If you are learning how to play guitar, you probably have many questions going through your mind, and one of the main ones is whether or not you should trim your nails to play guitar. While having long nails in your picking hand can be great and help you achieve a special tone when playing fingerstyle, your other hand should have trimmed nails.
In this guide, we’ll go over some of the most important reasons why you should trim your nails to play guitar.
Do guitarists cut their nails?
Yes, guitar players, in general, cut and trim their nails in both hands, especially if they are using a pick to play. The reason is that having trimmed nails allows them to quickly press the strings on the fretboard without hitting the fretboard and gives them more control over the notes they are playing. For the playing hand, having trimmed nails also makes it easy to hold the pick and play faster.
The only exception to this rule is for fingerstyle players who like to have longer nails on their picking hand, which allows for creating a sort of pick with their nails. Fingerstyle guitar players will also trim their nails to sharpen them, which helps to improve their picking and sound.
Before jumping into the reasons that make trimmed nails better for playing guitar, we need to distinguish between fingerstyle guitar clearly, players who use their fingers to pick the strings and those who use a pick. Fingerpicking requires, in some cases, longer nails or nail picks.
Why trimmed nails are better for playing guitar
Here are some of the main reasons why trimmed nails are better for playing guitar:
1. It’s easier to press the strings
One of the main reasons why trimmed nails are a must for guitar players is that it allows you to press the strings without a lot of effort easily. If you have long nails and you try to press a string on the fretboard, the nail can get in the way and hit the fretboard unintentionally. This makes it harder to press the strings and play, especially at a fast tempo.
2. Improves hand placement
Trimmed nails also make it easier to place your hands around the neck of the guitar and on the right strings. While this may seem unnoticeable, it can make a big difference when you play and learn how to place your hands correctly.
3. It makes it easier to play chords
Certain chords require you to stretch your fingers a lot, and when you are just learning guitar, having long nails will make it difficult to do specific chord shapes that require a lot of stretching.
4. Improves articulation
Your articulation can also improve if you have your nails trimmed, and this will help you to perfect your technique over time and become an even better guitar player. You’ll also notice that things like bends or pull-offs, and pull-ons are easier to play with if you have your nails trimmed.
5. It gives you more control over the strings
Finally, trimmed nails will give you more control over the strings because your fingertips rest totally on top of the strings. If you have slightly longer nails, they can quickly get in the way and make it more difficult for you to play and have complete control over the string’s movement.
Do you need short nails to play guitar?
While you do not need short nails to play guitar, it is usually advisable to trim your nails as much as possible. On the one hand, it will make it easier for you to hold a pick, and as we mentioned previously, it will also be easier for you to press your fingers against the strings and the fretboard.
Should you cut your nails to play guitar?
Yes, cutting your nails will make it easier for you to play guitar because it allows you to have more control over the strings, and their movement, while offering you more flexibility and dexterity.
How long nails affect your guitar playing
While it may seem like it is not important, the size of your nails can have a great impact on your playing. When you are trying to play or learn guitar with long nails everything will be more difficult.
Pressing the string with your fingertips requires a surface area where your fingertips touch the string directly, and if you have long nails that surface will be smaller. Additionally, the long nails will hit the fretboard making it more difficult for you to press the strings.
All of these hurdles are easily overcome, if you put in some time and effort you will be able to play with long nails, but that shouldn’t be your approach. You will inadvertently make the learning process more challenging, and demanding for you. Which in turn makes it more difficult for you to improve and become a better guitar player.
I have been playing guitar for the past 15 years, and my knowledge and passion for guitars prompted me to start Guitaresque to share my knowledge, tips, and tricks with other guitar players. The sole purpose of this website is to help and inspire guitar players worldwide, to improve their playing and their love for guitars.