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Classical Guitar Fingernails

Fingernails. Probably one of the hardest things to cover in text and offer advice about. Everyone has different nails, and different nail shaping needs.

The Wisdom of (Guitar) Crowds

One the most valuable fingernail resources on the Classical Guitar Blog is the Guitar Fingernail Open Thread. Several commenters have left advice about dealing with thing nails or awkward nail shapes.

If you have some thoughts or advice, please leave it in the comments to help the next person out!

Fingernail 101

Fingernail Basics covers some common terminology and offers some advice about the basics:

  • Fingernail length
  • Shape and buffing
  • String contact and release points on the nail
  • What nail files to use

Do Guitarists Need Nails?

Classical Guitar and Fingernails answers that question and others about how long nails need to be. The verdict? You probably not need nails, but they help.

The other major consideration discussed in classical guitar and fingernails is length. How long do nails need to be? Probably not very. The answer has a lot to do with nail beds and actual length above the fingertip flesh.

When to Do Nail Care

Take care of your nails before the practice day. That way there is no weird adjustment period mid-day.

Video Lesson: Nail Shaping and Buffing

Fingernail Supplies and Materials

These are recommendations, and a good starting point. You’ll find stuff you like to use over time; don’t be afraid to experiment!

To shape your nails you need either a diamond dust nail file or a glass/crystal nail file.

You don’t want to use a cross-hatch style metal nail file, like those found on nail clippers, or an emery board. Those types of files create really rough and ragged nail edges that even smoothing with sandpaper won’t take out.

After you’ve shaped the nails with a file, you need to smooth them (see the video above for a demonstration of all this). That’s done with extremely high grit wet/dry sandpaper (check your local hardware store) or MicroMesh.

An Insider Fingernail Secret

When you buy nail supplies, the files and sandpaper are going to be too rough. You’ll take off too much nail and be screwed.

Once you get a new nail file run one side of it against some concrete or metal to wear away some of the excess roughness.

Rub sandpaper against itself to knock down its roughness. Keep your old, worn-down sandpaper around and use it as a last step to “finish” the nails. This is essentially the same thing as MicroMesh, which is super fine grit already, but comes in several variations. You use the lowest grit first, then work up to the highest. Use the newest sandpaper first and work up to the oldest.