How to play guitar with long nails

How to play guitar with long nails

Can the guitarist keep their fingernails long? Do you play with a pick and want to test it with your fingernails? Or just the pick that doesn’t mean anything to you? So discover some fundamentals of the guitarist’s fingernails for playing without a pick on the guitar.

Choosing to play with nails

If you are taking a beginner’s guitar lesson and decide to play without a pick, the nail length will inevitably have an impact on your playing. Your hand which moves on the handle, the left hand if you are right-handed, must imperatively have short nails. Otherwise you will not be able to press the boxes well with your fingertips and your notes may not sound fully. But on the side of the right hand, this is different.

First, the most important is your personal comfort. There is no set rule that should tell you how you should trim your nails, these are just recommendations for you to test and it will ultimately be up to you to see what works best for you.

With nails cut short enough, when you play in arpeggios, that is to say note by note, the impact of the strings will be made mainly with the pulp of the finger. This gives a softer sound or a little more “warm”.

If you have slightly longer fingernails, know that we still play with the pulp of the finger, and it is the fingernail that reinforces the impact of the strings and this has an influence on the sound.

My advice will be let them grow a bit and test as you go until you find the length that suits you.

Optimize the guitarist’s nail cut

You can also trim your nails in a way that the impact of the strings is really maximized, as you can see The more standard cut of the guitarist’s fingernails is simply to have the fingernails a little rounded. However, by filing a little more strongly the left angle of your nails, you will minimize or even avoid this feeling of “catching” your strings. It’s your turn to try! A golden rule to respect, keep your nails very smooth because with the slightest notch they can break!

 You can use medicated varnish. But it’s better not to put on cosmetic-type varnish, because your fingernail will not be able to breathe and it will be much too hard. So during the impact with the string they will break.

Finally, if you have very fragile nails, you can try putting plastic fingernails on each finger. It’s a neat invention and some students have tested them with satisfaction.

 You can also of course put permanent false nails, it is very common in classical, flamenco but also in the world of folk music. There are models that make it barely noticeable that the nails are false, the illusion is perfect!

 And finally, always keep a nail file in your bag, they are useful!

Maintain your nails

Many guitarists play with techniques and playing styles such as fingerstyle or fingerpicking. Forget the opening pick, these methods focus, as the name suggests, only on finger playing. But for this, you must first have healthy and well-groomed nails.

Find the perfect fit and length

The cut of the nails as well as their shape remain quite subjective for guitarists, especially as each style has its peculiarities. It is therefore not uncommon to see different nail sizes from one guitarist to another. We can take as an example artists such as Jon Gomm, Estas Tonne or Ana Vidovic who each excel in a totally different register and, if we pay attention to it, each maintain their nails in their own way. Several schools exist but it can be clearly said that there is a consensus on the need to maintain the nails properly in order to make them healthy and strong.

Since the majority of people are right-handed, I will take the example of the positioning of the hands of a right-handed guitarist here. If you are left handed, just reverse the meaning of my words, as you should be used to.

We are basically going to talk about the nails on the right hand. They are the ones that need to be maintained and trimmed properly. Those on the left hand just need to be cut evenly flush otherwise they might get in the way of getting your favorite chords out. In addition, if this is not the case you risk damaging the fingerboard of the neck of your guitar and that would be a real shame.

Tools for it

For the right hand, exit the nail clipper or the chisel, the right tool you need is the nail file. If possible, avoid disposable nail files that are usually found in supermarkets. First they are thrown away after one or two uses, which is not very ecological, but worse, they make the nail sensitive and can accentuate its wear with force. No, the must-have is the stainless steel file with diamond dust coating. This practical utensil is very resistant and takes care of your nails gently. The investment is well worth it since a file of this type can easily last you several years. It is undoubtedly, with the nail clipper for the left hand, two tools to have with you, in the case of your guitar for example.

Products to maintain

The mistake not to make is to choose products with a chemical formulation of the cosmetic. Most of the time, these products mainly have aesthetic advantages and their supposed virtues are only a marketing argument. In truth, they will prevent your fingernails from breathing properly and are, for this reason, to be avoided. There are much better products for your nails. We will present them to you without further delay.

Castor oil

Castor oil comes from castor seeds and has many virtues for both nails and hair. It hydrates, nourishes and protects them, in addition to promoting growth. The oil is applied by massaging the nails and cuticles, three times a week or once a day maximum. Allow about fifteen minutes for it to penetrate the nail. After a few weeks your nails should be more beautiful and above all more solid. Olive oil or sweet almond oil can also fulfill this role.

Beer yeast

Its use is not just about fermenting beer! This yeast is actually made up of several strains of unicellular and microscopic fungi that contain a large number of proteins, vitamins and polysaccharides. It has 1000 health benefits and as such is a highly recommended dietary supplement. It allows, among other things, to fight against digestive disorders and to strengthen the immune system. Regarding the nails, brewer’s yeast is truly miraculous, it helps to cleanse them, strengthen them and promote their growth. To use it is simple, sprinkle your dishes fairly regularly with the yeast in the form of flakes or powder or, from time to time, cures with the yeast in the form of capsules. No more ridged nails!

Gels, varnishes and other pharmaceutical treatments

Pharmaceutical care is more advisable for those who suffer from nail problems. Soft or brittle nails, damaged or doubling, there are many disorders that can affect the guitarist’s playing. It is possible to find in pharmacies, emollient gels based on oil and vegetable glycerin for fragile nails, hardeners enriched in vitamins, or anti-streak varnishes.

Some tips to avoid damaging your nails

First of all, unless you have rock solid nails, avoid playing too aggressively. The nails are fragile, even if they are well maintained. Several stressors make them even more fragile. Physical stresses linked to certain vitamin deficiencies, nail aging, fatigue and chemical stress linked to products with which you may be in contact. Therefore, we must be careful not to handle surfactants, solvents, acetone-based products or gasoline. Without having put on gloves beforehand. These products are extremely harmful to the nail, but also to the skin.

Finally, to have beautiful nails you must also hydrate properly. Drinking at least one liter of water per day will improve the health of your nails.

How to trim your guitarist nails

Start by letting them grow so that you know how you feel about the length of the nails. Once the right length has been found, all you have to do is file them down. You will quickly see that the comfort and the effects are not the same depending on the length of the nail and the sensation is purely subjective.

Anyway, about nail shape, the correct shape is that which follows the curves of the fingertips. The nail should therefore ideally have a rounded shape. Fingernails that are not enough can catch the string and make an unsightly sound. It is therefore sufficient to file until the desired shape is obtained. If this is your first time taking care of your nails this way, you might find it complicated and end up with a result that is too short or not rounded enough, but after a few tries and misfires you will know exactly how to properly file your nails. Another size is to file the left side of the nail slightly more than the right side. This technique is supposed to make your game more fluid by avoiding the clashes that can sometimes happen with long nails. However, if the edges of your nails as well as the top are polished well, this should not happen.

In the case of short nails, there is not much to worry about. On the other hand, long nails require a lot of attention and maintenance. Indeed, their shape fluctuates over time and it is necessary to regularly file a file so that they keep their desired state. Care based on natural products, such as those indicated above, will be of great help in maintaining healthy and strong nails.


Finally, if your nails are shattering at the slightest rhythm and food supplements and other care do nothing, then you still have the option of false nails. They stick to your natural nails and allow those who can’t, to play long sessions without a single problem. There are also false nails specially designed for guitarists that slip into fingertips. Made of metal or plastic, they are quite practical, although playing comfort does not equal natural, well-groomed nails.

Hey! check How to hold a bass guitar out!

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