Many guitarists are daily struggling with nail problems and rightly so, because either for the classical guitar or the acoustic one, the best possible sound is obtained by picking the strings with the natural nails. At least, this is an opinion that I share with many other friends and fans. If guitarists who use nylon strings can have nails problems, you can imagine for those who play the acoustic!
In fact, in addition to being made of metal, the strings are knurled, with greater tension and the problem is that if you play often, even if nails do not break, will certainly get consumed. This is probably also the reason why not many acoustic guitarists use natural nails to play.
Let’s say that the habits of the “steel string players” to make up for brittle nails, are among the most diverse and bizarre ones: those who glue fake nails or cut-outs from plastic material (e.g. ping pong balls), those whom use metal fingerpicks, others play just with fingertips.
Some others use “sculpture nails” by applying a mix of resin and various solvents. In this last case, are used dangerous chemicals, such as cyanoacrylic glues, dangerous for the skin and health.
It is certainly reasonable that before a performance a fingerstyle guitarist resorts to several strategies in order to repair or strengthen his nails, but if some harmful alternative practices as described before, gradually become the rule, it’s good to know that gluing something on top or, even worse, under the nails, will do nothing but just weaken them.
So if you decide to improve your sound choosing to pick the strings with your natural nails, let’s see how to reinforce them.
In the presence of particularly fragile nails, it is advisable to analyze the problem from a medical point of view and whether advised, start an appropriate diet to fill up any calcium deficiencies.
In addition to this, weak nails can and must be strengthened by applying products based on keratin, a substance naturally contained in the nails, or a mixture obtained with one spoon of lemon juice with two spoons of olive oil. But currently the product that in my opinion guarantees the best results from a curative and hardening point of view, is the Pentamedical ‘Pentaker’. It is recommended to apply it twice a week before going to bed.
The product is studied also against onychophagia, so in contact with the mouth release a very bitter taste that can easily be transferred to foods by touching them with the hands, such as fruit. Also for this reason, the daytime application is not recommended.
Care time must be considered in the long term, so if we need to protect our nails not only to play but also in anticipation of manual work for example, it is always better to apply a layer of hardening enamel to prevent damage.
In addition to this it is important to follow a daily care: the use of progressively finer abrasive papers for filing and polishing are practices that allow you to have always ‘‘well-groomed’ hands and not just before playing.
- Before diving into the water, especially if salted, apply two or three layers of hardening enamel protection over the four fingers of the right hand.
- Before work, use protective gloves and always keep a pair at home, in the car and at work.
- A good habit is to bring keys and other metal objects in the left pocket instead of the right one.
- In many manual operations, use your left hand as much as possible. A typical example, especially for us Italians: grater in the right hand and parmesan in the left! ?
- Check your nails twice a day. The so-called ‘sweater test’ consists of slightly rubbing the nails on the wool: in the presence of even the slightest cut, a thread of wool will fit on the nail highlighting the part to be filed as soon as possible.
- Finally the length of nail cut is very important: a short, wide-dome nail (see picture n. 9 below) will be more resistant than a longer one with acute end. Moreover, in the first case the sound will be stronger and the attack cleaner. Greetings and good music! Franco