Does your fingernail length affect your play?

jjmason777

Senior Member
This might seem strange, maybe right up Larry's alley, but I swear I play better with about 1/16th of an inch of the "white" part there, as opposed to freshly cut, with no white part left. The only thing I can think of is that there is more support for my fingertips when the nail is there, and when I cut them, my fingertips are more rubbery, and I have slightly less control? Is it all in my head?

It's gotten to the point where I cut may nails around my gig and rehearsal schedules. Anybody else notice this?
 

Arky

Platinum Member
I fully agree! But... talking guitar playing here. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) And on the guitar I have some issues having the right fingernail length to switch between playing my electrics, one acoustic and 2 basses. Musicians tend to have sensitive hands/fingers so any difference might be perceived as 'noticeably different' or 'better' vs. 'worse'/'less comfy'.

I do have a few mm of fingernail length on my right hand (needed for acoustic guitar fingerpicking, and also helps on the el. bass but on the bass a shorter fingernail length would do). It also helps a lot for fingerpicking to have some fingernail on my thumb. The issues I had was that having a long thumb fingernail (good for ac. guitar) makes holding a pick (el. guitar) feel quite uncomfortable. A few years ago I experimented a bit and found a solution that works quite well for me: I'm keeping my right hand thumb fingernail in an asymmetric shape - more length at the left handside (where I actually need it to pluck the strings) and normal/short fingernail length at the right handside. Looks weird but it works, haha.

Sorry for the excursion but it might be interesting for the drummers that also play some guitar.

As for drums - my fingernail length was never something that I was thinking about - no issues whatsoever. Using both matched and traditional grip here.

When cutting fingernails I would _always_ keep some white part but only a tiny amount (left hand). I tend to have slightly sore flesh for 1-2 days when cutting my fingernails too short which I don't like so I'm trying to avoid this. My routine is cutting/checking my fingernail length once a week. When I'm playing a lot of fingerpicking or the el. bass, there's some wear on my right hand fingernails, rendering them slightly asymmetric.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
It makes no difference to me on the drums, but it definitely does on the guitar. I keep mine cut very short, very frequently. I tried growing the right hand nails out for fingerpicking but I broke them constantly at work, so I just learned to pick with the pads of my fingers. Not as crisp sounding, but it works.
 

StickIt

Senior Member
I just learned to pick with the pads of my fingers. Not as crisp sounding, but it works.
+1 I've gotten quite used to this technique and actually prefer it...it kinda gives us a unique voice, no?

As for the OP, that's some serious self-observation, and even if not a lot of people have noticed that this makes a difference for them, you've discovered a detail in your own playing that, however subtly, affects your playing. I often think that these types of details and observations about one's self are what help the masters truly become one with their instrument...
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
At times when I've broken a fingernail it will feel tender, especially thumbnails. Otherwise I don't notice varying nail lengths when playing ... not actually varying while I'm playing, of course.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
And I thought we talked about everything already. This is a first!

My fingernail length does not affect my playing. I want to think of something really witty to put here, but it's just not there.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I always leave my fingernails long when I'm recording scratch tracks.

*rimshot*
Thank you! We're here all week! Try the veal and don't forget to tip the waitstaff!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Perhaps a nose-picking joke? Just trying to give you something to work with. :)

Thanks man, I appreciate it lol. I swear this whole premise cracks me up. The white part lol. This really made my day. I think it's great to be in touch with yourself like that. Being body aware is a good thing. But man are you detail oriented or what? I'm wondering how short they are when you cut them. I'm wondering how you grip your sticks where 1/16th more white part of the fingernail would make any change. Could we get pics of your fingernails lol?
 

opentune

Platinum Member
This might seem strange, maybe right up Larry's alley, but I swear I play better with about 1/16th of an inch of the "white" part there, as opposed to freshly cut, with no white part left.
"Correlation is not causation".
The average brainsize in all the Homo species increased in time with rise of the Himalayan mountains but neither one is related.

Hard to believe you can measure this stuff but if it works for you, go for it, leave them at 1/16th an inch. Now....caution....that will require nail filing not clipping (not sure many men have patience to file their nails).
 
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