I’m fairly new to the harp, I purchased me BlevinSong 36 a
Posted In: Amateur Harpists
When I play guitar I use a pick. When doing finger picking I use finger picks. They take a little getting used to, but they work well and many plucked string instrument players use one form or another as the standard way to play (banjo players and Koto players come immediately to mind).
I forget exactly who it is, but one of the harp recording artists who plays both nylon and wire strung harp does something to shape her nails so that they can be used for wire but still don’t get in the way for nylon. Also while some people, like myself, find that any bit of nail gets in the way and keep their nails ultra short I have seen some people who are able to play with a bit of nail without it getting in the way on gut or nylon strung harp. Different people are different and the shape of the fingers and how your nail grows will be an influence. You can try growing out your nails to see exactly how long you can get them before they get in the way on harp, and then see if that is long enough to make use of for guitar.
I play wire and nylon both. No real problem. If you will remember, when your hand is in the “Hitchhike position”, you actually play with the side of the fingerpad, not the tip.
If you will shape your nails away from the playing side and just give your self the wee “Peek over” tip it should serve for your guitar and your harp as well. The wire harp hand position is closer to the guitarists “Claw” then it is to the harpists “Hitchhike”, so this should work. I can pick a guitar with my nails without difficulty other then being totally intimidated by those bothersome frets.
Of course you could sell off your nylon and get a lovely wire….. and that would end the issue!
My teacher plays a pedal harp and I think her style is very traditional, I’m learning gestures and technique for the most part and am almost done with Suzuki book 1.
I haven’t even played my guitar since I started harp lessons, which was good because I had some guitar picking habits that had to be unlearned and it wasn’t easy, lol.
But I want to start playing guitar again. I miss it!
Actually I always thought the objection to nails on anything had more to do with the tone produced than damage to the strings, although I can see that nails on gut would shorten the life of the gut strings.
Playing with nails for, say, Celtic music on a harp that has lighter gauge nylon strings is one thing. Playing classical music on a concert strung harp, even if it is all nylon, is another. The tone you want to get for that situation is completely different, and, at least to me, nails sound horrid.
If I play with any length of nail the clicking of my nails against the strings drives me crazy. Not only that, but when I play fast I tend to keep my hands very close to the strings and if I have any nail I will sometimes brush the edge of the nail against a string while moving from note to note or chord to chord.
So really it depends on what you are playing. But I think the aversion to using nails on nylon has to do with the tone it produces and it not being suitable for classical music. But for the various folk musics if it works for the music then I say go for it.
Nails won’t hurt nylon, but in the wrong situations it just sounds bad.