Why You Need To Cut Your Fingernails To Play Guitar

Most beginner guitar players have no idea why you need to cut your fingernails to play guitar. Some might even go on for quite a while not realizing that their long fingernails are drastically inhibiting their progress. This is quite simple, cut your fretting hand fingernails very short and that is all you need to know. But from my experience most people need some more convincing and this is what we will get into today.

First off the picking hand fingernails is a whole different topic. What you must cut are your fret-ting hand fingernails. When you press your finger down onto the string your finger will point at the fretboard. If you fingernails are long then they will prevent your finger from pressing the string all the way down. This will cause a few issues.

1. Buzz

Fret buzz is a big problem with beginners and it isn’t fun. Having long fingernails adds to the prob-lem. When the string isn’t pressed down so it is resting on the fret-wire then it will buzz. The buzz in this case is the string vibrating against the fret. You must hold it against the fret so that there is no buzz.

2. Fretting Incorrectly

When people play guitar with long fingernails they tend to angle their fingers. This results in play-ing more with the fingerprint instead of the fingertip. If you play most any chord like this it will sound awful. Your angled finger will touch other strings causing them to mute or partially mute. If your nails are very long, the angle will cause the nail to touch other strings and buzz against your nail.

3. Tension And/Or Injury

This isn’t something I’ve be able to measure since I usually instruct people to cut their nails asap. If what you are playing isn’t sounding correct then you might be very tempted to press harder. Pressing harder adds unnecessary tension in the fretting hand. If this is not resolved it can cause injury overtime. Though I haven’t seen this happening due to fingernails, I have seen injury due to tension.

4. Damaged Nails And Fingers

This would be the most extreme scenario. If you are pressing your fingernail into wood and metal day after day it will cause problems. It is the same as if your toe nails are too long. Jamming them into the front of your shoe it will damage the root of the nail and you will lose the toenail. Gross!

Best case is your fingernails get a little damaged near the tips. But you don’t want to risk damag-ing the root or sinus of the nail. Cut them short enough so when you look at the nail you can see your fingertip sticking out overtop. This might feel weird if you aren’t used to it, but you will adapt in a short period of time.

Some people do have nails that seem to go up to the ends of their fingers and claim they can’t cut them back any further. In this case you will need to file them back a little further each week so you nails can adapt to being much shorter. Push your fingertips against a flat surface. If your nails touch the surface then they are too long.

5. Discouragement

Though damaged nails or losing a nail sounds extreme, this might even be worse. Imagine you start playing guitar and it sounds horrible, hurts, or any of the above causes of long nails and you lose all motivation and quit. You will miss out on a entire lifetime of fun playing music. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I had not started playing guitar. It would completely different and I would be a different person. This is the worst outcome.

Get those nails nice and short and keep them there. You will get used to it pretty fast. Take it form me, when I was a child I had very long fingernails and hated the feeling of short nails. Then I started playing guitar and cut them down. Now it feels weird when I have long nails.

If all that wasn’t enough to convince you here are some more reasons. When your nails are short you don’t have to constantly clean them, they will break much less, if at all, and you won’t acci-dentally scratch others. Also if you are a man it isn’t an attractive look. At least not in the United States.

About The Author: Ryan Duke is a songwriter, musician, guitar teacher, and owner of Seattle Guitar Mentor providing Guitar Lessons Seattle.