Frequently Asked Questions
About Acoustic Guitar
I Take Care of my Hands and Nails?
Taking care of your hands and nails is
important, especially if you play on a daily basis. Hand care includes
both stretching your hands (ie warming up) before playing
finger-busting arrangements, as well as nail care, ie preventing nail
breaks and dealing with broken/worn-down nails.
One area that can not be overlooked is
warming up before you play. Common sense prevails here. Start
off each guitar session by playing something that is slow, and doesn't
involve huge stretches. Scales and arpeggios are always a good
starter. Also, you may want to do some sightreading of a simple
piece, since this will normally keep your movements slow. Or you
might try a piece that you know (and enjoy!) that is not too
difficult. Play thru at a moderate tempo, just to get the juices
flowing. A few minutes of warm-up goes a long way towards
preventing hand injuries, just as warming up prevents injury in sports
and other physical activities.
And what about those callouses that
build up on your fretting hand? A lot of British guitarists
(e.g. Eric Clapton) use "Surgical Spirit" to toughen up the
skin on their fingertips. Surgical Spirit is simply the English
term for rubbing alcohol. If you wipe your fingertips with it
twice a day for a couple of weeks you'll get callouses tougher than
Nail care seems to be part voodoo, part common sense. Keeping your
nails strong and evenly filed is essential to maintaining consistency
in your sound. There are basically two things to consider:
- "How do I prevent nail
- "What do I do when a nail does
Part of preventing nail breaks means
don't expose your nails to dangerous situations. Common nail
breaking incidents are:
- opening aluminum can tops,
- zipping your fly (editors note: I
didn't write this),
- and snagging them on clothing.
Don't let your nails grow longer than
their optimal playing length. The longer they get, the more
susceptible they become to damage.
Another part of preventing nail breaks
is preventive maintenance. People claim that nail polish makes
their nails stronger (and shiny!). Others use hand
lotions with Keratin (a natural protein) in them.
Still others claim that your nails get stronger if you ingest powdered
gelatin. And there are other products, like "Barielle Nail
Strengthener Cream", which was originally used to strengthen
horse hooves, which has been modified for use on your nails.
If you do get a nail break, your options
- Remove the broken part of the nail,
and file the nail as best you can, and wait for it to grow back,
- attempt to repair the broken nail, or
- replace the nail with a fake one.
Filing the nail is pretty straight
forward, and is described later on. Repairing the nail can be
done by reinforcing the nail with a paper/nail polish, paper-mache
type fix up job. Replacing the nail can be done thru a number of
means. These include growing your non-picking thumb-nail long,
and using it as a replacement nail, using a piece of ping-pong ball,
using some brand of fake nail, or even temporarily moving to the use
of fingerpicks. There is a brand of picks called "Alaska
Picks" that fit under the nail, and are made of plastic, so they
don't give that metallic sound that normal fingerpicks do.
Neaga's great technique for reinforcing nails.