#1
I am an aspiring finger picker, and am wondering if there are anyways I could play with my fingers which have no excess nail? I will be in the army shortly therefore can't have long nails or anything and I'm also kind of opposed to them. So...

Suggestions for fingerpicking w/o nails?
#2
Well I've play Classical guitar for several years. Most of my life really...
My teacher always recommended having nails since they help you pick and have a clear sound. Just play the way that you feel comfortably like.
#3
They're not a necessity. Just do without. The sound will be different but at least you'l avoid the perils of breaking nails and actually taking care of them properly.
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#4
I find that a thumb pick helps me. That way the notes sound clear and you just have to play with your other fingers with a little more force.
#5
I play my steel string with my fingers a lot for blues kind of stuff. I don't grow my nails out at all.

Now my fingers on my right hand are calloused a bit also.
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#6
Grow them...


you'll have more beautiful and clear sound....

and...

you know... you wont lose anything in growing them, instead you will gain!
#9
Quote by Meowskis
You need nails


Incorrect!

There has been much debate over this topic, but it has never been, and hopefully never will be, universally accepted that nails are a prerequisite for performance on the classical guitar and its styles.

The debate over the use of the nails of the right hand has continued over the years starting in the early 19th century with Fernando Sor who found the nails to be unnecessary; whereas his contemporary Dionisio Aguado felt that the nails were necessary to achieve speed and tonal variation. From Andres Segovia onwards the nail in conjunction with the flesh of the right hand fingers has become the accepted practice.


Sor himself did not use the nails on his right hand.
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#12
If you are lucky, you wont need long nails to get a good tone. experiment with short nails that would be possible to take care of in the military. without nails you won't be able to vary the sound too easily and you will get less volume. Add to this that you will lose the tone that the nails will give you. I am quite sure that if you experiment a bit with your hand-positioning and try the segovia-, presti-(backwards) and more modern straight wristpostitoining you will find a way of getting a good tone with quite short nails.

edit: sound not soul :S
Last edited by C4ll3 at Jul 17, 2008,
#13
I play classical with my fingertips because I have no nails. I have a very bad habit of biting them lol. It's fine for me but is is quite hard to do ponti AND get volume.
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#14
Quote by Dreadnought
Incorrect!


Sor himself did not use the nails on his right hand.



Tarrega didn't use nails on his right hand near the end of his life either.
#15
It is true that these two great guitarists did not use their fingernails but think about it. At that time they did not have nailpolishers and the endless market of fingernail-thingies. Test it yourself when you file your nails with a file and play without any polishing. It doesn't sound too good does it. Sor didn't like the tone (and neither do I) of a roughly filed nail but I am almost 100 percent sure that he would have used nails if todays file buffers were available.

Tarrega however (this is what I have heard from my teacher that has been taught by one of Tarregas pupils pupils pupils or something like that) experimented with his nails for a long long time and came to the conclusion that his nails were no good and finally settled with his fingertips. I am not completely sure about Tarregas reasoning.
#16
Quote by C4ll3
It is true that these two great guitarists did not use their fingernails but think about it. At that time they did not have nailpolishers and the endless market of fingernail-thingies. Test it yourself when you file your nails with a file and play without any polishing. It doesn't sound too good does it. Sor didn't like the tone (and neither do I) of a roughly filed nail but I am almost 100 percent sure that he would have used nails if todays file buffers were available.

Tarrega however (this is what I have heard from my teacher that has been taught by one of Tarregas pupils pupils pupils or something like that) experimented with his nails for a long long time and came to the conclusion that his nails were no good and finally settled with his fingertips. I am not completely sure about Tarregas reasoning.


Yeah, they may not have had nailpolishers but that doesn't mean all that much. I have never used any of those things with my nails and I get a perfectly fine tone.

Plus, think about how many of the guitarist back then probably used nails, thus making it so popular now. If others used it then obviously the tone wasn't too bad for them either.
#17
Polishing will give an even better tone in my humble opinion But everyone has different taste.

http://www.zohourian.com/Main/Classical%20Guitar%20History.htm

There are also different ways to use the nails. Compare the tone:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLnz53WSRSw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIzKsNIRrV4

Maybe the combination of flesh and nail weren't developed enough in Sors time. But what do I know.

Proffessional performance will be somewhat difficult I think on the classical guitar without nails, just look at the greats.
Williams, Segovia, Presti, Romero, Söllscher, Barrios, Bream, Yang, Ji, York, Tennant, Fisk, Hii, Kanengeiser, Lauro, Diaz etc. Everyone uses nails and I think that these fellas really know their work.
#18
well... i've been playing fingerstyle for years... with and without nails.... my experience is this.

nails give you a brighter sound, and for a nylon instrument some prefer it long. i prefer no nails... the fingertip gives a beautiful warm tone to your sound that a nail or plectrum can't touch.

for steel string, the plectrum gives a nice punchy clear tone whereas nails offer almost the same except for the odd occassion of tearing. once again i prefer no nails as the fingertip now brings in warm overtones not totally apparent on a nylon string (the overtones happening nicely on steel string due to the different nodes of the string being clearer). if i need the plectrum for a clear bass i'd incorporate hybrid picking so that the overtones are still present.

hope this helps.
#19
I play a steel string and can get enough volume that my singing doesn't overwhelm it. I tried some finger picks but they were all curled inwards and didnt feel right at all. I am just going to try this, I don't aspire to be a virtuoso classical player. I just want to be proficient enough that I can play songs I write and a little more. If I pick by the bridge it works pretty well btw.
#20
finger picks, they dont feel quite right, but you get used to them
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#21
the tonal differences arent too much. and for most people nails get kind of tough to grow. im a nail biter....
#22
Although I use my nails, if anyone thinks they are a necessity, check out Mississippi John Hurt on you-tube. He doesn't seem to have a problem without them.
#23
Dreadnought

It is indeed an amusing anecdote, though I do see UGs influence here, using an anecdote that is over a century old, tsk tsk . That said, it is more or less the norm these days for a classical guitarist to play with nails, and has been the standard for at least 60 years now. I have yet to hear a classical guitarist that can actually provide a decent tone, and range of timbres, without nails. The reason we use nails is because of the increase in volume and vast amount of 'brushes' we gain in actually playing every note.

Naturally, if the OP would like to be the one in this era to provide that, by all means do so. You are not bound by those who came before you, if you do indeed intend to play classical music. Styles that require 'fingerpicking' are rather great in number, classical music indeed requires you to use your fingers instead of a pick (though some exceptions exist), but such picking-patterns as we see in other styles are rather rare outside of etudes. Another suggestion would be lute music, if you can appreciate that. Lutists are generally unwilling to play with nails, and there are as I understand it somewhat cliquish factions opposing the other regarding this, though I've heard of a few times where they're growing out their nails as well, and even taking off the 2nd strings.

Either way, no one can tell you what to do, though it does help to listen to suggestions. I personally couldn't dream of playing classical works without my nails, nor flamenco, but I hate the sound of nails on steel strings, so there I'll always use a pick or the flesh of my thumb alone. Unfortunately I can't combine the two to a level where I'm happy with it.

Good luck.
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