by Kirk Lorange
I have always played with my fingers -- flat picks confound me, finger picks feel clumsy. I like direct contact with the strings, with just a tiny bit of finger nail to bring out the highs. The problem has always been keeping them from wearing away or breaking. So a few months ago I bit the bullet: I walked into the beauty salon of my local shopping center and presented my three picking fingers to a bleach-blond named Susan and told her I wanted them done. She didn't want to, but she did them anyway and I walked out ten minutes later with nails strong enough to adjust the truss rod in my Strat.
Susan suggested I buy the kit off her (just to keep me from coming back, I'm sure) and so I did. A primer, a liquid which I think is acetone and a white powder. The primer goes on first, then you dip a little brush first into the liquid then into the powder which turns gluggy on the brush. You dab that onto the nail let it dry and presto - nails like steel. You can then file them and shape them as you please.
Life has been grand since I discovered acrylic nails. I can dig in all night and not even scratch them. If you rely on your nails like I do to get your sound, go for it.
If you're still looking for a way of navigating the fretboard that has nothing to do with scales or notation or TAB, come visit my site, read about the 'trick'. There's a drop-D tuning slide guitar lesson there too.
PO Box 186
Queensland 4272 Australia
Ph / Fax +6175 545 0138
Read Kirks articles in the Guitar Newsletter:
filing: Hold the file pointing toward your face (looking down its length), with the finer surface facing upward. Holding your finger at a ninety degree angle (perpendicular) to the file, place the nail on the surface. The vector of your finger should be around forty-five degrees to the plane of the file, so that the nail is being filed somewhat from beneath. File the nail by evenly drawing the file back and forth with the left hand, exerting even pressure and guiding it in place with the right thumb. length: Hold your hand with the palm facing you, fingers extended with the tips pointing upward. You should see the tips of the nails just peeking past the fingertips (1 to 2 mm past the fingertip is plenty). Excessive length causes the nail to drag along the string, causing wasted effort and disrupting the timing of alternation and arpeggios. Uneven lengths are also disruptive; make sure no nail is significantly longer or shorter than the others. Note that excessive length is common among players with little or no training; the extra length requires less precise nail placement during fingerstroke and can thus make playing seem easier. If you are significantly shortening your nails, you may initially find your fingerstroke is less accurate. If so, spend some time concentrating on placing on the exact same spot of the nail for every fingerstroke. shape: Hold your fingers pointing toward you, so you see only the edge of each nail; each edge will form a more straight or a more curved line. Now look at the entire nail, from above. If filed perpendicularly and from beneath, the straight- edged nails should have a more square shape, and the curve- edged nails should have a more elliptical shape. If the edge of the nail is straight but the shape is not very distinctly square, you've probably been filing the nail from its side and the nail will have to grow out a bit to develop more body on the corner. If the corners of the square shapes are sharply pointed, use the file to round them (but don't alter the basic shape). surface: After the nail is filed, its edge must be finely polished. Take a small portion of 500 grade open coat sandpaper and rub, with a back and forth motion, the same spot of sandpaper on the edge of the nail, particularly concentrating on the left side of the nail. The surface of the sandpaper will wear down as you rub, creating an increasingly smoother polishing surface. Keep rubbing until the edge is as smooth as a glass surface.
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