There are plenty of caveats most aspiring guitarists fail to consider until they pick up a guitar and experience the process for themselves; nail maintenance is one of them. Since this topic has become a hot debate among players and enthusiasts, it’s time to settle it once and for all – do guitarists need to cut their nails?
Guitarists usually need to cut their nails, though this is a matter of personal preference. The genre you play can also inform this decision; for example, rock musicians play better with short nails, while those who favor classical guitar playing favor longer shapes.
With all that said, most guitarists prefer to keep their nails on the shorter side; otherwise, their sound and overall playing experience can suffer. Below, I’ll explore some of the main reasons why it’s generally better for guitarists to keep their nails short. I’ll also give you some quick, efficient tips to help you maintain your nails as a musician, so keep reading until the end.
Why Guitarists Need To Cut Their Nails
For several reasons, most guitarists need to cut their nails, so let’s explore them more in-depth.
Shorter nails are more comfortable for guitar playing and almost all aspects of life. They make it far easier to play for extended periods, unlike their counterparts with longer nails, which might start to hurt if you use them long enough.
That’s especially true if your nails reach a length where they start to interfere with fretboard placement or strumming, something which’ll turn any practice session into an uncomfortable nightmare.
Being comfortable is crucial to the playing experience; otherwise, you’ll be far less likely to want to keep practicing and improving.
Shorter nails also give you better overall control over the tone and dynamics of the produced sound.
That’s because their counterparts with longer nails can often produce an accidental buzz or unwanted harmonics, which are detrimental to the music you’re producing and tend to distract from the overall sound.
It’s freakishly easy for bacteria to accumulate under longer nails, so trimming them regularly is a must to keep your guitar clean and hygienic.
The cleaner your instrument is, the longer it’ll last. When dirt and bacteria accumulate on guitar components, they will affect sound quality and damage its structural integrity over time.
Moreover, assuming you’re using your guitar regularly, it’s good to keep it as clean as possible; otherwise, you risk experiencing health issues like skin irritation or certain infections.
Though most guitars are made to withstand extended use, it’s still a good idea to do your best to treat them as gently as possible, and keeping your nails trimmed is one way to do that.
Long nails often cause scratches and micro-tears in the guitar’s strings and body. Though these might seem minor initially, they can quickly add up over time, affecting the instrument’s performance and structural integrity.
Keeping your nails trimmed to a moderate length (neither too short nor too long) can help make you a much more versatile player. Different techniques require different nail lengths, and opting for a moderately-sized shape can help you perfect all of them without making any sacrifices.
Shorter nails make pressing on the strings much easier – you can use the balls of your fingers, which you can feel and control. If you’re using long nails to press on hard metal, they won’t only hurt, but they might also end up making contact with the fretboard instead of the strings themselves, which can be frustrating (to say the least).
Moreover, some cords might require you to stretch your hand quite a bit, and some challenging hand shapes are far more difficult to perfect with longer nails.
Though the decision on whether to cut your nails as a guitar player is ultimately a personal one, keeping them at least trimmed and well-maintained is a must.
How To Maintain Your Nails as a Guitarist
Now that you know how important it is to maintain your nails as a guitarist, let’s dive into a simple step-by-step process you can follow regularly:
- Clean your nails regularly. When washing your hands, show extra attention to the fingernails, trying your best to get them clean inside and out. Doing so will help keep your guitar in better shape while making the process more hygienic.
- File. A nail file should be your best friend. You won’t get any of the benefits of keeping your nails short mentioned above, if they’re all jagged, so smooth those edges out as necessary.
- Moisturize. Since your hands will be working overtime, it’s important to keep them moisturized and free from any substantial damage.
- Trim your nails regularly. Regardless of what nail length you end up settling on, it’s important to schedule (and stick to) regular trimming sessions. Moreover, treat your nails with care and be careful not to snag or break them as you go about your day.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals on your nails. The quality and power of your playing are as good as the strength of your nails. That’s why you’ll want to make an effort not to weaken them by having them make contact with harsh chemicals. If that’s unavoidable, at least clean them thoroughly afterward and moisturize the cuticles.
- Use nail strengtheners. In the same vein, I recommend investing in nail-strengthening products that contain micronutrients that promote nail health.
Learning the guitar is a long, effort-requiring process that can be made a bit easier if you figure out the nail shape and length that works best for you. Though this usually requires some trial and error, most musicians tend to favor shorter, more practical styles for the reasons outlined above.
However, if you’re fond of a specific genre like jazz, country, or classical guitar, you might benefit from letting your nails grow a bit. Still, they should be well-maintained for you to achieve the sound you want.
If you found this article useful, you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board.