Are long right-hand fingernails *really* necessary for fingerstyle?

ZaBeth

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I'm a low-energy, granola-chomping, Birkenstock-wearing kind of gal, and I've never been able to get into growing my nails. Any time I've tried, they end up looking pretty ratty and just plain awful. Anyway, I've just starting the fingerstyle course on Ukulele Academy, and long right-hand nails have been suggested.

Tell me true: will plunking (the technical term!) strings with my fingertips impede my progress much?

Edited to add: Jeff Peterson just replied to me over on the Academy and assures me that I'll be just fine using my fingertips. Whew!
 
A lot of great fingerstyle players do not have real long fingernails. Many have nails just a little longer than their fingertips. Some don't use their nails at all. Some even use finger picks of fake fingernails. You can experiment to figure out what works for you.
 
I play fingerstyle and generally keep my nails very short. Just can't get them long healthy enough, so I don't fight it. I still play fingerstyle and it just results in a fatter tone when you play. This generally isn't a problem but, for example, I don't think nylon strings sound particularly good with my style of playing. A fat tone and a warm note just feels imprecise I think. Works for strum but not picking.

Nails will give you that more articulate note and it will be brighter, but that doesn't mean better really. I mostly use flourocarbon or any variety of brighter string as the brightness of string balances well with the fatness of my tone. It's really just about finding balance with the style of playing that is unique to you.

My youtube channel has some season's of the uke songs if you want to hear a fat tone on bright strings.
 
1. As long as you can pluck each string you can do it.
2. The experience is a little different when you have nails. As my nails have grown the strike zone is moving. Mine are only about 2.5 mm on a string action ruler.
 
Long fingernails, break one, then what? Stop playing until it grows out enough to fix?

Between ukes, shooting, and various mechanical projects I keep all of my nails as short as possible. They don't interfere with what I'm doing and easy to clean. Nothing nastier than dirty nails .. :sick:

I've tried all sorts of finger picks, none of them will stay put.

I guess you could use Super Glue, and stick your hand in a bucket of acetone to get them off .... JUST KIDDING ... do not try this at home ......o_O
 
no...use the pads of your fingertips

+1!!!!! Times a million!!!!!

I'm pretty good at growing long, solid nails, but I HATE how they sound. Hate, hate, hate. So after keeping them long for like a year, I'm back to keeping them short, and using my fingertips.

There are definitely folks who use fingerpicks, especially for the thumb. Your pal and mine @4stringboy glues a felt pick to a traditional thumb pick (most of which he's cut off, leaving only enough to form a solid base to glue the felt to) to create a much gentler sound, but I don't remember him mentioning what the length of his other nails are, one way or the other.

As I've been typing this, I'm seeing other replies come in along the same lines, so I'll leave it there. I definitely concur with @scrambled_eggs that flourocarbons will work better with fingerpads for picking for most folks, but ymmv and all that. But in general, this is my principle for all things ukulele, and most things in life: do what you want. :ROFLMAO:

Having said all that, I've posted this before, but I always get a kick out of it: James Taylor's nail routine. When he started his YouTube channel with guitar tutorials, this was Lesson 1b, and as much fingerpicking as he does on steel-stringed guitars, it's a pretty elaborate routine, and also a delightfully endearing video. If you like JT at all, you'll like him even more after seeing this.

 
Long fingernails, break one, then what? Stop playing until it grows out enough to fix?

Between ukes, shooting, and various mechanical projects I keep all of my nails as short as possible. They don't interfere with what I'm doing and easy to clean. Nothing nastier than dirty nails .. :sick:

I've tried all sorts of finger picks, none of them will stay put.

I guess you could use Super Glue, and stick your hand in a bucket of acetone to get them off .... JUST KIDDING ... do not try this at home ......o_O
When people do a lot of manual labor with their hands, their fingertips can be tougher too. At one point when I had callouses on my palms, my fingertips were tough. I think someone would do better at producing bold tones the rougher/harder their fingertips are.
 
I've posted this a number of times before, too. This DIY solution will let you keep your nails relatively short, but use these fingerpicks on as many fingers as you want to get a boost in volume and articulation (maybe even tone if you like the sound) that you get from fingerpicks. I avoid glued on nails.

 
Nah. Mine break all the time. Deal with it until they grow out or try something like Alaska finger picks or some kind of thumb pick. They take some getting used to (I haven't yet, so I just deal with chewed up nails). I guess you could try long acrylic nails like Dolly lol!
 
I've posted this a number of times before, too. This DIY solution will let you keep your nails relatively short, but use these fingerpicks on as many fingers as you want to get a boost in volume and articulation (maybe even tone if you like the sound) that you get from fingerpicks. I avoid glued on nails.


That's cool! I tear up 40 year old 50 cc motorbikes and we McGyver stuff all the time cuz you can't find parts. I love creative solutions to stuff like this
 
I can't bring myself to grow fingernails on only one hand. I never grew my nails to fingerpick. It's easy simply using your fingertips for picking. Sometimes I break out the banjo picks for some shirt-kicking finger-picking.
 
Pads. I've tried & tried & tried (lol for all of a year of playing hahahaha) but I really hate the feel of the nails on the strings if they're not exactly right, and I am not a patient enough human to manage my nails so that they're exactly right.

But the sound is quite different between nails & pads. I'm just (for now) happiest with pads. That may change as I improve my skills.
 
Abe Lagrimas Jr uses his fingerpads. Wish I could play like him. :)
 
I've never had much in the way o fingernails - If I don't unconsciously bite them, they break...

When I was a paramedic, anyone I knew with long nails pierced the latex or vinyl gloves we wore (this was long before nitrile, BTW...) Not good.

I started finger picking when I played guitar, because I couldn't keep hold of a pick, and I hated fingerpicks.

I have also realized that I prefer the sound of fingers, rather than fingernails, on ukulele strings.
 
I gravitated toward fingerstyle guitar in high school and didn't even think about using my fingernails. Then at 18, I spent a month or so in hospital after a car crash, and when I came home and started playing my guitar I realized something was different. My nails had grown out while I was hospitalized and suddenly I was getting a lot more volume and brightness than before. I liked it, so I kept picking with long fingernails. It wasn't until my sophomore year at university that I began taking lessons from a classical guitar teacher who showed me how to file my nails to a good shape and buff the edges smooth for a good tone. Today, I still use that classical fingerstyle approach for playing ukulele. It gives me a nice clean bell-like sound. However, I've learned that my nails make a lot of clicking and scratching sounds on the ukulele when they get too long, so I keep them filed down to a nice curve that just barely shows past the end of each fingertip. A little bit of nail goes a long way on uke! And of course I keep the fingernails on my fretting hand clipped/filed very short, so they're out of the way.
Sorry for the long post, but that's my story and I'm stickin' to it! :cool:
 
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