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Guitarist's nails (again)

25 Aug 06 - 02:02 AM (#1818424)
Subject: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Chris Amos

We havent had a guitarist's nail thread for a while so I'll start a new one, (old one is here )

I was blessed with fairly strong nails but still had trouble with breakiages and wearing down if I played a lot.

I can't get on with finger picks as they stop you doing down strokes and don't fancy having bits of plastic stuck to my nails.

I started using Hard as Nails (the reassuringly macho nail varnish for men) which worked to an extent but had a tendency to peel off, I think the main benifit was it protected my nails from day to day damage rather than helpd with playing.

I did not screw the top on the bottle properly one day and the stuff started to dry out, being of a thrifty nature I tried to remidy this by adding some nail varnish remover to thin it down again. When I used this I found it worked better and stayed on the nail longer.

After some exprements I find the best thing is; add 12 to 15% of nail varnish remover to H as N then 5 or 6 coats of the undiluted stuff and you can hack away at the strings for hours without peeling, it has added volume to my performance.

What do other guitarists use?


25 Aug 06 - 03:54 AM (#1818472)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Strollin' Johnny

Silk wraps and gel. Nothing beats it.

25 Aug 06 - 04:55 AM (#1818493)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: John MacKenzie

Tissue paper and superglue. Glue first, tissue next, glue top coat, file when dry. Lasts about 3 weeks at a go. Mind you I don't play as often as I should.

25 Aug 06 - 06:16 AM (#1818523)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: kendall

I found that a bit of a one dollar bill works better than tissue paper. It's much stronger.That's for pub gigs, and if you are in a posh place, you need a bit from a 20 dollar bill.

25 Aug 06 - 06:31 AM (#1818525)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Strollin' Johnny


25 Aug 06 - 07:35 AM (#1818569)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: GUEST,Bruce Baillie

I'm with my mate Tony Taffinder on this one, don't bother, cut your nails short and use your finger ends! it's far simpler and just as good. The ends soon get calluses just like the ones on the fingers that hold the strings down and you don't have to wear silly bits of paper on yer finger ends!

25 Aug 06 - 07:35 AM (#1818570)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Grab

Regular filing. If they don't stick out much, they don't catch on anything.

25 Aug 06 - 08:10 AM (#1818605)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Dave Wynn

I like mine in acrylic, a sort of Barbie pink. Some glitter powder or transfers look nice too. Oooooh lets start a tread about high heels next :-)

Spot the Dog

25 Aug 06 - 08:18 AM (#1818612)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Scrump

From: GUEST,Bruce Baillie "I'm with my mate Tony Taffinder on this one, don't bother, cut your nails short and use your finger ends! it's far simpler and just as good. The ends soon get calluses just like the ones on the fingers that hold the strings down and you don't have to wear silly bits of paper on yer finger ends!"

Seconded - I don't know what the big deal is about using picks or false nails, etc. If you need them to make the guitar heard when unplugged, get a bigger guitar!

25 Aug 06 - 08:44 AM (#1818626)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: John MacKenzie

Not wishing to denigrate anyone, but I think it produces a 'cleaner' sound. If you happen to have thick finger ends, it is well nigh impossible to hit just one string cleanly, [well it is for me!].

25 Aug 06 - 08:55 AM (#1818634)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: John MacKenzie

Clicked the Google link at the bottom of the page and got this place . I have ordered a load of bits, and will keep y'all posted.

25 Aug 06 - 04:16 PM (#1818904)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)

Nails have always been a problem for me. These days, I use a hardener made by the OPI company called Nail Envy. If you can get past that atrocious name, they make a matte version that works better than any other I've tried. 2 coats seems to work best.

For emergency situations and times when I just need longer, stronger nails, I use

These glue-on products take a bit of fussing to get right but work great and feel just like a set of perfect nails. They're great on nylon or steel. I use them over the hardener. That way, a daub of polish remover takes the glue-ons off easily and without damage to the nails.
Fixed the link. You need the "a href" in there, with the space. JC

25 Aug 06 - 04:23 PM (#1818913)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Clinton Hammond

I pick with my fingernails... never liked fingerpicks... or the muted sound one gets from fingertips

I have good strong nails... but even they break on occasion....

I've used the tissue paper and Krazy Glue method.... I've used fake nailed glued on over the real nail (My fav emergency solution by a LONG shot)

Mostly I just keep the ones I have....

25 Aug 06 - 04:38 PM (#1818924)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: terrier

Our band guitarist you'st to cut false nail shapes out of drinks cans and glue them on with impact adhesive! This method worked fine for him for many years but if I ever gave him a lift to a gig, the smell in the car was pure substance abuse.

