Long fingernails even after trimming? Does this get in the way?

Posted In: How To Play

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    David Kitamura on #214817

    I may have made a post asking about this a loooong time ago, but after the forum was restructured I believe that topic got lost and I can’t find a record in my profile of it. Sorry for those who may have responded back then…

    Anyway I had an odd question concerning the way my fingernails grow when it comes to a point where I finally have an instrument to learn and practice with regularly. I hear that long nails are a general no-go for harp playing, but my fingernails trimmed down to the skin still do not leave a fleshy fingertip of any kind. This time I thought to attach photos of my hand for a clear sense of perspective. My actual experience with playing available harps in a showroom is very limited and never with any instruction so I’m not aware if this would be a significant problem down the line. Am I just completely overthinking this?

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    Tacye on #214825

    I can easily play with fingernails that long. With a fingers down, thumbs up hand position I wouldn’t expect them to be any trouble.

    Biagio on #214828

    They look fine to me, David; as you practice your placements and technique you will soon learn if any need trimming. Usually for me it is the thumb (finger 1) that may need filing on the string side when (for example) reaching over or under. Depending on your harp and the effect you want you may actually wish to use the nails, sometimes.

    wil-weten on #214835

    Hi David, you may like to see how professional harpists, e.g. Josh Layne put their fingertops at the strings.

    You may like to have a look at:


    Elettaria on #214842

    Well, if you switched to harps that are played with the nails (wire harp, Paraguayan harp) you’d be sorted with nails like that!

    David Kitamura on #214875

    Thank you all for the responses. I was worried that to pursue the craft I might have had to do something drastic like permanently push back the hyponychium of my fingers which sounds unpleasant for so many reasons.

    As neat as wire harps are, it seems that there’s a lot less support for it especially when it comes to available vendors and teachers. I can’t see it becoming my primary instrument.

    Biagio on #214906

    That’s true David, although it is worth remembering that many popular tunes were originally composed for the clarsach or the pipes. If your harp is nylon strung you can get close to the same effect, just with less sustain.

    It’s so easy to want to try every different harp I hear! Best to stick with one style at first.

    Loonatik on #215729

    You should be able to play the harp with those nails, as long as you take note of the shape of the hand, and have a strong technique.

    If you get poor tone quality or unwanted noises from the nails hitting the strings when they are plucked, then you’re probably “clawing” the strings, rather than plucking them correctly.

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