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.
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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.

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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.

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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
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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

Rasputin
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Rasputin » Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:08 am

guit-box wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:58 pm
Check out Grisha's nails at 1:10 min. He has almost no nails. I'd have to conclude that speed is about the player's finger strength and coordination developed over years of practice combined with an anatomy that for whatever reason allows them to move the fingers fast. It's about skill and practicing the right moves for years, no doubt, but also some of us just will never have the ability to play this fast no matter what we do. Nails are likely not that connected to speed as we might think, but if they are too long or badly shaped and badly polished they might be inhibiting speed.
I think that the longer the nails are, the more critical it is to get the shape right. If you keep them short, they have to be a really weird shape to cause you a problem, whereas if you have them long, they have to be just right or they will catch or give you radically different sounds.

I would have thought a longer nail means that your fingers have to travel slightly further, which has got to slow you down to some extent, but I would think this effect is pretty negligible, and it's not as though speed is the only goal.

I don't know a lot about Flamenco so go ahead and shoot me down, but a lot of fast flamenco / flamenco oriented players have that laid back hand position you can see in this video. I suspect this helps with the speed, but it also changes the tone.

The ideal nail shape depends on how the fingers address the strings, which depends in turn on hand position. Obviously, you have to be able to accommodate a range of hand positions - so if I am right that nail shape is more critical when the nails are longer, this also means that you have to make much bigger adjustments in technique when your hand is not in the default position.

Long story short, I think that long nails may be the perfectionist's choice, but they make life so much more difficult that for most of us, shorter and more forgiving nails are a better option.

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erichert
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by erichert » Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:55 pm

My fingers tips extend quite a ways on from where the quick of the nail ends, so if I leave my nails too short I have to curl my fingers inward for the nail to consistently hit the string. And then, because of the way my hand is cramped, it just catches and twangs the string horribly. So I, unfortunately, have to keep my nails longer than I would like just so that I can play with a correct right hand position. And, because of this, the shaping of the nails becomes quite critical, I ramp i and m to the right and a to the left.

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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Tomzooki » Tue Jul 24, 2018 4:02 pm

petermc61 wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:26 am
Longer nails will only have nail contact to string, no flesh as well (which I prefer). Also, for me, my a nail is thinner and more flexible - if it gets a bit too long it sounds ‘thin’. Hence I need to keep it shorter to have it more rigid.
It is exactly the same for me, but for all my nails. I have to keep them very short - a bit shorter than the flest tip of my fingers. If I don’t they will break about nothing, and they are so soft they deform when getting in contact with the string, so they would catch on the strings even if they were adequatly filed. By keeping them shorter it adds some support and rigidity. Of course my p nail is a bit longer than the others, it is less soft too, but I still have to keep it quite short to avoid accidents and catching on the strings
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Tomzooki
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Tomzooki » Tue Jul 24, 2018 4:10 pm

GregSanders1 wrote:
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
I use Mavala Scientific nail hardener (warning: it contains formaldehyde. It is the chemical stuff that makes nail hardeners work, but it is toxic, though in much greater quantities than what is present in nail hardener, and may induce allergic reaction). It is not a varnish, just a liquid, so you can use along with it a hydrating cream like Ecrinal Fortifying cream. Personnally I must use a good hydrating cream because Mavala alone makes my nails brittle and more easily beakable
Miodrag Zerdoner 8 string Stauffer-Legnani
Benoît Raby, Engelmann sp/Ziricote
11-strings alto guitar by Heikki Rousu, sp/indonesian RW

dtoh
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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by dtoh » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:18 pm

GregSanders1 wrote:
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
I used to, but it didn't work very well. Now I get soft get treatments at a salon. For me this works very well. Natural feel, good tone, nails never break, minimal effort, but a little expensive. Some people have reported allergic reactions, but I think that's fairly uncommon.

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Re: Fingernail Length - friendly debate

Post by Tremeggio » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:53 pm

For me the most important thing is feel. The string moves across the glassy smooth tip of a nail a lot easier than it does a soft grooved(fingerprinted) fingertip. There is a very fine sweet spot of nail length where the flesh makes first contact but the nail does all the work.

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