Well if we are lucky, we have two hands, one for holding down the strings to the fingerboard which we will call the left hand or LH for short. The picking hand we will refer to as the right hand or RH. (apologies to lefties)
While most of the literature on guitar player’s nails invariably refers to the picking hand (RH) on the fretless guitar the nails on the LH become just as important.
As there is a mass of information on keeping your picking hand in good order we are only going to concentrate on LH care.
Techniques affecting fingernails
Nail stopping techniques on the fingerboard can give you great accuracy and sustain but the strings will eat into your nails. As there is such a small point of the nail in contact with the string you really need to keep your nails in great shape.
However the last thing you want is for your nails to start splitting, and they tend to do this at the mid-point, just where you would normally stop the string.
The key thing is to NEVER clip your nails or cut them with scissors. The rule is to file them to shape. A great investment is a diamond nail file, usually having a medium grade on one side and a fine grade on the other.
A good tip is to file off the square edges at either side of the fingernails, not only will this let you get further stretches with your LH but will result in less nail breaks if you catch your fingers on drink can pulls etc.
The above image shows the typical squared off nail to the left (as it would normally grow) and the rounded off nail to the right, this rounded off shape is what you should be aiming for when filing your nails.
You will need to keep your LH nails relatively short while making sure the first and second finger nails are just long enough to stop strings directly on the fingerboard if you need to.
Note that all nails are rounded on both edges.
These come in several varieties, from the very cheap paper board files, through to metal and then diamond. The disadvantages of cheaper files is you have to be careful to always file in the same direction. A recent innovation has been the glass file. These are made in the Czech Republic from tempered Bohemian crystal glass. The precision crystal pro file from Wolfram slides is the best file I have ever used. One side is for shaping nails and the other side for finishing and polishing. The big advantage is you can file the nail in both directions without fear of damaging the nail, the finish you can get is quite remarkable, very smooth and natural.
See here for more details: wolframprecision.com
Some reports state that certain vitamins, taken orally, can improve the nails. The Mayo Clinic Family Health Book states: “There is no scientific evidence that gelatin capsules, calcium tablets, or other vitamin or protein products improve and strengthen your nails.” A study in 1990 showed a 25% increase in human nail thickness over 6 months taking a daily 2500mcg dose of Biotin (vitamin B7). Biotin does not strengthen already healthy nails.
A variety of creams are available for the fingernails, these will help keep your nails from drying out and splitting. Sally Hanson”s Vitamin E 3-in-1 cuticle quencher cream is a good quality example. For most people creams will slightly accelerate nail growth if used regularly.
Hoof Hard As Nail Strengthening Cream gets very good reviews as does Healthy Hoof Intensive Protein Nail Treatment, which states “Original equestrian formula used by horse trainers.” The list of ingredients is pretty long, the product does smell faintly medicinal and is a little oily, so best applied at night. (BTW horse trainers rarely use this nowadays and rely on food additives to strengthen horses hooves)
This is an organic liquid allegedly originally used to strengthen horses hooves. There is a lot of hype about this product, some claims say that your nails will grow twice as fast and become twice as strong. Users report anything from not much effect at all through to almost a miracle product. As the nails take around three months to grow through, you must persevere to see any effect.
This product is expensive and it may be wise to try the Healthy Hoof option first.
….ends JahloonFretless Guitar Extras