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Some Thoughts

on Nails and Strings

Some Thoughts
on Nails and Strings
Some pre-requirements for playing the guitar
by Carlos Bonell

Nails and strings are two subjects of con- strings. I like the way strings sustain and NAIL-FRIENDLY BREAKFAST
stant concern for guitar players. When respond to the touch. Sometimes I put on SPECIAL:
do you change the strings? What strings a high-tension 6th string and medium-ten- Try this for breakfast on weekends: wheat
should you put on? And how about your sion strings for the rest, and find the guitar germ sprinkled oatmeal porridge with
nailswearing down through practice, responds differently again. So let us imag- bananas and soy milk. Sweeten with honey.
maybe damaged accidentally, or just plain ine you have fixed the strings and action.
weak? How do you save them, preserve You are happy that the guitar sounds good, NAIL-FRIENDLY MAIN MEAL:
them, and strengthen them? it doesnt buzz, and the action feels right. Raw oysters with lemon juice as a starter,
I am going to tell you about some of Now you have to consider the all- followed by grilled salmon with lemon
the things I have learned through per- important part that comes into contact juice, and a watercress and spinach salad,
sonal experience. I am not suggesting that with the strings: your nails. toasted sesame seeds, boiled buckwheat
these are the only methods or remedies. (a rice substitute) with a dressing of cider
I couldnt do that without an exhaustive NAILSTREAT THEM WITH vinegar and olive oil. And if you dont like
investigation. But they have worked for me. RESPECT: salmon, try herring or another oily fish.
The most important thing you can do in
STRINGS the short term to preserve your nails is to THERE ARE OTHER WAYS:
VARIABLE FRACTORS: learn how to play at an angle to the string You can also take vitamins, minerals and
The strings you choose should depend that doesnt wear them out, and to develop cod liver oil in capsules. You can apply nail-
on how loudly you play, the height of the smooth, relaxed strokes. In addition, strengthener liquid directly to the nail.
action on the guitar, the instruments ten- please treat the nails with the respect they
dency or otherwise to buzz, the balance deserve. In other words, dont bash them A WORD ABOUT SPLITS AND
between bass and treble, and not least, the against the strings for an hour as loud as BREAKS:
sound you like to produce. you can, and expect them to be happy and Unless you break a nail off completely
Without wishing to avoid the questions undamaged! For most people, the nails will and lose it, most breaks and splits can be
I posed above, let me say that different complain in the only way they know how repaired. A mix of super-glue and resin
strings suit different guitars and different by wearing down and even splitting. can hold a split nail together for up to two
players. Here are some examples: Always play with your nails as smoothly weeks. Read the instructions carefully,
a player who likes to make a loud sound polished as possible. Use an emery board especially when you apply super-glue to
on a guitar with a low action. My advice: and fine emery paper around and under- the nail. Apply it first onto a tooth-pick and
high-tension strings. neath the nail until there are no catches, from there onto the nail surface. A word of
a player who likes to make a loud sound ridges or imperfections. caution: Some nails are more vulnerable to
on a guitar with a high action. My advice: the effects of super-glue than others and
medium-tension strings. WHAT YOU EAT: can suffer. If in doubt dont use it!.
a player who likes to make gentle sounds In the medium and long term you can
in his living room, the only location strengthen your nails by encouraging them MY ADVICE BASED ON WHAT I
where he plays the guitar. My advice: to grow strongly by what you eat. Find DO:
low- or medium-tension strings. foods that contain calcium, zinc, silica, bio- I do take care about my diet, and not just
a guitar with strong basses and weak tre- tin, folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 and cod for the nails, but for my general health,
bles: try carbon strings on the trebles. liver oil. Here are some of the foods that which in turn helps the nails grow strongly.
include these: fish (especially herring and I apply nail protein directly to my nails.
MY ADVICE BASED ON salmon), oysters, liver, watercress, spin- When I damage a nail I use a nail kit (there
WHAT I DO: ach, alfalfa, lettuce, kale, kelp, asparagus, are several on the market) and that sees me
Although time-consuming, I experiment sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, through thick and thin (pardon the pun).
with lowering the nut and bridge to the nuts, wheat germ, oats, brown rice, buck-
lowest point before the guitar begins wheat, soy beans, bananas, fruit, molasses, From the April 2013 issue of Classical Guitar.
to buzz, and play with medium-tension and cider vinegar. First published at

Some Thoughts on Nails and Strings