Maintaining fingernails

paulmcevoy75paulmcevoy75 Portland, MaineNew
in Gypsy Picking Posts: 88

Anyone trying to maintain some fingernails and have issues with getting them caught when playing GJ? I'm not a classical guitar player really but do like to play a bit and it's also nice just for fingerpicking generally. My middle and ring fingers are no problem but I consistenly get my index finger nail caught under the strings when playing GJ. It's not so much a problem with electric picking for some reason.

I've taken to cutting my index fingernail down all the way, so I can at least hybrid pick if I need to. But it would be nice to have at least some nail on my index finger.

I guess I'll try growing it out a tiny bit so I have a nub. I've tried a variety of picks but basically have the same issue. Currently using a blue chip three sided pick so I have a fair amount of real estate. It's not like I catch it that often but when I do (once a day) it is pretty unpleasant.


  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    edited April 2020 Posts: 6,153

    This has be an age old problem in Gypsy jazz as your nails make constant contact with the strings when using rest stroke picking. I’m not sure anyone has found a solution other than abandoning playing with nails all together (which is what I did.) Fake nails probably would work if you’re up for that. They are more resistant to the wear and tear of steel strings and are easily replaceable.

    I remember Boulou Ferre, who also plays using a classical finger style technique, refusing to get on stage at DjangoFest until someone brought him a nail clipper. They couldn’t find one and just pushed him on stage. Halfway through the first tune he put his pick down and just bit his nails off ?

    Raphael Fays and Antoine Boyer also play classical, so they must have some way of dealing with this problem.

  • paulmcevoy75paulmcevoy75 Portland, MaineNew
    Posts: 88

    Thanks Michael. I sent Antoine an email. Maybe he has a genius solution.

  • paulmcevoy75paulmcevoy75 Portland, MaineNew
    Posts: 88

    It's not the wear and tear that bothers me as much as the feeling in my teeth that last about 2 minutes after I catch my nail.

  • Posts: 4,736

    That happens to me as soon as my nails aren't closely trimmed. I sometimes fingerpick but I prefer the fleshy sound of no nails. Have you tried taping over the nail?

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,319

    Yeah I keep at least my index finger trimmed close for that reason but it also helps if you hold the pick with the index finger curled in a bit (i.e don't hole the pick with the end of your finger but closer to the first knuckle if that makes sense). It's less likely to catch that way I think but your can still catch it if the nail is too long.

  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 356

    I started out as a fingerpicker and still play that way as well as with a flatpick (FWIW, a Wegen Dipper), so I'm always fussing with my nails. I play with a version of classical nail-plus-flesh: fingernails are just long enough that I can see a crescent of nail when I look from the palm side, and filed (as smooth as possible) asymmetrically, with the thumbward side of each fingernail slightly shorter. The thumbnail I keep a bit longer and also trimmed asymmetrically. (Too long and it catches when I play banjo.)

    I don't care for the long-nail approach of flamenco players--I don't like the tone, and in any case, my nails tend to snap off when they get too long.

    Dressed this way, my nails never interfere with my swing-rhythm flatpicking, even though they're often in contact with the strings. (I can see the discoloration at the end of a set.)

    This is a personal-choice matter, of course, depending on comfort and tone and and nail strength and ease of maintenance.

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