Hey guys,

One of the main styles of guitar I play is classical/fingerstyle. I've been playing classical for about three years now, and am moderately proficient technique wise (I was learning from a university prof). Genetics would just so have it, however, that I would love guitar with all my heart and have weak fingernails. For the longest time, I just put up with my fingernails breaking at the most inconvenient times, but I've just about had enough of these freaking weak-ass fingernails. I tried a collagen supplement, but after a while I kept forgetting to take it and what little strength I had gained over weeks I lost in what felt like less than one. It didn't seem to improve my nail strength to any significant extent either.

I've heard a few different solutions to weak nails (i.e. eating lots of gelatine, using clear nail-strengthening nail polish, getting acrylic nails), but I was wondering what solutions you guys might know that best fit classical/fingerstyle guitar playing?
Last edited by jeremy.ckwiens at Dec 5, 2016,
Good nail care and maintenance is key. Firstly don't keep your nails too long: 2 to 3mm for fingers and 3 to 4mm for thumb is adequate. Secondly, look after them. I use a very fine emery board (the ones my wife throws away because they are too smooth) to polish the edges of the nails - it's the little snags and splits in the edges that lead to breakages.I use a normal emery board a couple of times a week to gently keep them to length (and polish them afterwards with the fine file). Then some common sense stuff - wear gloves when doing manual work, etc.(and don't worry about what people may say - people who have hands like raw meat might be tough but they are also stupid).
Get a calcium supplement. Or high dairy intake.
Take in the evening - your body absorbs calcium while you are sleeping.
Get sunshine every day 20 mins at least or take Vitamin D supplement. This much I know.

Paint with clear acrylic should work but I don't know for sure.
Attaching acrylic nails only really helps if you stick 'em on top. Then they do look silly.
When done for beauty reasons they file down the real nail so the fake one sits more naturally. But then you're stuck with fake nails until your nail fully regrows - about 6 weeks !!

Picture link - John Butler great guitarist using fake nails and proud of it. And an Ozzie too.
Last edited by St John 999 at Dec 6, 2016,
Acrylic treatment, if done in a proper manner where the nail is still able to breathe and stay healthy (so leaving a few millimeters at the cuticle clear of the stuff), can be a decent extra layer of defense. Acryl can be clear material, so you won't always have to look silly. Just a slightly little bit shiny. However, remember that the nails can still break, or get damaged in other ways. Another trick is to just use superglue and silk, supposedly when you ruin them, you can just glue the silk back on. However, this seems more of a poor-man's fake nail and is difficult to polish properly to get a good tone. Fake nails seem to sound a bit brighter, but a few colleagues of mine have them and after getting used to them have had nothing but good things to say about them.

As for nail strengtheners... well, I've never really met many professionals, or have any colleagues that work with it. Nor do I know surefire dietary tricks that can help you out, but I don't think it does much harm to try those. Aside from artificial protection layers, taking care that your nails are polished helps a lot indeed. Another thing that I can wholeheartedly recommend, is to change to working left or right handed, over the course of your daily tasks. I have lost count of all the times where cutting (while cooking) with my right hand has saved the nails on that hand, where otherwise I would have hacked a piece off. Do everything that has a risk of damaging the nails with the hand that will result in you keeping that safe. It's not that difficult, and over time you'll get quite ambidextrous.
Wise Man Says: The guitar is obviously female, she's got hips, breasts... and a hole.
UG's Flamenco Club
Last edited by FretboardToAsh at Dec 6, 2016,
I have the same problem. My nails have always been on the flimsy side. The gelatin thing is a wives tale. I used to use a nail conditioning cream but it didn't do anything but make my fingers smell good. Clear nail polish just makes them look gross. If you take too much calcium you will end up with kidney stones. Your best bet is to keep them on the short side and keep them buffed. Look up Pumping Nylon. He goes into great detail about how to shape your nails short and still get a good tone.
Last edited by cujohnston at Dec 6, 2016,