The sound quality of the guitar depends on the guitarist’s fingernails, which must be hard enough. To achieve this, they require great attention and have the proper shape and polish.
Guitarist’s fingernails are the most important thing for these players; therefore, they give exceptional care to always be in the best conditions. They must also be suitable for the type of interpretation played on this instrument.
Guitarists Nails. A Brief History
Guitarist’s nails began to be used in the 15th century when lute players made their interpretations, also used on any string instrument. By the nineteenth century, the most famous interpreters only used the thumbnail, but nails become widespread when the steel and nylon strings appear.
Nowadays, to play the classical or acoustic guitar, the use of fingernails is essential. Along with the strings, they have become the most critical elements for the guitar to provide the best sound.
The classical guitar player must necessarily have long nails, but the electric guitar player must have them of standard size because he performs different techniques that require shorter nails.
How the guitarist’s nails should be
The guitarist’s nails should be long, but only those of the right hand; they should protrude from the tip of the ring, middle, and index fingers between 1 and 1.5 mm. Of course, the little finger’s nail has a different performance from the others, but the normal thing would be for it to protrude from the end of the fingertip by at least 2 and 3 mm.
The measurement of the nails on the middle, index, and ring fingers should be as indicated because it will help the tip touch the string; it will provide greater precision than with a fingernail with an end too far from the fingertip.
To know if the length of the nail is correct, we recommend placing the finger horizontally on a smooth surface; if the tip and the nail touch the surface simultaneously, they will have the right length, but if the finger must be inclined forward or backward, it means that the fingernail is too long or too short.
Hard nails are essential to have a quality sound, and flexibility decreases cracks in them.
Guitarist´s Nail Shape
The shape of the guitarist’s nails should stick out a bit above the fingers. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that they wear out as you play the instrument, so we recommend if you are going to make a presentation, leave them a little longer than usual because they will wear out excessively.
The shape of the guitarist’s nails must be standard, and their curvature cut at angles. The shortest part must be the one that faces the heart. It must have no tip. The correct angle is 45 degrees with a flat surface, so they do not get stuck with the strings.
Incorrect nail shape can create undesirable resistance against the string, directly affecting the final sound result.
How to file the fingernails
The filing and polishing of the nails are critical, allowing us to choose the appropriate form for any interpretation. We recommend a steel file and later polish them using a three-layer file.
Guitarist’s nails are usually not cut, just filed and polished. Different types of files can be used for filing, cardboard files covered with sandpaper, the most common being metal, but the most recommended is glass; they are easy to clean and last a long time. Specialists use this type a lot. The only problem is that if they fall, they break.
The procedure for filing and polishing the nails is as follows: It begins with the thickest part of the steel file and continues with the finest side to polish the nails. This is very important to avoid unwanted noises when playing, especially on classical guitar.
The filing and polishing should always be done according to the tastes of each person. Still, the most important thing is that the polishing is done with very fine-grit sandpaper. Therefore, we recommended a 2000 grit sandpaper to achieve a very delicate polish and produce the desired effect when playing the guitar.
The Flamenco nails and how to file them
Flamenco guitarists have to pay special attention to filing their nails since they do so much strumming and picking, forcing them to be even more careful, if possible, than other guitarists.
Nail filing for a Flamenco Guitarist
Filing the nails of a flamenco guitarist should be done as follows: The middle, index, little and ring fingers of the right hand should be filed with round edges, thereby preventing breakage and possible snagging.
The nail of the ring finger and little finger should be slightly longer than the index and middle finger. It is better to have these last two shorter to have a greater sensitivity when strumming. If you do not have sensitivity in the fingers when you are going to strum and tap, you will not have speed.
The nail of the thumb, like that of the other fingers, has to be filed round. Therefore, there is no need for it to be longer to play correctly.
Guitarist´s nail maintenance
The guitarist’s nail maintenance is essential because this will allow the guitar strings to emit cleaner sounds. For this reason, they must be firm.
