This is a public version of the members-only Classical Guitar with Jason Vieaux, at ArtistWorks. Functionality is limited, but CLICK HERE for full access if you’re ready to take your playing to the next level.

These lessons are available only to members of Classical Guitar with Jason Vieaux.
Join Now

Basic Classical Guitar
Classical Guitar Reference Topics
Intermediate Classical Guitar
Advanced Classical Guitar
Special Guests
30 Day Challenge
«Prev of Next»

Classical Guitar Lessons: Maintaining Your Nails

Lesson Video Exchanges () submit video Submit a Video Lesson Study Materials () This lesson calls for a video submission
Study Materials Quizzes
information below Close
information below
Lesson Specific Downloads
Play Along Tracks
Backing Tracks +
Written Materials +

+Basic Classical Guitar

+Intermediate Classical Guitar

+Advanced Classical Guitar

Additional Materials +
resource information below Close
Collaborations for
resource information below Close
Submit a video for   
Classical Guitar
information below Close
Course Description

This is only a preview of what you get when you take Classical Guitar Lessons at ArtistWorks. Sign up today for unlimited access to all lessons, plus submit videos to your teacher for personal feedback on your playing.

CLICK HERE for full access.
Okay, we're gonna
have a lesson on nails.
On growing them, and sh, filing them, and
shaping them, and
sandpapering them to a high gloss, so that
you can have the best
sound that you could possibly have, with
your own fingernails.
Of course fingernails are essential to
producing tone,
and they are the very essence of your
We have this camera to my left to help me
to help you
see the angles that you should be looking
at from your perspective,
regarding your nails and choosing your
So we're just gonna start with the IMA
And you can see here in this camera.
I'm just gonna sort of bring my hand out
here first, try to ignore that,
that thumb nail for now.
We're not looking at the thumb just yet.
I'll cover that in a second.
We're covering the I, M, and A nails.
Because your I, M, and A tip segment
orients itself to the string from above at
anywhere from 80 to 90 degree angle.
Perpendicular to the string that is.
And see how I'm moving my hand closer and
closer to get,
so you can get a tighter shot of this.
It is this angle from here, not zero
degrees to your eye.
But about 20 degrees down from that.
So if this is flat to your eye if
pretending this is your right hand and
I, and you're pointing your I, M and A
fingers directly at your eye like this.
Like zero degrees, you wanna come down a
little bit like that, about 20,
I'm gonna say something like between 20
and 25 degrees from there.
This, of course, would be 90 degrees.
And you do not want to file your file your
nails from this angle, because they, they,
this information tells you nothing.
About how to file the edge of
the nail into three very flat lines like
If you can, with your file.
If you can shape like this and create with
your file,
these flat lines, like so.
Here's, here's, here I am, pretending, a
little bit.
I still have to use my, my nails for some
concerts, so I will, can't actually,
go all the way with this, but I can sort
of simulate the filing action.
Notice that there is this blade like thing
with with a few strokes that you that you
use to get the shape,
and again that shape you're creating
should be a flat horizon line like this.
Then, you should buff lightly on the edge
of the nail so
that the end, so that the edge of your
nail is not like a razor blade.
You can blunt it, in other words.
Once you get your shape,
once you've created this flat line like
this from this angle, from 20 degrees,
this 20 degree angle, down from up, down
from zero, like this.
Then you can blunt that sharp edge a
little bit by just gently
going over it like this.
from the entry side of the nail, from
where your contact point is.
The string travels from your contact point
all the way across the nail, and
it leaves, the string leaves the nail at
the other side.
So I call this entry side of the nail and
exit side of the nail.
From entry to exit, this should be a flat,
smooth surface.
I'm gonna try to bring this closer.
And, and if, if you can imagine that this
nail file is a string,
is your guitar string, all points of that
nail from entry to
exit should be able to, you should be able
to lightly, should lie flat.
In a straight line along that file.
If you've got that, here's M, okay?
Here's, here's I.
Nice and flat.
Here's A, nice and flat.
Any imperfections that are in your natural
nail shape that you can see from here.
Or, or here.
You can see these dips or whatever.
Anything that's in there you can get out.
You can, you can file out.
By looking at the fingernails at this
And so you should not be, for the most
part you should not be
held back from any imperfections that are
in your nail.
Notice, again, that from this angle, which
a lot of students I see them filing
their nails looking at their nails as if
they're looking from this perspective.
I want you to notice that the shapes of
those three nails, my M,
N and A are all three different shapes.
And I don't care.
I don't care that they're three different
shapes because all I care about is that.
If they're shaped like that there will be
no resistance on the string.
There will be no resistance,
no catching on the string and it will be a
very nice feel.
They should,
they should just, they should just zing
right off the string like butter.
Second step, you have to sand them.
So that they are really smooth.
