A greater volume can be achieved by playing with the nails and you may have noticed that some banjo players use fingerpicks on all their right-hand fingers to get the same effect.
It’s not always practical to keep them long, though, and quite a bit of maintenance is needed to look after them and protect them from breaking. So if you don’t want long nails on one hand it’s absolutely fine to keep them short – you’ll still be able to play and get all sorts of lovely tonal variations by just using the fingertips.
Whether you have long or short nails it is still best to pay them a little attention. A nail buffer block which has multi-textured surfaces is great for shaping the nails, smoothing and polishing them, and removing any sharp edges which may snag against the strings.
Using a Nail and Cuticle oil will hydrate your nails and reduce brittleness. They’ll look healthier as well! That’s really important if you’re performing or making videos where people will be looking at your hands. However, it’s probably not a good idea to use the oil just before playing!
Fingernails and Finger Care
Nail buffers are also excellent for smoothing the skin on your fingertips, particularly on your fretting hand. Calluses, or hard skin, can develop on the tips of your fingers, especially if you play a steel string guitar, and you may also find that ridges form where the strings press in. This can make it harder to play without squeaks so it’s a good idea to file down a little of the hard skin and moisturise your fingertips regularly to keep them in good shape.
Another idea is to use artificial nails. I’ve not tried these but they look interesting! Click on the link if you’d like to see more – Nails for Guitarists.