Guitar Player - Keep Nails Cut for Best Sound and Play

By Lila Karash, Local Musician and Teacher at Twin Town Guitars

Calling all fretting hands! If you are a fretting hand and your fingernails are too long, be advised that you are in danger of committing thunky, unclear chord sounds. Why? Because when you fret with long nails, you can't get the tip of your finger to make contact with the string without the nail getting in the way. You might even end up using the front part of your finger instead, so the finger will lay flat across the strings instead of being arched. When the finger is flat instead of arched, it is in danger of touching other strings, instead of clearing them, and this will block out some of the chord tones.

How short should your nails be? Nails of the fretting hand should not protrude past the fingertip. Even if they are level with the fingertip, they can still get in the way a little, but be careful not to cut the nails too short because that can lead to painful irritation. Nails can grow fast! I have students who say, "But, I just cut my nails last week!" Be sure to check your nails weekly, and when you are playing, pay attention to how your fingertips feel. If you can't get your fingers positioned correctly, your nails could be one of the culprits.

If you are a picking hand and you have long nails, listen up! You are free to disregard this public service announcement. Long nails are often curated and championed by picking hands, as they can be used in fingerstyle playing to enhance the attack of the notes.

December 13, 2020 — Carrie Bell

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