And so this, as you can see, is a piece of
grade 500 sandpaper from 3M.
This tri-amite wet dry stuff I think is
the best.
I really like this stuff because as you
can see in this other camera,
it starts out a little bit rougher but as
you continue to sand the nail.
If you keep rubbing it on the same patch
of sandpaper it gets really,
really smooth.
Once you've gotten your nail shape, take
the sandpaper,
wrap it around the nail file like this,
nice and tight.
And we're gonna demonstrate this with the
M fingernail.
And you want to travel the, you know, go
on the underbelly if you will.
Sort of the underside of the white part of
your nail.
The edge there.
On the underside with this file wrapped
with sand paper.
Get every little bit there.
And then start to slowly bring the file
square with the edge of the nail so
that you're really hitting the very front
edge of the nail, okay?
Then, step two with the sandpaper, take
the file out.
Put the, put the sandpaper wrap it around
your left hand thumb,
where you have a nice open, patch here and
now finish your M fingernail by going
along the top of it like this.
You should keep your thumb, left hand
thumb stationary.
And you can see that what I'm doing is I'm
kind of rolling the top edge of my nail,
this top edge, the top edge of the nail on
the sandpaper, like this.
And then you can again get the very front
edge and even get a little bit of
the underbelly to with this by rolling it
on your left hand thumb.
See there is the left hand thumb,
sandpaper is over it and
I am rolling my M fingernail in all
different angles.
This will result in a very glassy surface.
Should feel when you run your thumb nail
across it or
any or just your thumb itself it should
feel like a piece of glass.
Like very, very smooth.
And that will result in the smoothest
sound for you.
Now, covering the thumb, as I said,
when you orient your fingers, your I, M
and A fingers to your eye like this,
you do, at first, you want to point them
straight at your eye and
then come 20 degrees, about 20 to 25
degrees down to achieve the desired
flat surface because your tip segments.
If this is your, if this is your guitar
pretend my left hand here is guitar
The tips of your fingers are basically
oriented to the string and,
when you pluck them at a 90 degree angle
perpendicular to the string.
However, your thumb nail does not, your
thumb nail in your thumb does not do that.
Of course, your thumb has to strike the
string at a 45 degree angle.
You would not strike the string like this,
because then your,
your wrist would be arched incredibly high
in order to do that.
So, with that in mind then, you want to
looking at our, our special camera here,
you want to orient your thumb
at more of this 45, degree angle to your
eye, like this.
You see my file, my file is sort of a
reference point.
Okay, I'm pulling it in tight to the
Okay and then, there you go, you see my
I use a ping pong ball, that will be
covered in another lesson.
You see this ping pong ball here.
And there you go.
I, from that 45 degree orientation, I then
create my shape,
my flat line from entry point, which is
over here.
Actually, your thumb enters, your thumb
entry point and
contact point is on the opposite side of
the thumb and
the string travels along this way, to the
opposite side.
So your exit point of your thumb is
actually over here.
So there you go, you see that, that all
points of the nail from entry to
exit can lie evenly and flat along this
flat surface represented by the file.
And there you have it.
That is the first lesson on nails.
That should cover a great deal of what you
need when, when shaping your nails.
And sandpapering them, getting to a real,
to a real high gloss so
that there's no, there's sort of no
imperfections in them.
There will be another lesson on ping pong
balls for
those of you who that are curious about
my, my thumbnail, and also
just using ping pong ball, a ping pong
ball as a substitute for a broken nail.
The ping-pong balls are usually the most
common substitute.
I recommend them over going to the salon
and getting an acrylic because salons tend
to coat your entire nail with a pretty
thick goopy acrylic
that once it hardens it covers your entire
nail and the nail does not get to breathe.
Whereas the nice thing about a ping pong
ball here,
as you see in the, in our, in our special
camera here, the,
my real thumb nail is on top, and the, the
ping pong ball is underneath.
So there'll be a lesson on actually how to
make a ping pong ball substitute nail for
a broken na, for a broken nail.
Thank you very much.
Nails Part 2.
And in this lesson I, I'd like to just
walk you through
my ping-pong ball, routine here.
Of course, we have, nail clippers, nail
file, and we have our Krazy Glue here.
And we have a whole ping-pong ball almost
half of one,
this is after I sliced the ping pong ball
in half, along the seam.
And then we get this half of a ping-pong
You could see I've already made a nail or
two out of this out of this hemisphere, if
you will.
And then this is, when you take that
hemisphere, and cut a chunk out and,
and then carve a crescent moon shape with
you're trying to find something that will
basically fit.
Underneath your real nail or what's left
of your real nail.
Hopefully, if you're using this as a
replacement or a substitute
it's the ping-pong ball is really the most
common substitute for a broken nail.
There's still enough of your nail left for
you to be able to put this underneath.
I recommend putting ping-pong balls on
underneath the nail,
as opposed to putting it on top of the
Because if the, if the ping-pong ball is
