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Thread: Classical Guitar w/o nails help

  1. #1
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    Question Classical Guitar w/o nails help

    I started learning classical guitar, took lessons, all with nails. Now that I'm in a signed band that I play bass in, I had to cut my nails to play. I still want to practice classical guitar but will it ruin my technique with nails to practice without?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    tdc
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    I would try playing bass with a pick, that way you shouldn't have to sacrifice your nails. That being said it won't ruin your technique to play without nails, but it will make your playing sound less dynamic.
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    There's alway the option of artificial nails... But that would be horrible.
    It's the greed of huge companies and huge organizations which control life in a kind of a brutal way ... It's gotten worse and worse, somehow, because physical science has given us more and more terrible deadly weapons, and the human spirit has been destroyed in so many cases, so what's the use of having the most powerful country in the world if we have killed the soul.
    ~Hovhaness

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    Senior Member Moira's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    I would try playing bass with a pick, that way you shouldn't have to sacrifice your nails. That being said it won't ruin your technique to play without nails, but it will make your playing sound less dynamic.
    A matter of taste as to which is 'better'. I prefer the classical guitar played without long nails. That might be an emotional thing of short nails for pianists.

  5. #5
    tdc
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moira View Post
    A matter of taste as to which is 'better'. I prefer the classical guitar played without long nails. That might be an emotional thing of short nails for pianists.
    I don't think many teachers recommend long nails anymore - I don't. I do recommend some nails though (short on fingers sometimes long on thumb) as every teacher I've come across also recommends playing this way nowadays. Apparently there are still die hards from the school of Tarrega that suggest using no nails at all - I have heard they exist, but I have never encountered one of these individuals.

  6. #6
    sah
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    Having played both classical guitar and bass I think nails are a big problem, mainly if you don't want to use a pick or if you like to pop the strings. Short nails, as tdc recommended, may be the best solution. However, when I play the bass I prefer to do it with no nails at all. It is disgusting when sometimes the sound is produced just by the finger and sometimes by the nail.

    The teachers I've come across had different ideas about nails. On of them told me that fingers are not identical in each person, and depending on how nails grow in your fingers, it may be better to use long or short ones (the ones I prefer).

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    I play without nails. I can't tell you whether or not it's a good idea. That's what I want to do but it's a kind of strange things for guitarists nowadays, and I do not even know if I'll be able to make into the hochschulen/conservatories/etc. I want for my bachelor.
    Anyway, those who don't use nails at all to play the classical guitar :

    - have a look at the late Tarrega school and Emilio Pujol in particular. A great pedagogue who advocated playing without flesh only like his teacher did in his last years. A quite well known disciple of Pujol was Hector Garcia, but I haven't been able to find any music of him (btw the horrible guitar videos on YouTube are by an homonym of him)
    - period instruments and lutenists who also play guitar. Look at the baroque guitar but also at the romantic guitar. For instance,
    they play without nails[/URL] (but they're hardcore HIP performers lol),

    he is a lutenist here playing guitar[/URL],
    and so on.
    It can be useful to know how it works, however if you want to play modern classical guitar you can't copy/paste their technique. But that's still interesting.
    - some old school guitarists used to play without nails. On YouTube, there's Juan Mercadal, who was in his time an acclaimed classical guitarist. There an audio of him laying Gnatalli's concerto at a quite advanced age on YouTube, and he nails (haha) it.

    There are others of course, for instance there's this video :

    but in fact I'm not sure whether or not she's playing without nails.

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    Senior Member kv466's Avatar
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    For the bass, of course. There's almost no bass sound that you can't reproduce with a pick and the right eq'ing unless you're an all out slap-fest. Phil Lesh plays more notes in a single song than most bass players and uses a pick almost exclusively. Give it a try if you really want your nails back.
    tdc likes this.

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    I and I forgot, two useful videos on technique if you intend to play w/o nails :

    his technique is outdated (ie/ inspired by Sor) because he just almost doesn't use the a finger but it's interesting


    useful since your point of contact in the string is a bit deeper when you play without nails and you have to really dig into the guitar. But digging in the guitar with small group muscles (in the forearms) and being tense will give you a bad tone and prevent you from playing any piece a bit difficult.

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    I haven't ever played with long nail. But I had to cut them back even further and adjust my technique when I began to play lute and other early instruments. This required me to shift the right hand to an angle more parallel to the the strings. I suggest you try the same. Adjusting the angle and striking with a more inward movement will allow you to provide more contact with your nails.

    Who knows, it might work for you. Try watching some lute videos and mimicking the technique.

    Good luck.

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    Junior Member Nadia's Avatar
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    I reccomend long nails. It's much easier to play with them. Your tone will be richer and you'll have more control. More speed and dexterity. More everything. Nails are a better solution, how do you think Villa Lobos Etude No. 1 would sound without them?!
    At first it's a bit annoying. You have to constantly file them... It's boring. The secret is knowing how to polish them the right way. Polish them from underneath. They have to be as flat as possible, not curved, so you increase the contact surface. I recommend Miro's Nails nail kit. It helped me a lot. Playing without nails requires altering your right hand position ang lowering your wrist which is a bad idea long term. It will affect your ability to cotroll and mute the sound and it will cost you some speed. Keep the nails.

  12. #12
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    ^ +1 They don't have to be long--maybe just barely extend past the fingertip--but in my opinion, one needs a little bit of nail for the above reasons.
    Philip likes this.
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    Junior Member kamalayka's Avatar
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    I play without nails. But, considering I use those gut strings and only like to play/compose in the 18th-19th century styles(Giuliani, Aguado, etc.), I have no problems!I'm content where I am.

    Check out this video:

    http://youtu.be/WCHkNko0OvI

    They're pricey, but they're worth it!

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    tdc
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    I don't think many teachers recommend long nails anymore - I don't. I do recommend some nails though (short on fingers sometimes long on thumb) as every teacher I've come across also recommends playing this way nowadays.
    I've come to realize my nails actually sound best longer than I previously thought, I seem to be able to get a lot more speed this way as well. I think people just need to go with whatever suits them best on the nails issue.

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