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I've been playing with my own nails for 30 yrs and never had a problem. I shape them every week or so to keep them in check. I feel I have better control with my real nails.

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Bully for you, and you're right, natural nails are best for you. However, they may not be best for everyone. I've gone to the salon for most of the past 30 years and enjoyed the 'security' they give me. And I like the sound better than my natural nail.

I think in this instance, we're both right. But I'd be hard pressed to say either of us are right for everyone.

Hi Todd;

While I'm completely in the same boat as you regarding using natural nails, I think whatever works best for someone is the real key. It's similar to the "thumbpick-no thumbpick" issue. ;-)

I have been playing for years and lately my natural nails have become slightly misshapen and softer and break easily. I tried diet and nail hardener and then went to acrylics. They are very hard and durable and don't look that bad. I have also tried gluing polycarbonate pieces on my nails. These are pretty good as well and are less expensive than the salon. Plus I have heard some negativity concerning the chemicals involved in acrylics. The big problem with gluing on nails is they come off easily. Apparently super glue isn't as bad as the solvents in acrylics. I think the best advice is not to get old. Ken, have you ever grown out your natural nails in the past 30 years to see how they are holding up?
My nails just won't hold up to the beating they take from steel strings (or life, particularly in the dry winter weather). I play a number of different styles and some are pretty hard on the old nails. The older I get the less they hold up. I keep thinking about acrylics but I realize that once I start I am pretty much committed to keep them up. I have friends who swear by them but I am concerned about the health of my nails (and body) so I have some reservations in that area as well.

I was fortunate to have just spent a week studying with Robin Bullock and Tony McManus in back to back classes. Robin uses a thumb pick and 2 finger picks and Tony has acrylics. They both are such amazing players who have found what works for them as individuals so I don't think there is any one best solution for all. Steve Baughman was showing me the Alaska pics that he uses with great success, which are also pretty cool but I can't get them to stay on. I continue to explore alternatives but may end up going with the acrylics because I have a hard time adjusting to finger picks of any type. I would love to hear of other alternatives that I may not have heard about.
well I just "shaped" my nails last night and went over board with the file, now I have nubs for nails. I find it strange to play with small nails but it's a challenge and I like challenges. Don't know if I can do the acrylics but I may have to till mine grow back.
I think we're all saying the same thing. It's right if it's right for you.

>Dick. The only times I've had problems is when I do my nails my self. In my experience it's the glueing and removing of nail extensions that ruins my nails, not the acrylic or super glue. Every time you take those pieces off your nail you're taking part of your nail with it-do that for a year or so and you'll have problems.

I've found that when I go to a salon regularly I don't lose nails, and therefore don't trash my nails. I do let them grow out so that 1/3rd to 1/2 of my natural nail gets exposure to air and water, but I also make sure that there is no lifting of the acrylic around the edges. If there is lifting I smooth it out with a file, add super glue to the edge, and then smooth it back out. During the summer I can go 6-8 weeks and in the drier months 8-10 weeks between salon visits.
Oh, to anyone contemplating using acrylics-it is kind of a forever thing. While my nails are healthy, they are in no way capable of playing steel strings for even a song-they'd be trashed in seconds.

I had a good friend, Steve Davison go through the phase of natural vs. acrylic, and it was a hard decision for him, but he's so glad he did-it's taken the worry out of playing and working around the house. And he too likes the tone better. It's like the difference between using a floppy flatpick and one that's much heavier-thicker pick equals thicker tone.

I do find those that use acrylics have their nails longer than those who use natural nail. I think it's due to thickness, and something else to consider if you're not a pro.

I'm a pro and so it makes abundant sense to always have my nails in playable condition. There are times I wish I'd gone the Duck Baker route and just used bare fingers; then I wouldn't have to do anything except play a lot, and I've always played a lot.
I recall reading a book on Classical Guitar Technique by John Duarte that he suggested clipping your nails occasionally. Somehow this seems to strengthen them, rather than just filing all the time. I do this periodically and generally have good strong nails. I suspect genetics also plays a factor here. I do play steel strings btw.

When I have traveled in South East Asia I did find that the climate, or the pools, something did weaken my nails after 12-14 days of being there.
I'd prefer playing with natural nails, however mine are so flexible and soft that it's not an option. Of course, being female makes it much less an issue to wear acrylics. :-) I don't wear them on my left hand, however, as I like them short. Each player must find what works best...
2000 mg of omega 3 fatty acid (fish oil) per day will increase nail strength noticeably. Then I apply unrefined shea butter (an ingrediant in many nail care products) to the nails of my right hand only. I play a verry aggressive finger picking style with medium phosphor bronze strings playing local solo gigs at winery tasting rooms and this program has done away with my nail break problem. Right hand nails are noticeably thicker than left with daily application of shea butter (cheap also).

Jim MacMillan Music
I prefer natural nails because I use them all the time. Why? Because I don't use them all the time!

Is that a contradiction? Consider:

Player one plays (or merely noodles) an hour or two every evening on his couch with his natural nails and listens to the sublime results and smiles contentedly at his cat / dog and kisses his wife fondly on the cheek.

Player two is on night 6 out of 20 of a 4 week tour of Slovenia and 3 nails have worn down to the quick and the other flew off at right-angles last night at the E major climax of a particularly passionate song.

Steel strings and specialized keratinized epitheleal cells (aka fingernails) were not made for each other and their times together are best carefully monitored if not strictly chaperoned.

If I ever gig regularly again, it's acrylics for me, methinks.
My $.02, I've always played with nails. The only problem I had was with them breaking or cracking. My teacher solved that when he told me how to file them. Always file the nails in the same direction, not back and forth. The back and forth filing creates tiny cracks that will eventually become big cracks and the nails break. I haven't had any problems since learning this simple technique.


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