manicure for dulcimer and guitar pickers
how to have strong, healthy nails to fingerpick with
Manicure your nails a couple of times a month by:
pushing back the cuticle
buffing the upper surfaces to remove ridges
filing the nails (not cutting or clipping) into a smooth curve avoiding any sharp corners—using a nail file
profiling the tips such that the plucking edge is sharp but the upper edge is rounded
On your left hand (assuming you’re right handed) your nails need to be short enough so that they don’t touch the strings, even under pressure. Push you left fingers vertically onto a hard, smooth surface. Your nails should just miss touching the surface if they are the correct length. To long and they will inhibit your playing and damage your fingerboard, too short and your fingertips will become misshapen.
How long your right nails are is more personal and may vary according to the musical style. As a general rule, long nails give a sweet, soft sound, whereas short nails will give more volume and allow for greater speed. Your nails should be short enough to allow your fingertips to touch and dampen the string when it is plucked but not so short that you have to hook your fingers to play.
Problems & repairs
If you suffer from nails that tear, split or chip on a regular basis - it could be due to a lack of calcium in your diet. Many guitarists eat raw jelly (jello in the USA) on a daily basis to increase their calcium intake. Massaging nail-oil into the cuticle when you manicure might help too.
Cracks and fissures can be repaired with nail-glue or superglue. More extensive repairs can be achieved using false nails. There are many types of false nails but the type that uses a powder and liquid mix works particularly well. False nails are only recommended for repairs not for regular use. The glues they use drain the nail of it’s natural oils and the nail will be weaker for a while after the fault has grown out.
Finger picks sound great, albeit at the expense of sensitivity, if you can get along with them.
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