Re: No Nails (Hector Garcia)
- From: David Raleigh Arnold <dra@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 05 Dec 2009 22:24:34 GMT
On Fri, 04 Dec 2009 17:13:49 -0800, JonLorPro wrote:
On Dec 2, 7:05 pm, David Raleigh Arnold <d...@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:Without-Nails?&id=138819
On Wed, 02 Dec 2009 09:27:33 -0800, Tommy Grand wrote:
I stumbled upon this sitehttp://billbakerontheguitar.com/
This guy recorded a Pujol CD, but also has another very
interesting product: a live recording of Hector Garcia playing
Giuliani's concerto, Op 30.
Not comments about Hector Garcia, about no nails vs. nails.
In listening to the clips on the bill baker site, it sounded to me as
though both his and Garcia's articulation occasionally sounded a bit
bogged down in a manner that seemed connected to the no nails techique
they were using. Other times it seemed due to other factors.
Perhaps then this is a comment which goes to the issue of "no nails vs.
nails", but alternatively, at some time within the last year or year and
half, someone posted a link to a decades ago recording by a female
guitarist as an example of what no nails playing can be like (was it
Anido? Sao Marcos? Anybody remember? I don't recall). What I do remember
is that the playing was sparkling, and did not seem in the least impeded
by the difference in friction. So, then the observation becomes a
comparitve comment on Garcia (and Baker).
I also was once privileged to spend an enjoyable afternoon with Juan
Mercadal at his home in the early '80's- his nails were so short that
his technique was nail-less, or nearly so, and his tone did not seem
uneven as a result. I don't know how that may collate with factors
affecting the recording that ktaylor mentioned, which Juan himself
reportedly did nor care for.
Then of course there is the familiar slew of contemporary lute players
who use no nails who sound great- but use a different right hand
approach, which opens up a whole new can of worms to consider.
In a post of mine a while ago which dealt in part with nails or no
nails, I made reference to articles by the following two guys- neither
of them thought to touch on the issue of string material which Robert
Crim raised, but they are interesting nonetheless for those looking into
They are both notable as reversals of points of view one might
anticipate- the following being by a lutenist who plays _with_ nails:
And the following is by a guitarist who makes the case for playing
guitar with_out_ nails.
This same guitarist wrote a longer version with a different enumeration
of points in an article to which I now don't seem able to find a link.
That version appears below, and is the article I researched when writing
the post I mentioned. One thing that amused me at the time was his point
"Is it possible to play classical guitar without nails? I guess so as I
often do it myself. Many guitarists today and in the past have also done
the same. Let me tell you the advantages of no nails playing and give
you some tips!
Sharon Isbin in her Classical Guitar Answer Book wrote... "Classical
guitarists can play without nails, but they should be aware that in
doing so they are sacrificing certain possibilities of tone color and
projection - all of which affect interpretation and musical
I have played classical guitar and also improvisational jazz and blues
guitar for many years and have been teaching others professionally. I
have played with long nails, shorter nails and no nails at all.
I have seen guitar students struggling with their tone on the guitar.
Guitarists with problem nails, guitarists not taking care of their nails
and subsequently with a terrible tone and some guitarists with perfect
nails and still not a good tone because of faltering technique.
I have also met guitarists that were playing without nails and I have
seen electric guitarists finger playing without nails like Mark Knopfler
As with nearly everything there are pros and cons with the different
approaches. I like playing without nails for these reasons:
1. It's a challenge to find the tone and get the most out of the guitar
playing without nails. You have to play with more force to find the
upper harmonics and you have to work even more with the guitar
technique. No sloppiness is allowed!
2. I like the sweet sound of my fingers touching the strings. The sound
created is mellow but the volume will still be satisfying if you play
with force and with calousses developed by practising.
3. There is a special feeling involved in letting living flesh touch the
strings on a guitar. You will come nearer the instrument somehow.
4. Of course you'll have the advantage of not risking to have your nails
broken as you don't depend on them anymore.
5. You will be able to play piano with correct finger posture.
6. You can play electric guitar with your fingers without risking to
destroy your nails.
I will now give you some of my own advice and experiences from playing
You might find some more information on the net as there are many other
classical guitarists and lute players who want to play without nails.
Here are my personal hints:
1. It will take a week or so to build callouses on your fingertips after
having filed down your nails. This will improve your guitar playing and
tone but until then you have to be careful not to play so intensely as
to get blisters.
2. A way to build callouses is to play finger picking on electric guitar
or steel string guitar. I have experienced that my blues guitar playing
is much more musical and more dynamic as I play with my fingers instead
of with a pick on my electric guitar. Sometimes I use to alternate
between my thumb and index finger when playing scales and licks and
other times my index finger and middle finger or in another classical
guitar playing way.
3. You will get a softer and in many ways a more beautiful tone if you
cultivate your playing without nails. However you might miss some of the
higher frequencies. To compensate for this you can see to it that you
always play with fresh new strings and if you are a rich man you might
purchase a classical guitar with more treble and less bass.
4. When you use your nail sharpener (you should instead of just clipping
the nails off!) to keep your nails short you might as well give your
fingertips some grooming with the nail sharpener. This will improve your
tone and stimulate your finger tips to become harder.
5. As you practice exercises on your guitar you need to play slowly and
with a little more force to get a good tone. It is important that you
don't build tensions as you play. All musicians benefit from learning
relaxation techniques and stretching to prevent injuries.
6. Practice especially playing apoyando (support strokes) with all your
fingers and listen to the tone and try to improve it as part of your
If you feel that playing completely without nails is to hard for you,
you might after this test period let them grow but you can keep them a
lot shorter as your technique has improved. They will then work as the
claws of a cat. Mostly not used but still affecting your tone and
supporting your playing. As with long nails you will have to polish them
and take care of them.
There are many more things to say about playing guitar without nails but
personally this technique gives me a tone I like and an exciting and
Peter Edvinsson is a musician, composer and music teacher. Visit his
site Capotasto Music and download your free printable sheet music and
guitar tablature at http://www.capotastomusic.com/.
Thank you for this interesting post. I commend you for your
not taking a negative attitude with students who want to
try no-nail playing. I have recently come to advocate practicing both at
once. How can a person play at absolute max possible forte without
hurting himself but not give up the advantages of using nails? Only by
playing on the side of the finger without removing the nail, in a
way similar to the way bass players do. That stroke is only for
max forte and possibly whisper pianissimo.
Everything, so far, tends to convince me that calluses are good
for no-nails playing. One who practices the side-of-finger
technique that I have suggested for max forte playing will
develop calluses will he nill he on the sides of the fingers,
and that must have an effect on the ends.
Stretching builds strength, but relaxation techniques leave the
person who uses them ever more liable to injury.
For beginners: very easy guitar music, solos, duets, exercises. Early
intermediate guitar solos. One best scale set for all guitarists.
http://www.openguitar.com/scalescomparison.html ::: plus new and
better chord and arpeggio exercises. http://www.openguitar.com
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