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How to Produce Sound with Your Nails in Flamenco Guitar

Learn how to produce sound with your nails in this Howcast video about how to play flamenco guitar.


Hi, I'm Dan Garcia, and we're talking about flamenco guitar. We're going to talk about how we produce sound on a flamenco guitar and specifically about our nails, and how we're going to produce a tone that makes flamenco sound like flamenco.

So when we strike our strings with the right hand we're going to have a combination of flesh and nail hitting the string, okay? If we don't use nails and we only use flesh, if your nails are very short, you might get a good sound, but it's going to be a very dull sound, very round, it's going to lack attack.

If your nails are too long and you only use nail, you're going to get a very twangy kind of metallic and thin sound. So ideally, you want to grow your nails just long enough, so the string can roll through the flesh a little bit, hit the nail and release. If you're nail is too long, it'll get caught. If you're nail is too short, you might not even feel the nail and you're just playing with flesh.

The way we position our right hand is parallel to the bridge of the guitar. Then we're going to strike the strings from the tip and we're going to let it hit the nail, just so we can get that final attack. That attack is going to allow us to control volume and the different tones we want to achieve.

So the question is how long should you're nails be when you play flamenco guitar? That's a question I can't really answer, only you can answer it yourself. Everybody's hands are different. Everybody's nails grow in a different way, so you have to experiment that for yourself. Let your nails grow and then start filing them down, as you play and you feel how they feel against the strings.

It's very important that you take good care of your nails. When you play you want to have a good tone and you're nails need to be completely sanded with sandpaper or the thinnest part of your nail file, before you start playing. Not just in the morning, but every time you begin playing guitar your nails should be filed and sanded, okay?

I use a very thin kind of sandpaper. Make sure there are no rough edges on my nails and the string can go through it smoothly. If you have like a little bump in your nail, it will be picked up, especially if you're doing a recording or you're being amplified. An amplifier will really amplify any little bump your nail has. So make sure your nails are nice and smooth, all the way across and then experiment with different lengths, and see what works for you.

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