This week we will talk about the importance of good nails, this is (combined with the fingertip) the decisive factor for a beautiful tone and a pleasant playing experience.
Because proper nails are very important for playability and a good sound, we have consulted Scott Tennant's "Pumping Nylon" (as well as many of our clients have) for the best information. This is also where the images come from.
Although both hands produce tone, most is produced with the right hand (or the strumming / striking hand). In general, there are seven factors that are important whilst producing the most beautiful tone and these factors in turn all influence each other.
One of these factors is the nails and the correct length and shape of them. This is also the most important factor, the nails determine how successful you can perform the other six factors (which all relate to the playstyle).
The length and the shape of the nail are both equally important, we'll be discussing the length first.
The biggest mistake people make is thinking that classical guitarists have very long nails, this is not the case. If a nail is too long, resistance is built up and the speed of play, and also the ease of play, will greatly decrease.
To check if your nails are the right length, we use this easy method. If you can put your fingertip horizontally against, for example, a file and the fingertip and the nail touch the surface at the same time, it's perfect. This can be seen on the left in the image below. In the middle scenario the nail is too long and in the right scenario the nail is too short.
When updating the nail length, it is important to avoid cutting the nails. Cutting causes cracks which reduce the strength of the nail. We recommend to shape the nail (if possible) regularly with a file.
Nail Types and Shapes
Before you know in what form you need to file your nail, it is important to know what type of nail you have. We generally distinguish four different types of nails, shown below in the picture.
After determining the type, we can determine the best shape. It's good to know that a nail should never be too round or too pointy. Both cases provide resistance when hitting the string and can also cause hooks/damage to the nail.
We recommend these two shapes for almost all types of nail, for nail type C we recommend to use the left. For players who are looking for a faster style of play (regardless of nail type) we advise the use of the right shape.