When I first learn how to play the ukulele, I came across this thought of whether or not to leave fingernails on my right (strumming and hand plucking) hand. Maybe I’ll share my thoughts with you all now.

Initially I kept a certain nail length, about 2mm.. And I found that my playing was kinda ‘picky’ sounding. As the nails were hard and they created a more ‘picked’ sound. My nail length was about the same as the picture below:

 

And my playing sounded like this:

 

So I switched and cut my fingernails, to minimize the chances of any part of my nails from touching the strings. After that, my playing sound changed, and sounded like this..

 

Basically, playing without fingernails gives a softer sound, which is more suitable for slow and soft sounding songs. So depending on what kind of music / song you’re playing, you should experiment around with having longer or shorter nails, and eventually develop into your own style….

Well, there are a lot of other factors which needs to considered. For example, if you are a female, as females tend to leave longer nails, due to fashion or beauty reasons, you might be reluctant to cut your nails. Also, if you play more strumming of chords, rather than finger picking, nails would help you sound louder.

If you have any questions, pop me a comment, and I’ll try my best to answer your question.

Have fun!

  1. Kenny: Thanks for sharing! If you use the index finger for downstrokes and thumb for upstrokes, it’ll probably sound a lot more even.

    celine: You could try strumming like what Kenny suggested. Actually I’ve seen a YouTube video of Jake showing how to strum evenly. You can try put your index finger and thumb together, as though you are holding a namecard and giving it to someone. Then you use that same posture and strum. Try it out~

  2. wongyy: Generally, after you have played long enough, these “finger pains” won’t be there anymore, as your fingers are already seasoned.

    It’s just like the fingertips on your left hand, after a while, it doesn’t hurt as much to fret notes on the fretboard. Keep practicing and I’m sure you’ll reach that level.

  3. My thoughts: Generally fingerpickers and classical players keep their right hand nails. This allows the player to apply the rest stroke, empasize a note picked which is commonly referred to as “attack”. Typically when playing fingestyle the melody notes should sound above the appregio notes or accompanying notes. Having nails facilitate the process.
    What length nails? As a general guide, most players do not have the nails grow beyond the pulp of the finger tip. If you look at the side profile of your finger, you can easily decide if the length is sufficient.
    Shape: the nails should curve more or less along with the contour of the finger tip.
    Its important that the nails are properly smoothened especially on the underside. Rough edges tend to get caught by the strings. Good emery boards of various grades (slightly coarse to fine)are recomended.
    Strumming with nails: I use fingers for down strokes and thumb for upstrokes.
    Finally, like most things, the player should develop a level of comfort whether playing with nails, not using nails or using a pick. In other words, use whatever method that works for you. Personally, I have quite an array of nail care tools not for preening but for fingerpicking.
    Arigato!

  4. I also have the same feel as you. Music produced with short fingernails sounds softer. However, with the short nails, I have difficulty to strum as my finger feels pain.

    Perhaps my strumming is wrong?? Not to sure….

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