on, is Krazy Glued on top of the nail,
then when you are playing your string like
this, and coming through the string.
You have much more of a chance to actually
pry that
piece of the ping-pong ball off of your
thumbnail during a performance.
[NOISE] if it's underneath the nail like
this, then if,
imagine my left hand here is my string.
It's, it's much safer and, and much more
secure that way
because your real nail is behind it
blocking, it from flying off.
So there you have it, obvi, you can
obviously see the, the three stages here.
I, I just use these regular nail clippers
to get that started.
[NOISE] I use the nail file
itself to [SOUND] See?
To punch, punch the the, the, the, to
puncture the ball like that.
You just find the seam, it's very easy to
I'll demonstrate that again.
Put the point in here, and then simply
press down a little,
and [NOISE] there you go, [NOISE] and
there's, [NOISE] there the,
the the edge of your nail file should go
right through,
then I just kind of [NOISE] saw my way
around it, [NOISE] like this.
[SOUND] You can also just use the edge of
your nail file to do that,
it's a little bit safer than using a
So anyway, then we, you want to, if, again
it's ideal.
I know that in some situations you can't
control the fact, you know,
if you've broken, like, opening a car
then it's very hard to control, how much
is left.
Sometimes you're just at the mercy of, of
be, of being there.
It's better actually, if you, if you can
find the piece that flew off.
Or, if it broke, and some of it's still
hanging on, it's actually good to take
your Krazy Glue, and glue it back on put
just glue it
the seam back together where it broke, and
then just get some toilet paper actually,
and put it over the seam one or two-ply of
toilet paper.
And then put some Krazy Glue on that.
Let it dry.
And then just simply eh, wa, once it's dry
it kinda has this kind of
crusty kinda thing, and you could take
your file, and then file over the top.
[NOISE] And it makes this nice kind of
almost plastic cap over the seal, and
that usually holds just fine.
But anyway, let's go on and, and, and use
the Krazy Glue here.
[SOUND] Ideally, you want to have enough
nail that you don't
you don't wanna have the nail the, the
ping-pong ball addition you,
you know, real tight into the nail like
this, like flush.
Because when the glue grabs that it's
gonna hurt like.
Like hack.
So you want to be able to see daylight,
Through the white part of your real nail.
And through the ping-pong ball nail like
I'm trying to find a way to get it so
it's, so
more like this rather than all the way in.
You don't want the, this edge of the
ball flush all the way into your finger.
It, it hurts a lot and and we don't want
So, [NOISE] okay, Krazy Glue.
And just, again, this edge.
I'm gluing this inside edge just a little
Less is more with Krazy Glue.
You don't really need a lot to do the job.
There we go and [NOISE] and again, you've,
you've cut it in such a way,
and tested it first before putting the
glue on, you've tested that it will fit.
And then it just simply, glues on, and
then you kinda do this,
you, this sort of, thing where you, you,
you press your thumb against your, your
first finger, and
then with the thumb of your other hand you
kinda press in the opposite direction.
Onto your real nail, and that kinda mashes
it all together,
and it should dry pretty quickly, and
there you have it.
Sometimes, not all of the ping-pong ball
will stick to your re,
real nail, as you can see right here,
it's, it's kinda coming off at the corner.
And, and in general this will not, most of
the time, just stay as is.
This is not really the last step.
Many students have reported that it comes
off right away, or it starts to crack
in the middle, or the, the seal breaks in
the middle or the seal breaks on the edge.
How you can do that, and take care of
is then reseal it with some glue at the
edge like this.
And then take your nail file, and
file some dust in to the seam like this
from underneath.
If you file like this, see that, you may
see in the camera there a little,
we'll actually file some, some of the,
it'll create dust from the ping-pong ball.
That ends up falling into this, into the
And that really seals it very good.
[NOISE] There we go, it's not going
There we go.
[NOISE] And then with some of that dust.
You can then apply another very small
amount of glue to get that dust wet,
and spread it around on the rest of the
And you're done.
And that's it.
And then you just file it, file your nail,
[NOISE] sandpaper it, just like you would
any of your other nails.
So there you have it, that's ping-pong
Using it, as a substitute for a broke
It's advisable to find some kind of
substitute that's safe for you, safe for
your skin safe for your nails.
Because if you're performing a concert,
especially, or if you're giving or
if you're entering a competition.
And it's there's, cause there's two
disadvantages to not having that nail.
One, if you, if for example if your broken
nail, if you break a nail off of your
M finger, as alternation between that, and
your I finger in scales sounds.
Very strange, it's you'll, you'll hear one
heavy articulated note followed by a very
dull quiet note.
That would be the M finger.
Also the feel is totally thrown off.
You know, your, your basically your
[NOISE] the, the stroke will just feel
completely different, it will be very
difficult to control.
So your control will be off, as well.
With an, with enough situations where you
practice, with the ping-pong ball,
you can get it to actually feel, and sound
like a real nail.
Thank you.