How to Straighten your fingernails
can be a real nightmare for a classical guitar player. Hooked
fingernails can spoil your guitar technique because they will
prevent your fingernails from going across the string smoothly. I offer 2
techniques that work beautifully. The soldering iron technique is my preferred technique.
have been and will always be a major concern for the committed guitar player.
Vihuelists, lutenists, and guitarists from as far back as the sixteenth
century have been debating about the issue. Therefore, when a student brings
up the issue, he is adding his impressions to this centenary arena.
Many guitarists prefer
the no-nails approach to guitar playing,
still, they will find interesting material to read further down.
misused term nail approach generally refers to a right hand
finger stroke that is actually a mixture of fingertip and fingernail. Using
only nails tends to produce a thin, plastic sound, using only flesh produces
an opaque sound, one that lacks in brilliance. The thickness of every individual's
nails, as well as the width and curvature of nails, are all factors that
have a direct influence on the sound quality produced by the guitarist.
It takes a
few years to become experts with one's own nails. "The guitarist
must eventually master his nail care or he will simply never be
master". This does not mean that one has to walk around polishing his
nails (this is a typical guitar competition stupid attitude). What
this means is that the guitarist must develop a conscience where he is
very aware of how closely related nails and sound are. Nails are to the
guitarist what vocal chords are to the singer. Still, the best comparison
is the painter's brushes. That is how important fingernails are.
The ones above are some of my wife's
brushes. They speak eloquently. The guitarist must be able to change the
angle of attack to the strings in order to produce a wide variety of sound.
Just as it
is true that some people are blessed with perfect fingers, hands, inner
ear, etc., it is also true that some people are blessed with perfect
nails. It is not easy to describe the perfect nail because the way to see
them is that they are more or less perfect according to the playing position
that we use. We'd be more or less lunatics if we tried to play at a perpendicular
angle with the strings if our nails are too thin or hooked downwards
(Williams, Parkening approach). Usually, playing with the right hand fingers
perpendicular to the strings, means that we are twisting the right hand
wrist sideways beyond health line. Malformations to the hand occur
if we persist on this approach.
These are the
nails I recommend. Rounded or sliced to an angle with the shorter part
towards the heart. The second one is the most professional way to
go about the nails. This filing allows for great contact with the flesh
prior to the nail attack plus, it is almost impossible to get hooked with
the strings and the fingers will be helped in the stroke starting from
the main knuckle of the hand.
fingernails thoroughly and do not assume that you will use the same shape
your whole life. With the years, fingernails get thicker, your body
changes and so does your overall sitting position and, ultimately, the
angle of attack will also change.
is a close-up picture of typical right hand nails. Players often use different
shapes according to their level of playing or the repertoire they are playing.
The way I use my nails is: very well polished -if you practice more
than 3 hours a day (you better not practice more than that or the next
web pages you will be visiting are a shrink's pages), you should polish
them again, using an ultra fine nail polisher picture below
(a piece of cardboard can do the job)--, longer-to-shorter (a, m, i) and
slightly shorter on the playing side and, possibly, clean.
One week before
concerts I file my nails a little shorter than usual and let them grow
keeping them polished all the way through the concert. Some pieces may
require the use of the right hand little finger as well as the use of the
left hand thumb (Do not worry, you will know when to use the left hand
thumb to stop notes) so these nails and fingers should be cared and trained
also. (Rasgueados may require the use of ch -little finger- although I
use this fingernail mostly to keep a consistent look on my right hand...it
is already difficult to explain long nails on a guy, let alone 4 fingernails
and not all 5 of them ...).
regard to the thumb-nail, keep it fairly long and somewhat square towards
the edges. It is the nail that gets most wearing during playing due to
the roughness of the bass strings. The thumb works in the opposite direction
than the other fingers. Some guitarists do not use a thumb- nail and others,
like me, use it changing the nail's plucking angle to achieve a more round
(bassy) sound or a thinner bass sound.
the flesh only is used to achieve a soft-round bass sound. Abel Carlevaro
and many of his students have also developed a "fourth-bass-sound" achieved
by slicing through the bass-strings. It is a matter of good taste to chose
the right plucking mechanism at the right time.
The thing you see down here, is neither a joke nor trademark. I clarify this because
some visitors have asked me if I "was joking". I asked back: "you
mean about the thing or the trademark?".... I recommend that you
use your common sense and stay away from the thing if you are not
sure about what you are about to do. I designed this device for severely
hooked fingernails. Experience has proved that mastering your filing skills
will solve most fingernail problems.
The soldering Iron Hooked nails technique
An even better system I have just started implementing
little over a year ago is "The soldering iron nail technique". What you
do is basically heat up the top part of the fingernail tip with a heated soldering iron while you
push the fingernail upwards from underneath using a tuning fork. The way this occurred to me was by watching
how the sides of the guitar are bent in my guitars workshop with a hot iron (image below)
I said to myself
"if heat can bend wood it will most certainly bend a hooked fingernail". It
does and I consider this technique the very best around because it keeps
your fingernails straight for 7-10 days. Needless to say, practice the
technique without plugging anything first so as to avoid unpleasant
accidents. Look at the video below for instructions.
You will need a tuning fork and....
And a soldering iron
1-I like to use my tuning fork to push the
fingernail because it has a rounded head and it is just the right
length. You can use different things that best serve this purpose.
What is important is that the instrument you use be short enough for you to hold and make pressure with one hand.
2-The rounded tip of the tuning fork pushes the fingernail upwards from underneath.
The idea is that as the fingernail is being pushed upwards, the heath
coming from the soldering iron I will use in a minute will change the
shape of the nail.
I use a soldering Iron I purchased at Radio
Shack. I heat it up for approximately 2 minutes, then I unplug it and
use on the fingernails. You can also use it plugged but you have less
control over how heated it is. It must be hot but not to the point where
you can burn the fingernail. I suggest you use it unplugged until you are more experienced.
You can also wet the fingernail with the tip of your tongue prior to
heating it up so as to avoid overheating it. What you do is heat the
fingernail as it is being pushed upwards by the tuning fork.
The concept is very simple and genial and,
naturally, works perfectly. What happens is that the heat changes the
molecular structure of your fingernail making it more flexible and allows you to shape the nail to your pleasure.