Top Tips for Taking Care of Your Fingernails for Guitar Playing

Many believe that maintaining fingernails for guitar playing is inconvenient. After all, there are no hard and fast rules for nail maintenance when you’re playing guitar.

However, using nails to play classical guitar results in better tone quality. Smooth fingernails enable guitar players to produce a more excellent range of sounds and tones.

But how do you properly care for your nails? This article will provide tips for taking care of your guitar nails.

How Fingernails Can Enhance Playing Guitar

Reviewing the classical guitar technique before shaping your fingernails is a good idea. The quality of guitar playing can be improved by the following:

  • good form
  • positioning
  • technique

Additionally, the different characteristics of our fingers influence the nail shape and length.

Our nails grow in different ways. As a result, no exact length or form works for everyone. But, there are nail shaping techniques that you can do regardless of your playing style.

What Happens at the String Level?

To know how to shape your nails, you should first learn to grasp the strokes of strings.

When the strings are activated circularly, their sound is warm and beautiful. On the other hand, when strings are pulled or pinched, it moves back and forth, producing a harsh and unpleasant sound. The tone becomes worse when your finger snags along the strings.

The string’s motion should move in circular movements, not from side to side. For that purpose, the string must gently slide off the skin and fingernails while playing. Remember, a firm stroke creates an excellent sound.

It is not required to have long nails when playing guitar. You can play guitar better with well-shaped nails complementing your playing style.

Shaping Your Classical Guitar Nails

Use a file instead of clippers.

One of the most common mistakes new classical guitar players make with their fingernails is shaping them with scissors or nail clippers.

This method rarely ends nicely. Instead, shape the right-hand nails with a nail file.

Classical guitarists achieve their desired nail shapes using a metal or glass file. However, you may get good results with almost any kind of nail file.

Lightly file your nail at an angle.

When filing your fingernails, keep your right hand (the one with the nails) steady and move the nail file with your left hand. In this way, you will have greater control when filing your nails.

Start filing at the bottom of your nail and work your way up at a 45-degree angle. Do not file the edges of the nails at a right angle.

Make a “ramp” from the (thumb-side, not pinky-side) corner to the top because you want the string to slip off the nail when playing.

The position of your hand and wrist and how you grip the instrument are all factors you must consider when filing your nail.

A simple guideline is to have enough nails to trigger the string in a circular pattern. But not so much that the nail catches and hooks the thread. When it comes to your thumb nail, you may follow the same guidelines as fingernails.

Regardless of your playing technique, file your thumbnail at an upward angle from below and make a little ramp.

You should still be able to feel the string with the flesh of your fingers when each note is played. Experiment with the length of your fingernails to discover the differences.

Keep practicing, and you will eventually get the proper nail length that suits your playing style.

Polish your nail.

Filing your natural nails can leave scrapes and sharp edges. This texture will result in a terrible tone, so polishing your fingernails is essential.

You can polish your fingernails using sandpaper. Make sure to shine the part of the nail that touches the sides of the fingertip.

The outcome is a smooth, glassy polish that sounds fantastic. You may be delighted by the sound differences you hear from your guitar because of your polished nails.

Repairing Broken Fingernails

You can use super glue to hold a split nail together while it heals, and try doing the steps below:

  1. Apply super glue on your nail.
  2. Add a few cotton fibers or a ply of tissue for more protection.
  3. Once dry, you can file it down.

You can also use fake nails to repair a broken nail. To put it on, glue the fake nail on top of your natural nail.

You can buy artificial nails in a beauty store or visit a nail salon to have your acrylic nails attached.

Classical Guitar Fingernails: Trial and Error

As mentioned, there are no absolute rules for nail maintenance when you play fingerstyle guitar.

Keep a nail file near your practice spot and shape your nails whenever possible. You can do a minor touch-up that takes only a few minutes, or you can also do a big reshaping.

Continue practicing as you determine the suitable nail shape and length for your playing technique.


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