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Joined: May 2007
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I played classical guitar before starting piano many years ago, and I'd like to start playing the guitar again. If any of you play both, how do you handle the fingernail issue (longish for guitar, short for piano)?
thanks for any tips,
Mike


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I file my RH nails so that they are just long enough for guitar. Not overly long, not even a 16th of an inch. If I keep them at this length, I have no trouble at the piano. Any longer I I start to get a click. Because I play my electrics with a thumbpick and fingers, I use clear nail hardener to protect against chipping and breakage.


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Used to play classical guitar. Still have a classical guitar except now I play my music on it. It's a Dean cutaway.

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I play classical guitar, and have thought about this in the past, sorry to advertise for other forums, but i remember i found quite a discussion on this in a classical guitar forum called delcamp, heres the link

http://www.delcamp.net/forum/en/

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Eek. It can be a problem.

My bachelor's degree is in classical guitar performance. I played piano with RH nails for many years, though I've never kept my nails very long, because if my index finger nail grows more than slightly, it kind of hooks under and creates an unpleasant sound.

After music school I took up playing lute, and found that it worked best with extremely minimal nails. I was able to switch back and forth between guitar and lute without any trouble.

In 1993, when piano addiction suddenly took over my life, I became absolutely unable to stand having nails at all. I was also then, having cut my nails, unable to produce the sound I had previously enjoyed on the guitar. Lute without nails was fine, though, in fact better than before.

At the same time, I became a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and nails became absolutely impossible because they poke into patients' skin when I take pulses or press points.

So where I'm at now is that I play without nails (when I play guitar at all), and on the rare occasions that I need to play guitar for a performance, I temporarily grow them a little bit.

There are numerous guitarists here in New Mexico who play without nails by choice; they were mostly students of Hector Garcia, who was a disciple of Pujol if I'm not mistaken, or students of those students. Their technique is quite different from the average, and it includes some severe weaknesses, including almost laughably poor tremolo. They have to play apoyando all the time to make up for the lack of volume. It's kind of a religion with them. I don't recommend this approach, although they did convince me that the usual very heavily nail-y sound can be obnoxious.

Somehow over the years I became more able to use the very slight edge of my very short nails to get an adequate sound on the guitar. I'm not sure what made the difference. Do experiment with different strings to see what works best for you with minimal nails.

And do consider this: Any nail at all limits the ability of the hand to roll forward, that is for the fingers to move over the nail-- I'm not sure how to describe this motion, but anyway, the nail blocks it, and it is necessary to expressive and free piano technique.

I think this all comes down to arranging your nails to be best for the instrument that you play most and is most important to you.

Elene


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I played flamenco but quit it when i started piano. There is just no way i could play without nails. Not just tremolo, but most rh techniques demand pretty long (long for a pianist that is) nails.

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Thanks for all the thoughtful replies - they were helpful. I think I'll try the short nails as piano is my primary instrument. I actually played guitar with fairly short nails previously except for the thumbnail which needed to be longer. A little extra nail on the thumb may not bother me much on the piano - I'll have to give it a try and adapt as necessary.
thanks, Mike


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I have the same question / issue, except that SAXOPHONE is my primary instrument - piano is my double.

Also, what about the callous question? Do guitar callouses interfere with piano? I would think they would.

Note, this is for a nylon string, wide neck classical guitar.

Thanks!


Selmer Mark VI Tenor (‘73) & Alto Sax (‘57), Yamaha YSS-62 Soprano Sax (‘87), Conn Naked Lady Baritone Sax (‘52), Conn New Wonder Tenor & Alto Sax (‘24), Yamaha WX5 Wind Synth (‘13), Kawai MP11 & ES-110, Numa Compact 2x, Casio PX5S, Roland VR-09, Hammond E-112 (‘69).
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Hi Skyscrapersax,

I play piano, sax and just started classical guitar a couple months ago. I’ve found that piano and sax are pretty compatible but guitar is a problem due to the nails issue. I’ve decided that I will not be playing with nails on the guitar and have made this clear to my teacher. Her opinion was that I’ll be ok without nails for a couple of years (the beginner years) but she said that nails are pretty much expected at the intermediate/advanced years. For example, if I were to do RCM exams, she said the examiners would expect the tone from nails by about RCM Level 5.

I cannot have proper technique on the piano with any length of nail and am not prepared at the moment to sacrifice piano technique for the classical guitar. If/when I get to the intermediate level, I’ll re-evaluate then.

So far, I have not developed significant calluses that affect my piano playing...maybe I’m not practicing enough?

Also, as mentioned in a previous post, and if you’re not already aware of it, there’s a whole subforum regarding nails on the delcamp classical guitar forum if you’re interested:

https://www.classicalguitardelcamp.com/viewforum.php?f=87&sid=90f551f8425469b6f8842a850ba00e2b

BTW, this is an 11 year old thread. smile

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 01/19/21 11:35 AM.

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