To prevent the nails from weakening and flaking, they should be filed in a rounded shape. In addition, with this shape, the guitar will not produce distorted sounds. It is advisable to massage the tips of the nails daily with paper gently; This will allow it to be more rounded.
Do not use scissors or nail clippers when caring for guitarists’ nails because their use can cause them to weaken, and over time they could easily break when playing the guitar strings.
A guitarist can strengthen his nails with foods that contain folic acid, calcium, silica, zinc, biotin, cod liver oil, vitamin B6, and B12.
We recommend the following food intake:
Liver, fish, especially salmon and herring, oysters, watercress, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, alfalfa, seaweed, sesame seeds, asparagus, sunflower seeds, oats, walnuts, brown rice, nuts, wheat, wheat germ, fruits, banana, honey, and cider vinegar.
We suggest taking minerals, vitamins, and cod liver oil in capsules.
Guitarist´s Left-Hand nails maintenance
The care of the guitarist nails of the left hand are the following:
The left hand is crucial when playing the guitar since it puts the notes and chords and tells the right hand what to do.
The left hand’s nails should not protrude from the fingertips; These have to be perfectly cut to the height of the fingers and completely filed. If they are a little long, they can cause many problems when stepping on the fretboard and placing the notes.
Recommendations for the care of guitarist´s nails
Before playing the guitar, it is recommended to apply a transparent polish, a small piece of garlic, and use it directly onto to nail; This will help strengthen the nails and prevent breakage.
The most important thing for the maintenance of the nails is prevention and good hygiene habits.
Since the nails and fingertips are the ones in contact with the strings, it is crucial to maintain good care habits.
If we want to make the nails more robust, it is advisable to use a suitable hardener. The best is a formaldehyde-based hardener. In addition, they must contain other components to control infections, irritation and even improve blood circulation.
To prevent nails from drying out, creams and oils such as almond oils are recommended for hydration.
You can also coat your nails with porcelain, silk, or gel to make them harder, although these products can cause annoying noises when you strum the strings.
To have healthy nails, you should eat a diet rich in vitamins A, B9, and B12 and calcium.
Apply several layers of nail polish, then file and polish them. It will give you more solid resistance for at least two months.
The use of glue on the nails is not recommended because this weakens them. It is advisable not to hit the guitar, only to make relaxed and smooth movements when strumming.
Tricks and recipes for guitarist´s nail care
There are many ointments that we can apply to the nails to make them hard. Here are the ways to prepare these recipes:
It would be best to have a clove of garlic and six to seven drops of olive oil. Then crush the garlic into a paste. Smear it on the nails twice a week and leave it on for about 10 minutes. After the time has elapsed, rinse with plenty of water.
After a few months, you will notice that your nails are healthier and thicker.
There are many products on the market to prevent wear on the nails when playing the guitar. Among them are nail hardeners that are colorless polish, which can be applied by two hands 15 minutes before playing. Do not apply the hardener on the base, only on the fingertips.
These products have properties that nourish the nails and do not cause damage.
The left-hand nails should always be trimmed so that they do not cause discomfort with the fretboard, take away speed, or make playing difficult.
The nails on the right hand may or may not be short; this will depend on the techniques used to play the guitar.
When you start playing the guitar, you should wash your hands and dry them well since corrosion of the strings should be avoided. Taking care of your hands and nails will help prolong the life of the strings and keep them in a good tone.
After playing the guitar, you should not wash your hands because this can cause severe problems in the muscles and joints. In order to avoid injuries, it is advisable to warm up before starting to play; for this, there are a series of excellent exercises, and the warming of the hands can be done with a machine to strengthen the muscles.
These recommendations will help the guitarist have harder, healthier, and more resistant nails to play the guitar effectively and that it has a quality sound.
Nail filing tutorial
This article wants to shed some light on the world of guitarist’s nails so that it helps us to preserve our nails and avoid more aggressive treatments as much as possible to continue with this incredible art of the guitar in the most optimal and healthy conditions.
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