For someone who wants to start the guitar, it is not easy to navigate at first. You might have questions like should we let our nails grow? Should they be cut short? Will this create any difference or a problem while playing guitar?
Sometimes you’ll see guitarists with long fingernails. Most have short nails. But all that matters that everyone feels that they have made the best choice for playing the guitar. Let us try to study the different cases. Let’s see what nails have to do with playing your favorite guitar.
The nails of the left hand
For right handed guitarists the fingers of the left hand will press on the strings to position the chords or the notes. Their role is therefore not to strum the strings.
Thus, whether the fingernails of the left hand are long or short will influence the tone of the guitar. Think about it, to effectively press on the ropes, having long fingernails can create an obstacle. It is difficult to press on a string with the pulp of the finger when the nail is in abutment against a fret or against the fingerboard of the guitar.
I have had many women among my students who had to sacrifice their long fingernails on their left hand in order to be able to play the guitar comfortably.
Whatever style you are interested in, you will have to make sure to keep the nails short on the left hand. Also, as I always advise carrying a The Guitarist’s Toolbox, having a nail clipper handy is always useful when playing the guitar.
It’s frustrating that you can’t play a song you thought you had mastered just because the fingernails on your left hand grew half a millimeter too much!
The nails of the right hand
The length of the nails on the right hand often generates more debate. Many classical or flamenco guitarists choose to keep their fingernails long, while some guitarists only play with a pick and can therefore afford to keep their fingernails trimmed.
The right hand being used to strum the strings and thus to put them in vibration, the fact of having short nail or more or less long nails could have a major influence on the sound of the guitar. Between these 2 extremes, there are lots of intermediaries which will depend on the style of guitar, the style of music and the habits of the guitarist.
How your nail length affects playing guitar
Let’s see the consequences of 3 choices of nail lengths on the right hand.
It is an interesting choice for guitarists who play exclusively with a plectrum or for those who play with the fingertips in order to obtain a soft and muffled sound.
When the nails are very short, they have no influence on the tone since most of the time, they will not be able to touch the strings.
Normal or slightly long nails
The nails are not too long, they will generally be quite resistant and the risk of breakage will be reduced.
When the nails are a little shorter, they can be used to scratch the strings, possibly in addition to the pulp of the fingers. It will thus be possible to obtain a brighter tone with more attack.
The interest of growing the nails of your right hand is to be able to attack the strings in a frank and precise way while obtaining a defined and brilliant tone. It is a very common practice among classical guitarists, but it is also a possible choice for guitarists of all styles.
The main downside to playing with long nails is the maintenance they require. Unlike guitar picks, the shape of the nails is constantly changing at the rate of their growth. On the other hand, long fingernails tend to be relatively brittle.
So to ensure that they always have the ideal shape corresponding to your playing technique, it can be useful to cut them and file them very regularly.
Thus, many guitarists strengthen their nails using hardener or colorless varnish. Others have their fingernails so fragile that it is unthinkable for them to use them for more than 5 minutes without seeing cracks on them.
The solution is to use false nails, which are often stuck on natural nails, and which will be much more resistant than the latter.
In addition, the fact of having short nails on the left hand and long on the right hand will attract the curiosity of the laymen who, by not grasping the usefulness, will ask you questions.
What to choose?
If your fingernails are short, you can keep them that way, or try letting them grow long enough to be able to see, and especially feel and hear the difference.
In any case, the nails on your left hand will need to be kept rather short. As for the right hand, if you already have fairly long fingernails, do not cut them until you are certain that it is the best option for your guitar practice.
Hey! Also check out The different types of necks on a guitar