I've been messing around with the finger picking technique (this is on electrical guitar btw), and have been doing this with my fingernails grown out. However, they keep breaking, and it's always the pointer finger that literally rips itself at the base so the whole things gone every single time.

I tried the "Soak your fingernails in olive oil so they're not as dry and brittle" by basically taking a cotton swab and completely dampening my fingernails in oil when I go drive or do something for 30 minutes to a hour but they just keep breaking and shit. Does anyone else know any tricks to keep this shit from breaking.
As far as I know, you don't play acoustic guitar with fingernails, naturally they are going to break. Acoustic guitar is bright and loud enough to be played with flesh. Nails are reserved for classical guitars with nylon strings which sound very mellow without them.
I've stopped clipping the nails on my right hand, and started using a file instead.
Filing down to a soft, slightly rounded point, none of my fingernails broke so far!
Your nails might have rough edges, where the strings could get caught.
Please let me keep this memory, just this one ..
I had a friend who played a steel string acoustic with his fingernails. He said it just took time, after it breaking (and ****ing hurting) loads it eventually just got stronger..
I just use my fingertips, but I don't own a classical guitar. I have several acoustics and flesh works fine and has good tone.

Besides long nails on a man to me looks like someone who doesn't bathe or take care of themselves. Usually the case.
They're not even breaking from playing guitar, they're just getting like a little nick (that I don't even know where it originated from) which eventually causes the whole thing to break off.

I heard you need to do crap to strengthen them, but all I heard is the olive oil trick.
Last edited by zomgguitarz1234 at Mar 12, 2012,
Someone had put up an excellent article on nail care from a classical guitarist recently...Maybe in the "acoustic" section.
Anyway, your nails do not have to be long to produce a good tone. Rather the opposite. They should be just long enough to "break" across the string with a combination of nail and flesh.

They should be shaped to the contour of the finger using only a good quality diamond file, and they should be beveled slightly from underneath so as not to catch.
A daily dose of Knox gelatin (as per directions on box) will aid in growing/strengthening yer nails. Buy a good diamond emery board and use it. Picking steel strings as if ya have fingerpicks on will ruin yer nails regardless. Once and a while strikes will be OK. Ya wanna pluck the string (gently) w/nail; not try ta pull it off the guitar;D
Last edited by deltaten at Mar 14, 2012,
I play nothing but steel strings using the method I described and have no problems. Acoustic guitar and resonator guitar both strung with medium-gauge strings, banjo...

Also, nails vary wildly from person to person. Some folks are gifted with strong, flexible nails and others have thin and brittle ones. If you're in the latter category, likely nothing you ingest will have much effect; the recommended Knox gelatin is a "folk" cure with no evidence.

Other approaches:

1. Fingerpicks. Thousands use them, and there are many different kinds. Almost all steel-guitar players use them, as well as most resonator players. Banjo pickers as well, but it's for the sharp tone.
You can get them in plastic, metal, different gauges... Worth experimenting with if you're having trouble.
2. Acrylic nails. They make specific glue-on nails just for guitar players, made of harder compounds than the things women use. You have to care for them just like the ladies do....
3. Ping-pong balls. The old standard, used by many classical players. Cut little nail-shaped "moons" from ping-pong balls and super-glue 'em to your nails.
They look funny...

If you trim your nails back, and keep playing a lot, eventually, you'll form right-hand callouses on the fingertips that may produce a good tone. Several noted players use this technique; I recall that's what Lindsey Buckingham does.
Yea, I fingerpick with nails on a steel string all the time. No issues. I used to have the same issue. You get kind of a nick on 1 edge or the other, probably bumping against things or when picking stuff up. It will get caught and pretty much rip the whole nail off. First of all, make sure you are getting plenty of protein, I have heard vegetarians have problems with their nails. Second, if you get a nick, you need to file the nail way down past the nick so it is smooth again. You may end up with a nail a little too short, but it will be longer than if it rips off completely. Good luck with it
Nails should not necessarily be shaped to the contour of your finger. Nail shapes vary from finger to finger, so you want the shape that will give you a clear attack with very little resistance, thus creating a good tone. The shape that has the least resistance is a straight line. Depending on your nail shape and from what angle you are looking at your nails, they can appear curved. But the point of contact should be along a straight line.
I play steel string with my fingernails. But some cuticle and nail oil with vitamin E. Add some B vitamins and a glass of milk everyday. Along with this you should be filing your nails smooth and never filing or playing when your nails have been wet recently. After time you should be alright.
Cover your fingernails and finger tips with super glue. That's what Joey Eppard does and it seems to work pretty well for him. Or you could just go to a music store and spend a buck on a couple finger picks.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.