Q&A for International Users

Titletranslations of " Notice 56 "2006-05-31 13:13


The fingernail in classical guitar performance is one of the most essential elements of all.

1) Fingernail is not a tool for plucking the string, but a tool for producing  a clear tonality.

2) The mechanism of plucking string

1st step (Impact) ; The very first moment a finger touches the string, the contact must be occurred simultaneously both with the flesh at fingertip and the nail, or contact with the fingertip must be minutely preceded. ( If a nail touches the string first, you can not avoid unpleasant noises, thus the next movement becomes unstable, and it affects the following movements in consecutive manner.)

2nd step (Action) ; The action of plucking begins from a string of muted state caused by the contact with the flesh at fingertip.
(plucking energy = force of finger muscle + acceleration)

Don’t forget that it’s the collaboration of the nail, the muscle and the bone that transmits the force.

3rd step (Release) ; The string that received kinetic energy is freed  from the fingertip. When a string finally goes away from the fingertip, it grazes against the tip of nail as it is being released. If a string is released without grazing against the nail, it’s hard to expect a full resonance.

(At this point, if the nail tip is not slick enough or shaped in unnatural curve, it’s hard for a performer to control the moment of releasing the strings. So, the curve of nail tip must be somewhat close to round or oval shape.)

3) Other influential factors

a. Curvature ; the rounder ridgeline of a nail, the rounder must it be shaped.(must be almost oval shaped)  The flatter the nail, the greater becomes the radius of curvature.(must be flat shaped)

b. Posture of performance ; A player must have a good secure posture properly settled in him or her, because if it changes, the angle that the fingers approach the strings vary likewise. (It is highly recommended that extended horizontal line from 7th fret should be at the same height  as player’s eye level.)

c. shape of nail edge ; the phase facing above must be longer than the opposite phase.

d. Thickness of nail ;  a thick nail has its advantage over a thin nail for the voluminous sound, and vice versa for the quality of sound. (It’s not a easy matter to make a nice clear sound with thick nails.)

**The above picture is the way how I shape my nails.

With the palm faced above, I keep them jut out about 1.0mm(when just filed)~1.5mm(when grown). I file them in order of 1,2,3(see upper half of the above picture) and use 3way buffer (rough half(#400) for 1&2, the other half(#1000) for 3, and the other smooth side on the back(#2000) to remove the remainder angular edges.) And then, it is necessary to slightly rub the nails against nose or ears to apply a little grease on them.

**It is not such a significant matter even if the nails become a bit longer or shorter in general way, because it is still possible to handle them by a slight adjustment in plucking angle and posture. But if the resistance applied in each finger varies (that means if you fail to maintain the nails at their proper length), it becomes very hard to play, and in worst case, even impossible to play.

** The arrows in lower half of the above picture show the direction of each finger and that of each nail edge. (There’s a focus on the extended line of the finger a  where the outer arrows converge into together. Since the remainder nails are headed to the same focus, the slant of each nail increases gradually as it stay farther from the finger a.)

**The brown lines show the contact angle between the fingertips and the strings.

**I think it is no exaggeration to say that 50% of a player’s capacity depends on finding a proper nail shape that suits him or her.

Since there is no one whose hands are exactly the same as mine, I mentioned only those which are considered as common and general. I hope it will be helpful to you.

Kim Hee Hong

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-translations of " Notice 56 "2006-05-31
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