25 Aug 06 - 05:03 PM (#1818939)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Don Firth

I use a combination of fingertip and nail, varying the angle slightly to get the kind of sound I want. I work my nails over ever few days with one of those metal nail files that look like they have metallic grit embedded in their surface. The first ones on the market were called "Diamon Deb," but Revlon makes a good one. You can get them various sizes, short enough to carry around in a pocket or up to six or eight inches long. One side for shaping, the other side, a bit finer, for finishing. Any drug store with a cosmetic and nail care counter or rack should have them.

When I first started playing, I did have occasional problems with my nails breaking, but my first classic guitar teacher suggested that I spend several minutes a day massaging my thumb and fingers just behind the root of the nail. I did, and a few months later, my nails started growing out a bit thicker—and strong. The nails of my right thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers are about half again as thick as the nails of my other fingers. I never break nails when I'm playing, and not very often at other times, unless I accidentally jam or snag a nail on something.

I don't keep my nails very long. If I hold my hand up palm toward me, I can just barely see the nails over my fingertips. A millimeter, maybe a bit less. I also shape them at a slight angle, then polish the edges with the "finishing" side of the Revlon file. Everybody's nails are a little different, so you have to experiment with length and shape to see what works best for you.

Don Firth

25 Aug 06 - 05:13 PM (#1818949)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Murray MacLeod

That's all very well Don, but you play a nylon strung guitar, it's a totally different ball game if you have to get some volume out of steel strings.

There is no alternative to using some kind of artificial reinforcement imo, all the really good players I know do this, it just comes down to a choice between acrylic and gel.

Acrylic gives more volume but gel (ultra-violet cured) is kinder on the nails.

Decisions, decisions ....

25 Aug 06 - 07:29 PM (#1819014)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Don Firth

I started out playing steel-strings, and I currently own a small steel-string guitar, which I play from time to time. I just use my nails the same as if it were my classic, and I have no problem at all getting good, substantial volume out of it. And it is small, far from a D model.

Walt Robertson played steel-string guitars and used only his nails on both 6 and 12-string. Plenty of volume on both instruments. Bob Nelson (Deckman) currently plays a classic, but when he and I were performing together, he was using a steel-string, playing with just "meat and bone." Alice Stuart, local blues singer and guitarist (appeared on national television some years ago and Bonnie Raitt praises her for "breaking the glass ceiling" by being the first woman to front her own band), uses only her nails on her beloved old D-18. In fact, I've known, and currently know, lots of good steel-string guitarists who just use their nails and do just fine,getting plenty adequate volume out of their instruments.

Maybe it's how you attack the string that makes the difference.

Don Firth

25 Aug 06 - 07:32 PM (#1819016)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: Steve-o

Years ago when I gave up fingerpicks I instituted a simple plan. Because of this, my nails last no matter how much I play. First, never reach for anything with your right hand; whatever it is, pick it up with your left hand. Second, when doing any work in the yard, garage, etc. wear gloves. Third, cut nails to the right length, smooth them with a file, and keep them clean. Haven't needed any concoctions or reinforcements since.

26 Aug 06 - 03:43 AM (#1819232)
Subject: RE: Guitarist's nails (again)
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss

Volume is relative. For solo gigs I can make either of the Martins speak loudly enough with just the pads of my fingers, and I do often use that technique for effect even though I have acrylic tips. (And that's with or without PA - for the sound and feel)

And yes, in the Pipers Sons, Tony (Taffinder - see above) and I aim to play equally loudly; him using his fingertips and me using my claws to achieve interweaving fingerstyle effects. But only on the softer ballads. With all four of us playing and singing strongly (Parky and Napper play instruments easily capable of filling big halls unamplified), we both need to use plectrums if we're be heard.

In the duo I prefer to use finger-picking on some full-belt songs and tunes - and so have only my nails to match the volume of Tom Napper's tenor banjo, octave mandolin or mandolin - which are all played with a plectrum, and the latter are twin-strung to boot (even though he plays quieter than he might).

In fact I can do this with my own nails - and did for a number of years, but I also strum with my nails (quite a few pieces require finger-picking and strumming at different times, with maybe eight changes in the song, but no opportunity to grab or loose a pick), and it's the strumming and frailing that really wear down the nails, because you tend to hit the string side-on.

Now, if you only gig a few times a week, your own nails will have time to grow back, but if you're on a tour of one-nighters, or doing back-to-back festivals, you simply can't manage without reinforcement. Well, you can if you change your approach and techniques - but you can't achieve the variety of musical effects that I myself prefer.

Hence why I have my own acrylic kit, and in effect run my own private nail salon!

Except right now.

They wouldn't let my bring my nail kit on the little plane home here to the Islands, so I'm making do with superglue, and just hoping not to do too much damage to my nails with boats and lobster pots and sand-castles!

We'll see how well I've managed at The Regal in Worksop on the 7th.

Meanwhile, I'm off for a sail. Anyone want to crew?