Choosing Between Long And Short Nails For Playing Classical Guitar

Read this helpfull article which will help you choosing how to shape your nails.

Ultimate Guitar

The debate over long or short nails has raged since the dawn of the classical guitar and the right answer to this question is "It doesn't matter". But there are differences between the two styles and some things you should know before you decide which is right for you.

Some classical guitarists prefer to pluck the strings with the nails of their right hand while other guitarists prefer to keep their nails trimmed and to pluck the strings with the tips of their fingers. If you are a beginner classical guitarist you might be wondering which way you should play.You can start with no nails at all playing like that for one year or so.In that way you will find the right attack of the fingers.Only after that you could let them to grow.

Here are some insights about each way so you can make a decision as to which style is right for you.

The most important thing about playing classical guitar is the playing! It is true that the oscillating back and forth between long and short nails has an effect on the virtuosity but this switching also brings a benefit. The two different styles of playing produce two very different tones and this awareness of tone improves the ear and the ability to express yorself with the guitar. It helps you to better tap into the incredible range of tone the guitar is capable of.

Long Nails

Long nails give you a more vibrant tone, better volume and faster speed. But long nails can be a real maintenance headache. You have to keep them very carefully trimmed and watch out for their welfare in your normal life.

Short Nails

Short Nails do not produce as loud a volume, do not lend themselves to the fastest playing but do give you more control and more sensitivity in your playing. There is more of an emotional connection with the music because you literally touch the strings. Short nails are also easier to maintain and easier to integrate into the rest of your life.

So which should you use?

My recommendation for you is that if your intent is to be a professional classical guitarist you should cultivate your playing experimenting with both styles and see which you like.It can be a bit of a worry to have long, perfectly trimmed and manicured nails for playing yet always worry about breaking them. And breaking one nail seriously hampers, if not totally stops your ability to play. You will be running down to the local drug store to find a nail repair kit. Either way you go with your nails my biggest recommendation is that you not worry about it. The most important thing in classical guitar is the music and you should always think about what do you want to heare playing your guitar because its a beautiful instrument and it is going to sound fantastic.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'm afraid that I'm going to disagree with -almost- everything you said in here. I've had long nails and short, long nails are indeed a pain to maintain but the sound seems nicer(this does however depend on your own tastes, is you play with force and fire or gentle, and shouldn't a more 'emotional connection' due to playing with your short nails create a better tone?). The speed and size of nails is something I'm completely opposite of your opinion, I can play a lot faster with short nails rather than long nails. Also the volume is better with short nails for me since short nails won't bend back as much allowing me to play with more force. It's not a bad article perse, but I'm definitely not all hyped up about it. On a personal note, I prefer my thunk, ring and pinky fingers long for the rasgueados(yeah I play a lot more than just classical). The size of your nails should depend on the sound you like, your style of playing and what techniques you use. An emotional connection has nothing to do with long or short nails, that's just an opinion of you who likes the long nail sound better. Long post yeah I know, sry bout that.
    I find the long nails give more volume...the thing is the right technique is to play with BOTH...and I mean play so that the string gets in between the nail and the finger, so both should be touching the string...
    I liked the sound of nails better on an acoustic (western styled) or on a classical; but when playing bass it is just way too bright.