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Thread: fingernails vs fingers

  1. #1
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    Default fingernails vs fingers

    I have been a newbie for 5 months now and have suddenly think I have come onto something:

    That to get the best sound with the ukulele, you have to use more fingernails than fingers... Am I right? I get a huge difference with the Kamaka as compared to my Luna. The sound is so much more crisper with the nails (right hand). Am I perceiving this right or over-analysing?

  2. #2
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    I personally use my nail most, but you'll learn to mix it up with both nail and the fingers. I love adding in down strums with the thumb in between using my nail to strum. Adds a nice touch.
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  3. #3
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    All the best,
    Campbell


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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camsuke View Post

    Campbell,
    This is very interesting thread as if someone heard our conversations on this topic yesterday!
    Great video. Very informative! The only thing I got it right is the fretting nails.

  5. #5
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    Most of my technique is based upon using my natural nails. I have them about 2mm past the fingertip.

    I have far more control over dynamics and articulation with my nails then I ever did solely with the flat, mushy flesh of my fingertips and I flat-out refuse to wear fake nails or attach painful plastic fingerpicks to my hands, which are like trying to play with gloves on my hand.

    For me flatpicks are for guitar and felt picks are for OTHER folks.

    You have to maintain your nails every single day to prevent them from splitting and/or chipping. Sometimes all it takes is a few passes with a curved diamond-grit metal nail file.

    If you let them grow ragged they will catch on clothing or something else and get torn (ouch) and if you do not shape them properly, they will impede your playing rather than enhance it because the string does not pass along the leading edge of the nail smoothly It has to be ROUND without sharp, angular points for me, and usually follows the natural shape of my fingertip.

    If I grow them longer than about 2mm, they get damaged by every day life. For both flamenco and Campanella inspired playing, fingernails are a must for me, otherwise without nails, my ukes sound like I have a wet rag damping the strings at the bridge.

    YMMV and to each his own. There are no rules, but this is what I do.
    Last edited by Booli; 01-23-2017 at 07:10 PM.
    Guinea proverb: "A cow that has no tail should not try to chase away flies."

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by valde002 View Post
    I have been a newbie for 5 months now and have suddenly think I have come onto something:

    That to get the best sound with the ukulele, you have to use more fingernails than fingers... Am I right? I get a huge difference with the Kamaka as compared to my Luna. The sound is so much more crisper with the nails (right hand). Am I perceiving this right or over-analysing?
    You are absolutely correct. About the description of sound. However for best sound you'll find opposition in opinion.
    I however agree with you on both accounts. I have fingernails filed to a certain length on my right hand.
    Especially the C string, it won't sound ever non-flubby, without the application of nails.
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  7. #7
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    I abhor long nails and clip my nails as short as I can on both hands - pretty much no white shows. I always feel like my hands are dirty and that the nails are harboring germy crap when I have long nails, so I always kept them short even before I started playing the ukulele. Otherwise, I get obsessive compulsive about washing my hands.

    I did maintain the suggested length of nail on the right hand for a year, but never again. Now I don't worry about the maintenance, but clip them about every five days.

    I mostly fingerpick, but do have a few songs that I strum. I use both fingernails and the pads of my fingers. Even cut that short, there still is enough nail to hear a difference between using the nails of my right hand and not using them.
    Last edited by actadh; 01-23-2017 at 06:32 PM.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camsuke View Post
    Yes, that video is a great intro for those just starting with nails. Thanks for sharing Campbell.
    Guinea proverb: "A cow that has no tail should not try to chase away flies."

  9. #9
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    nails is the way to go, I grow out my thumb index and middle just enough to get a nice sound. Maintenance is key but you will learn that along the way.

  10. #10
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    Rob Mackillop https://robmackillop.net/ukulele/ is a protagonist of the "play with the fingertips" brigade and given the results he gets I can understand why.

    I can see the advantage of this style of playing is that one never has to worry about nails being too long or too short ... just keep 'em trimmed - job done

    Having said all that, I've used my nails for guitar/ukulele/banjo for 50+ years and simply don't feel inclined to try and change now, despite the inconvenience of the occasional broken nail.

    YMMV
    There are those who will wax lyrical about the ability to play a double shuffle with a split fan and a tight G-string ...
    it just makes me walk funny!

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