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Thread: Fingernails vs No Fingernails

  1. #21
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
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    6

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    I’m a fingertip kinda guy. I can’t stand the sensation of plucking the strings with fingernails. If I’m not paying attention and they get a little long and I catch a string with a nail, I immediately go trim it.

  2. #22
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Honolulu, HI
    Posts
    70

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    I've been picking my fingernails off since I was a baby so it's been a tough habit to break. Even today, if I'm in a stressful situation or emotionally invested in a book/movie/show/etc, odds are good I'll come out the other side with bloody fingers.

    The benefit is that fingertips make for a better jazz strum tone (to me). Part of me thinks that when I start recording rhythm and lead, they'll be separated by different ukes but, most importantly, the presence or lack of fingernails.

    All that said, I am getting better at keeping my fingernails, but they don't get crazy long. I've noticed that if they're longer, my accuracy goes down, probably because of muscle memory.

  3. #23
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Irvine, CA
    Posts
    273

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    I keep my fingernails short, but that's mainly because I wanna look presentable for my coworkers and future dates lol. Below are some points strictly from a playing perspective.

    For your strumming hand: Long nails are great for tremolo picking and–to a lesser extent–fan strumming, but they make artificial harmonics way harder. Short nails are the exact opposite. These three techniques are relatively advanced, so you don't really have to worry about strumming hand nail length unless you're dead-set on learning Spanish guitar-sounding stuff (long nails would be best) or learning mellow fingerstyle stuff (short nails would be best).

    For your fretting hand: Short nails are better, period. Long nails make it harder to play relatively simple chords like G and E7, and they also make it harder while picking stuff (e.g. picking notes on the C and A strings at the same time).

    Hope this helps!
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  4. #24
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Near Lake Okeechobee, Florida
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    409

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    Relevant link: Ukulele Magazine - "A Revealing Look at the Hands of Top Ukulele Players"

    Nail length and shape are personal choices that work in conjunction with many other aspects of right hand technique. If you're a tone dog, you'll probably end up experimenting with nail length and shape as your right hand technique develops and matures.

    FWIW, I keep my nails long, file each to a unique shape, and polish each edge and top surface with fine mesh. Before I play, I run my fingernails through my hair to lubricate them with a little scalp oil. If I neglect my nail care regimen for several consecutive days, I remove excess material with sharp nail clippers and reshape with files. If a nail breaks, I clip and refile the remaining nails instead of replacing or repairing the broken nail.

    Shorter nails more easily evince the ukulele's mellower timbral palette. Longer nails more easily achieve brilliance. There's a place for both, and where you fall on the spectrum will inform your compromises.

    EDIT: Within 48 hours of replying to this thread, my thumbnail broke while I was polishing my right index fingernail right before a gig. D’oh!
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 06-12-2019 at 05:50 PM.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

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