Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Nail care, nail problems, and the use of nails in playing the classical guitar.
Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:32 pm

guit-box wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:04 pm
Judicael Perroy has very long nails that probably protrude 3-5 mm from the tip of his fingers. There's a long ramp with a shape that's like a rounded-V. He's not playing fast in this video, but I think he's capable of playing the virtuoso classical repertoire.

I was JUST thinking this. Also this guy pumps out GFA winners...so there's that...
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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guitarrista
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by guitarrista » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:12 pm

hugoperales wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:58 am
guitarrista wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:57 am
Longer nails (versus short on the same hand) will, if both scenarios start from the flesh/nail juncture:
1) result in a steeper nail ramp, so at the point of release, the string is deeper into the guitar body than with a shorter nail/shallower ramp (or else you've changed your finger trajectory into a different arc). This generally causes a different tone;
Alright, that makes perfect sense. Tough, If you are hitting the string softly, like when doing a pianisimo, the string wont move.
Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:48 pm
A longer nail has the string in contact and being used by the nail more often. Thus you can potentially get a thinner sound. However, I'd say nail length is more subjective in this regard.
After reading guitarrista post I dont think its subjective. With longer nails, at the point of release the string is deeper into the guitar body. I've just tested this with my guitar, and even a miniscule 1mm difference changes the tone.

You have to be careful distinguishing between two different concepts - one is varying nail length for the same guitarist, same hand - which is what my reply was about. The other concept is apparent nail length variation among guitarists - which is where a lot of people responded with "it is subjective" - by which they mean it is individual.

When people talk about "nail length", this typically refers to the amount of white you see on someone's nail, i.e. the part detached from the nail bed. I call this the apparent nail length - because it is not what is relevant for us. What matters is the nail length when your finger is pressed onto the string as in mid-stroke. Some people have very bulbous, rounded fingertip flesh; others have very tapered, thinning-toward-the-end fingertip flesh. Also when you press the string the flesh fills out some of the space that looked detached from the nail when the finger is at rest.

So, given these additional parameters, some people do very well with apparent long nails because they would usually have the tapered thin fingertips so when they press the finger to the string the actual nail the strings "sees" is just protruding a bit from the pressed fingertip; in fact they would do worse with apparent short nails. Other people (me included) who have the firm bulbous fingertips (bulbous as in rounded; small radius of curvature) can only do well with apparent short nails because even when pressed to the string, there is not much flesh adjustment - so in the end both apparent long-nail and apparent short-nail people would likely have similar actual nail protrusion as far as the pressed string "sees it", when executing a stroke.

William Kanengiser explains this aspect very well in his nail video.

On top of that there is the influence of the nail shape and nail consistency.
Last edited by guitarrista on Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Konstantin
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guit-box
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by guit-box » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:49 pm

One of the very first things I was taught in my classical guitar lessons was to look at the length of the nail from the palm side of the hand with the finger tips parallel to my eyes. So it's hard for me to believe that a guitarist on this discussion would be talking about visual nail length and not be taking into account the length of the nail in relation to the end of the flesh. When I look at the close-ups of J. Perroy's right hand, I can see his fingernail/flesh/string contact, and the nails are quite long (extending past the string while it's being touched). He likely has more MCP extension than some when he plucks to clear the string, but his nail length doesn't appear to be holding him back from being a world class guitarist.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

riffmeister
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by riffmeister » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:03 pm

I like about 0.5 to 1.0 mm above the fingertip. YMMV.

AndreiKrylov

Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by AndreiKrylov » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:16 pm

hugoperales wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:58 am
guitarrista wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:57 am
Longer nails (versus short on the same hand) will, if both scenarios start from the flesh/nail juncture:
1) result in a steeper nail ramp, so at the point of release, the string is deeper into the guitar body than with a shorter nail/shallower ramp (or else you've changed your finger trajectory into a different arc). This generally causes a different tone;
Alright, that makes perfect sense. Tough, If you are hitting the string softly, like when doing a pianisimo, the string wont move.
Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:48 pm
A longer nail has the string in contact and being used by the nail more often. Thus you can potentially get a thinner sound. However, I'd say nail length is more subjective in this regard.
After reading guitarrista post I dont think its subjective. With longer nails, at the point of release the string is deeper into the guitar body. I've just tested this with my guitar, and even a miniscule 1mm difference changes the tone.
AndreiKrylov wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:27 pm
I think it is very subjective.
People are so different...
In physical and mental aspects...
In age and conditions.
In individual techniques.
In results.
I disagree. After reading the other posts, I think just like playing on a different length of the string (sul tasto, ponticello) changes the sound in a specific way ("darker" towards tasto, "brighter" towards ponticello), fingernail length also changes the sound in a specific way.
You disagree that people are different ? you think that we all have the same weight. height. fingers, hands, age, physical condition, Anatomy etc etc?
Ok.
Good luck!

KestrelPi
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by KestrelPi » Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:57 am

I've just started picking up the guitar seriously again for the first time in about 15 years. (I played since 7 and all through my teens but had to drop my teacher when I went to university, and just never managed to keep it up).

When I played before I never had the discipline to grow nails, but I produced a nice enough tone and being new around here I'm glad to see there are plenty on this forum who aren't discouraged from playing because of not wanting nails or just not being able to for whatever reason. I very much respect it as a choice - however, I have always thought my tone would be closer to where I wanted it to be with some nail, so at the same time I started my practice up again (around 3 weeks ago now) I also just started growing the nails out and have at least so far been able to stop my messing with them cold turkey.

Where the length debate comes into it is that having played with flesh only for so long I can't quite imagine growing them past the fingertip myself. My fingertips are fairly bulbous rather than tapered, and as they stand, the longest nail (i, at the moment) still has about 2mm to go before it will reach the tip of the finger. However, when I play, I am managing to play with a little bit of nail, in the way some others have described where I'm catching the string with flesh, and letting it release off the nail. I'm pleased with the change in tone this has produced, and I think I would want another couple of mm at most to make it more consistent, which would put it to about the tip of my finger, maybe just shy.

At first I was worried that the reason why I was already getting a bit of nail contact was because I was lapsing in my RH technique, maybe playing too close to the soundboard and ending up digging in too much. But having tested it, I'm actually fairly satisfied with my RH position. So once the've all grown out a very little more, so that I'm getting that tone consistently, I really don't know what I'd actually do with any nail beyond that.

The one exception is the thumb nail, which the way I use it I would seem to need to grow it out a little more to get a consistent tone, perhaps about 1mm beyond the tip.

celestemcc
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by celestemcc » Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:29 pm

I think it is very subjective.
This! Yes. It's a combination of factors. Eg my nails look long if you view them from the top of my hand, but much shorter, viewed palm side. That's because my nail beds are short so it takes more nail (ie, more white part of the nail) to achieve the length I need. And I still get a nail/flesh combo.

There are no absolutes when it comes to this, lol, it's sortof like discussing spruce vs cedar, or strings! :D
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

simonm
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by simonm » Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:30 pm

This guy certainly used to have pretty long nails. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/44806554
Just had them cut with a dremel tool by the look of it :-)

GregSanders1
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by GregSanders1 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:58 pm

does anyone use any finger nail polish to strengthen their longer nails??
I'm trying Sally Hansen's Maximum Growth....that and vitamins

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