Do You Need Long Fingernails to Play Fingerstyle Guitar?


If you are a beginner and want to practice finger picking when playing guitar, you could wonder if you should keep your nails short. There is a unique experience when playing with nails and not, but do you need long fingernails to play fingerstyle guitar?

You do not need long nails to play your guitar fingerstyle. Nails won’t be of use if you want to fingerpick while playing. Besides, you’ll experience challenges in maintaining low and warm sound when you strum using nails. The sound you’ll produce could be more aggressive than expected, especially when using an acoustic guitar. You should keep your nails short to get a firm press when using your fingers to play the chords.

Besides, long nails are responsible for producing an unwanted buzzy sound without pressing firmly down the strings. However, some guitarists love keeping long nails to pay. It all depends on your preference and choices. Maintain your fingers that best suit your desires and playing experience. If you want the best experience to fingerstyle your guitar, this article could be of great use to you.

How Should You Trim Your Nails for Guitar?

No size of nails is best for guitarists, but it’ll be reasonable if you maintain your nails at 1 to 2 mm, a length longer than your fingertips. However, the shape and length you trim your nails could impact the quality of sound the strings produce. Below are conditions that affect the sound you’re likely to get using your nails.

Trim Nails


The length of your fingernails could affect the tone you’re likely to get when playing your guitar. But at times, it is necessary to keep your nails longer. Maintaining your nails longer could make you play a variety of tones by mixing flesh and nails when playing.


There is no single-size fitting for shaping your nails. It all comes down to hand position, nail curvature, and playing technique—the interaction of your nails and the string influences string travel, contact point, and release point. So you should maintain the shape of your nails based on the three interactions.

Which Are the Three Faces of Plucking?

Whenever you strike a string, the first face is the contact point. Next is your finger traveling the string, pulling it tight, and then preparing for a third phase, the release point.

Contact Point

How you contact the strings affects the sound, you’ll produce, but the best way is to control your sound quality. The crucial thing to consider when making contact is the balance between flesh and nails.

To obtain a quality sound, you should shape and maintain skin and nails to achieve simultaneous contact on the string. A good way is to shape your nails to ensure they only come into contact with the strings to produce a brighter tone under a notable click. If you want a soft and warm sound, cutting the nails could greatly help; only the flesh will come into contact with the string.

Plucking the Note

After your finger comes into contact with the string, the next thing to do is to pluck a note. Plucking helps you to change the phase length by changing the picking angle with your hand. When you pick the strings perpendicularly, the phase shortens. You should fingertip at an angle along the string tracks whenever you want to get a longer note.

Letting Go of the String

After plucking a note, the next step you want is to let go of the string. However, in this situation, you should pay more attention when releasing the string. Here you’ll not be using your nails; it’s the flesh of the fingers. Also, another thing that affects the sound when you release is the shape of your nails. When your nails are steeper, the sound becomes louder, especially when using an electric guitar.

How Should You Keep Your Nails From Breaking?

No matter how well you maintain the shape of your nails, using an improper technique could make your nails always peel out. Some of the techniques to practice are below:

Long Nails

Improve Diet Intake and Increase Your Biotin Intake

The healthiness and beauty of your nails begin with nutrient intake in your body. Eating a balanced diet with biotin nutrients helps improve your nails’ strength.

You’ll likely get biotin nutrients from eggs, animal proteins, salmon, and chicken. Also, you could get biotin from plants like spinach, seeds, nuts, and sweet potatoes.

Increase Multivitamin Intake

Basically, biotin is more about enhancing the beauty of your nails; experts may no longer see this as beneficial. What most players need are their nails to be stronger. So, we should prioritize more foods rich in vitamins. To boost your nail strength, ensure you make a daily intake of multivitamin foods.

Use a Strengthening Base Coat.

It could look counterintuitive, but using nail polish could be beneficial if you have weak nails. And the coating could help prevent the nails from breaking, but it should be the right formula. Whenever you add a base coat to your nail polish, you add extra layers which could add protection.

Use Acetone-Free to Remove Nail Polish.

Acetone is among the best nail polish removers, although it has drawbacks like a pungent smell. Besides, they come with added products to nourish your nails and could help keep your nails in the best condition ever. Be sure that acetone-free nail polish won’t pile them out when you have dip nails or gel nails.

The acetone-free nail polish is capable of dissolving the artificial layer. If you use artificial nails when playing your guitar, if you need to remove the nails, soak them in acetone, and use oil afterward to prevent them from becoming brittle and eventually breaking.


There is no need to have longer nails to play your guitar fingerstyle. When fingerpicking, you might not use nails. Plus, you could experience challenges playing with longer nails. When the nails strum the strings, you could produce an unexpected higher sound, especially when playing an electric guitar. If you want to get a firm press on the strings when playing, ensure you maintain the nails short. Short nails help control the sound you want when playing the chords.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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