer of Sally Hansen Hard As Nails clear polish, but I found that it would make me lose a chunk all of a sudden in kind of a half round shape, and that was just on ukes.

08-18-2014, 09:55 PM
Thank you for the replies. I searched this site with Google, and indeed found tips for people with similar issues. I will look around for different nail hardening compounds. My girlfriend already let me try out a clear nail polish in her collection. If those don't work, maybe it's time for this guy to get a manicure. MANicure. LOL.

I might also be strumming a bit too hard, as was pointed out. I may even be hitting the side of the fretboard once in a while.

Currently I'm using the Martin strings that came with my T1K. I live in Finland, so for anything other than Martin or Aquila I need to go online. But I will keep the other options in mind in case my nails keep wearing out.

08-19-2014, 03:58 AM
This video from the KoAloha site may be helpful as it shows strumming with the pad of the index finger, not the nail.


08-19-2014, 05:51 AM
Interesting. In the video he seems to be strumming with the index finger almost sideways. I suppose there's no contact with the nail then, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to do something like a triple strum that way. At least I think it's easier to incorporate the thumb when my index finger lands nail first, or at a slight angle.

08-19-2014, 06:40 AM
i am learning the fan stroke and it has a similar side of the finger strum.

08-19-2014, 02:13 PM
The gentleman in the vid is demonstrating the classic strum ..very excellently ..up and down wrist rolling and limited arm movement.

The triple will follow naturally in this position triple will be the forefinger ,followed by the thumb and then the forefinger snapped back up ...all in a little flick of the wrist ...you will still get a bit of nail contact...

You can move up and down the neck with the right hand to get different tones.....and you can mute with your forearm inner part as well....sorry the nails ...will still come into a bit of contact...I keep mine well short and pick guitar , uke and banjer with the pads of the fingers......

08-19-2014, 04:12 PM
Some folks who don't want to mess with fake nails, manicures or polishes like finger picks, especially if you are playing more fingerstyle than strumming. You might want to check out Fred Kelly finger picks.

08-21-2014, 10:39 AM
I'm letting the nails on my right hand grow out for a trial....so far, it's just weird, the string catch on the nails and hang there, then pop off and slap the top....geez....