#1
I've recently had the urge to learn classical gas, and while I've had great success, I'm now at the point where I need to clean the song up.

An issue I have with fingerpicking is that my volume will be inconsistent. Sometimes I'll nail it, other times a catch on the my nails will cause a note to ring out loud.

Not being classically trained on the guitar, I think the easiest conclusion to make is my technique.

It's probably not the length of my fingernails, as they're always kept short enough that they never appear black.

Any advice? I get that I probably need more practice, but is there anything I can do to make it easier? Some secret fingernail magic that classical guitarists use? A specific angle I can use to ensure my fingernail never catches on the string?
Last edited by triface at Apr 26, 2015,
#2
It's just practice dude. You just have to be more conscious of it while you're playing the tune and eventually you'll figure it out. Especially since you're new to the whole classical thing, it's not surprising that you don't have the super-fine control of your finger strength yet.

You could also try using the pads of your fingers instead of the nails. I know it's not the "right"way, but that's how I've always done it because that's how you you do it for jazz stuff. I find it gives a smoother, more even sound overall, but you also get less volume.
#3
Quote by FrauVfromPoB
It's just practice dude. You just have to be more conscious of it while you're playing the tune and eventually you'll figure it out. Especially since you're new to the whole classical thing, it's not surprising that you don't have the super-fine control of your finger strength yet.

You could also try using the pads of your fingers instead of the nails. I know it's not the "right"way, but that's how I've always done it because that's how you you do it for jazz stuff. I find it gives a smoother, more even sound overall, but you also get less volume.

I think I worded my OP a little wrongly.

I've been trying to use the pads of my fingers, but because of the smaller neck width on an acoustic, it's quite impossible to not play with my fingers at my angle.

I think my question should be rephrased as such, though it sounds a little silly: How do I not hit the strings with my nails?
#4
There will be a very noticeable difference in volume between "flesh" alone and "nails". There are several paths you can follow.
One is simply to invest the time and effort to keep your nails as classical guitarists do....So that the sound is produced by a combination of nail and flesh that produces a clear tone. This is very effective (it's what I do...) but requires some work and dedication.

Or...You can go the "flesh only" route which will eventually result in some callous on the picking hand....This is pretty popular as it eliminates nail maintenance. (if you need more volume...Amplify.)

Or...You can go the various fingerpick routes. Again, used routinely by many players. There are a wide variety of picks available and you can choose from metal, plastic, etc. I used to use the "pro-pik" brand but I have never been happy with any.
#5
Are you playing a nylon string or a steel string? If nylon, I think you really need to use your nails. If steel it's all optional and comes down to practice. The compromise I've used all my life - 50-odd years of playing - is to keep my nails at such a length that both the nails and the pads hit the strings. The classical hand position, with the fingers almost vertical and the thumb well forwards of them is also good for getting good clean attack. Look at yourself in the mirror, and compare your picking hand position to that of a classical player like John Williams, especially the angles between your hand, fingers and thumb, and the strings.

If you want to use your finger pads you will have to biuld up callouses before it works properly, and I have never had the patience, I've always gone back to nails. If you want to hear what can be done with finger pads, listen to Rory Block, one of the most powerful fingerstyle blues players.
#6
If possible grow your fingernails out and just maintain them as classical guitarists do. They tend to lead to a stronger, more balanced tone anyway. Also, how are you holding the guitar? Standard style with the body of the guitar on the right leg (or left leg if your left-handed) or classical style with the body on the left leg and foot raised. The classical position works better for a lot of (but not all) people. Try it out if you're not doing so already.
#7
My fingernails are medium length, and I kind of half use them. You might want to trim yours a little bit, but I think the real solution, is not one you'll particularly like. It's practice. But not just practicing that song. You could practice sections of that song this way, but ideally, what you want, is to be way on another level from being able to play that song. You want it to be easy for you. As easy as walking. To do that, you will want to practice the sorts of movements you need at a much faster pace than the pace the song is at. You will need to have control and play very quietly in order to do that.

If you do an hour or so of intense dexterity training like that, every day, you could probably get there in a couple months.

There are other details, and technique and stuff like that, but I'd have to show you those details. It's not a very forum friendly thing.
#8
Good dynamics are the sign of a great player - it's a practice and technique issue - it's good that are at least aware of this, but you have a very long way to go before it will be second nature.

On Classical you are taught early on to be insanely sensitive and aware of the duration, attack, and volume of each note - there are exercises for this stuff where you pick the same arpeggio pattern but accent different strings, having them ring out more than the others.

Break down the song into small sections and really work out where the trouble spots are. Go slow and be meticulous.
#9
Quote by reverb66
Go slow and be meticulous.


Ya, just to be clear, I said you want to be able to play the piece much more quickly than the tempo it is at, but you want to do so cleanly as well, which requires going slow and being meticulous. slowly going faster and faster, while playing it perfectly clean. Only go as fast as you can while being super clean. Eventually you will be able to do this faster than the pace of the song. When you do that, the song will be easy to play.
#10
Quote by fingrpikingood
Ya, just to be clear, I said you want to be able to play the piece much more quickly than the tempo it is at, but you want to do so cleanly as well, which requires going slow and being meticulous. slowly going faster and faster, while playing it perfectly clean. Only go as fast as you can while being super clean. Eventually you will be able to do this faster than the pace of the song. When you do that, the song will be easy to play.



The slow, meticulous approach is definitely best. I'd only add that setting a metronome to 1 click=1 note will keep you honest--you'll be able to hear and fix minor fluctuations in dynamics much easier with a steady click