Should You Play Guitar With Your Nails or Fingertips?

The guitar is so versatile that it is present in dozens of genres. 

It’s incredible to think how the same instrument can sound so different and unique depending on settings. 

Of course, changings in sound occur because of a wide variety of reasons (not just setup). 

These include the guitar model, the quality of the instrument, whether you use effect pedals or not, and many more. 

Oh, sure! Don’t forget that the playing style is also a significant factor. 

After all, it is not the same to play guitar with a guitar pick as to play the same instrument using your fingers solely. 

But even if you choose to use your fingers, there are even more styles you need to select. 

We are talking about the difference between fingertip playing and nail playing. 

Both are great, but which one is the right approach? 

The style selected depends upon the guitarist’s preferences, there are no best options. Both playing with fingertips and with nails give superior control over the strings, but both styles differ in sound. So, it is always a question of comfort and taste. 

Are you planning to switch your playing style? 

Did you get used to playing with a pick and plan to try on one of these two? If that’s the case, which one you’ll choose? 

Why not combine both? Did you know you can do that? 

Let’s answer all of them and many more doubts! 

What is the correct technique: Playing with your nails or fingertips?

It is common to hear certain players saying that using their fingertips is the proper way of playing the guitar. 

In some other cases, people will claim that the convenience of nails makes for an overall more enjoyable experience. 

In the end, what the rest state as “facts” is nothing but opinions and preferences. 

It always depends on the player. 

In their early learning stages, some guitarists focused solely on nail playing. Thus, they believe using nails is the correct form of playing guitar. 

On the other hand, some others got used to playing with their fingertips, so they endorse this approach. 

Once again, it is all a matter of preferences. 

Also, it depends on which genre you are focusing on. After all, long nails help to have better control over strings in genres such as Flamenco or Classical. 

So, to sum up, there is no right technique, other than the one you feel the most comfortable with. 

Benefits of playing guitar with your nails

It is safe to say that nails serve as natural guitar picks. At least, regarding sound. 

Nails give a crunchier tone and more aggressive attack, compared to fingertips. 

This creates a fat, natural sound that makes guitar notes stand out without sounding too aggressive. 

Not to mention, nails provide better control over the strings, allowing one to pluck different strings simultaneously. 

All in all, don’t forget that long nails are good only for your picking hand. 

The fretting hand should be free of nails (long nails that is, do not commit atrocities!) 

Otherwise, pressing down the strings against the fretboard will be a tough task to accomplish. Consider that nails are not as strong as fingertips. 

Lastly, if nails give better control over the strings (along with a thicker sound), then they are the go-to choice for playing guitar solos. 

Benefits of playing guitar with your fingertips

Fingertip style is the perfect alternative for those who want to acquire a soft tone

Fingertip-style playing creates a rather low sound, which is excellent for providing a warmer color and atmosphere. 

Using your fingertips to play also gives you greater control over the strings (similar to nail-playing). 

Also, some musicians claim fingertips allow for a more “intimate” experience with the guitar. 

Do you agree? 

Can you mix it up and play with both your nails and fingertips?

You may give it a try and combine both styles. In fact, you are expected to do so. 

Sure, you must stick to the style you feel the most comfortable with. 

However, staying out of your comfort zone is beneficial in the long run as well. 

Feel the awkwardness of playing fingertip style if you are used to playing with your nails. Do the contrary if it is the other way around. 

You don’t have to change your methods forever, just enough time for you to understand the alternative approaches. 

This, of course, makes you an overall more experienced musician. 

And who knows? You may even discover that the alternative suits you better. 

Does this work for any kind of guitar?

Both techniques work for any kind of guitar: electric, acoustic, electro-acoustic, etc. 

Once again, they also serve for playing different styles, such as folk, flamenco, classical, rock, or country. 

Maybe a metal player will not feel comfortable at all playing with their fingers. Not because of the method itself, but because of the results. 

In other words, metal needs to generate a strong sound with a huge presence. Neither nails nor fingertips allow for such potential. 

Other than that, be sure that these styles will do wonders in your musical creations.