Fingerstyle/Nail shape

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  1. guitar1025

    Hey guys!

    Looking for some help and my question has two parts to it.

    1. For those of you that are into classical/fingerstyle playing, what materials/exercises would you recommend for building this technique? I started out as a rock guy and moved to jazz. Now I play many different styles but I feel my fingerstyle technique is not where it needs to be.

    2. For those of you who play with your nails, what do you recommend for nail size/shape? I've experimented for a long time with long nails/no nails. I find the no nails approach is just fine if I'm just playing chords (Ted Greene style). But I feel the nails work better for articulating lines, etc.

    As always, any help is much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

  2. mikelorenz

    My degree is in jazz studies but I took classical lessons for 5 of my 8 semesters in college. Even got to learning some legit repertoire but didn't really pursue it like I did jazz.


    1) The Giuliani 120 Exercises for the Right Hand is essential. I'd start there for sure...

    2) For playing finger style I'm on the "pro-nail" side of things. The nail shouldn't be freakishly long but it should be beyond the end of your finger. An even, rounded shape is best but everyones nails grow differently. If you don't like the tone you're getting from the nail sound you can always buff your nails with a nail buffer to get a really smooth edge. I agree with you, it really is necessary if you're going to articulate single note lines.

  3. mf

    good luck. i got into the whole classical/fingerstyle thing, but ended up spending more time on my nails than my instrument. for some reason i just could never get the sound i wanted. or if i did, after a few minutes of playing my nails would change slightly and the sound would be gone. infuriating. now i only use a pick.

  4. guitar1025

    Thanks for the advice guys!

    I've already found and downloaded the studies. If anyone else is interested:

    The site says that they're public domain. Admin, please let me know if this is not the case and I will remove the link. I'll have to experiment some with the nail thing. It's a tricky thing!

    Thanks again!

  5. docbop

    The Giuliani 120 Exercises is great my first Jazz teacher had me work thru the first couple pages said that's enough for Jazz. I dug it so much I worked through the whole book, then went back and did it again using hybrid picking. After that I got a reputation as a fingerpicker and started picking up sessions for acoustic guitar. Giuliani rocks!

  6. guitar1025

    How did you work them out for hybrid? Do you just use the pick in place of your index finger and thumb??

  7. docbop

    Pick = thumb & index. So sometimes I would pick the thumb notes and shift the others over to next finger. Other times I pick both thumb and index finger what ever felt right for the pattern.

  8. guitar1025

    . . .another question:

    When you guys use your thumb, are you using the nail or the side of your thumb?

  9. mackan

    Hi guitar 1025!

    I do think there are a lot of possibilities to express our musical ideas with just our fingers.

    If you play electric guitar my advice is that you use chromes flat wound. Because using your nails playing the other types
    of strings will eat your nails quickly. So I use chromes flat wound to avoid this problem happen when playing electric guitar.

    In general its very important to look after our nails every day. To take care of them and have sets of various nail files. I have one file to just shape the form of my nails. Then I have 3 others files just to polish the nail. One teacher sad one time that the nails should shining like glass.
    About the length I do think that this is very personal, (look that video with Nelson Veras, he has a thumb nail that almost could fit in the Guinness record book). But I alway enjoy this conversation, and I suggest that you look after the best classical guitar player that you can find in your city and then take a lesson with him just about the nails.
    Recently, I saw an interview with Pat Metheny from 2012 on youtube when he just talking about his nails. There is a german guy that have a product that make your nails more stronger. Very interesting.

    The first thing I did when I was starting to play with my fingers was to decide which fingers I would use,
    so if I would play the melody twinkle twinkle traffic light I would use this fingers al the ways trough the song:
    A M I A M I A M I etc. Im saying that this fingering would be my alternative picking with pick, up down up down etc.

    So the idea is to start to play this finger setting over every melody you know. Try to play every thing from Charlie Parker themes to John Petrucci licks to challenge your right hand. And then you can change the starting finger, for example starting Anthropology every phrase with the finger I, or start every improved phrase with finger M. The idea is have flexibility and play effortless.
    What I discovered that was I problem for me was when playing string skipping, when the melody continues on the next string, particularly for this case about string skipping I highly recommend one chapter in the classical guitar book "Pumping Nylon". This book has a lot of pages, don't be afraid, but look after the chapter string skipping, and he has the best exercise for this potential problems.
    Also its very important that you could play in front of the mirror, always strove for playing very relaxed. Pumping Nylons covered this things as well. This guy made this book, but I think the DVD is better because I understand better when I see.

    There are two books that I think are very good for you right hand. These books focus on various brazilian rhythms. Brazil is a fantastic country that has a lot of musical traditions. And with these right hand patterns you will develop I very good contact between your right hand and the instrument.

    Nelson Faria - Brazilian guitar. An introduction to the most common rhythms like Samba, Bossa Nova, Frevo, Baiao.

    Marco Pereira - Ritmos Brasileiros. This book has a lot of more rhythm choices that Nelson book. Beside these rhythms above you have rhythms like
    Chamamé, Ijexá and many many others different rhythms.
    So with these two books your right hand will develop a lot and also you working in a very rhythmic way. Its a very musical exercise.

    I have the book of Gustavo Assis Brasil and Im a big fan of Tim Miller. I do think that this "Hybrid Picking" can be translated. Like the thumb take the Pick, and middle finger become the first finger, and the third finger become the second finger.
    Of course there are so many possibilities and combinations , just look how Nelson Veras play his musical ideas with this just his finger. Isn't it amazing? But of course there a lot of players that using there fingers and have developed a very different approach, in Brazil there are some interesting guys that you can see; Yamandu Costa, Romero Lubambo, Fernando Correria there are many! But if you look around there are so many referents from all over the world. Just look Mark Knofler, amazing sound! Also Steve Morse playig Smoke on the water riff without pick, thats how its played!

    So with all this kind of different material I would like to share an exercise;
    for example using the excellent Giuliani book you can practice with the left hand muted over the strings, our you can put a sock between the fretboard and the strings. With your left hand muting the strings you just working with the rhythm and concentrating on you right hand. Working with metronome. Practicing very slowly and always prepare the next finger that will play, always close contact with the string.

    Long answer and maybe I didn't answer you question, feel free to answer me if you don't understand!

    Good Luck, lets play a lot of music and have fun!!

    and sorry for my english!

    If you guys have some cool material send me!



  10. mackan

    [+] Embed the video | Video DownloadGet the Video Plugin

    [+] Embed the video | Video DownloadGet the Video Plugin

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  11. guitar1025


    That's definitely a lot to consider and a lot of stuff to research!

    Thanks for the info!!!


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