Question about nails

Posted In: How To Play

  • Participant
    james-a on #60511

    Hello, harpcolumn community! I’ve just got news that I may be inheriting a harp, and I’m very excited about this. My principle instrument is classical guitar so I have nails on my right hand only. As I understand it, some harps can be played with nails, but they would be on both hands. My question is: how practical is it to do this? One hand of nails and the other of flesh? Should I purchase clip-on nails for my left hand? How should I go about this. Thanks a bunch, guys.


    Sherri Matthew on #60512

    Hi James,

    We had an interesting thread on this topic recently that you might find helpful:

    Hope this answers your questions! 🙂

    Btw, I play wire harp and I tried those glue-on nails when one of mine broke. They weren’t terribly useful and I was glad to get my real nails back. It felt weird and never really got the tactile feedback I needed. But just my experience, for what it’s worth.

    james-a on #60513

    Oh, thank you, Sherri. This helps a lot. I know almost nothing about the harp at this point, so whether or not this sort of thing was uncommon was a mystery to me. I think I’ll try it the way the OP of the topic you linked does. Thank you.


    Marco Hilgeman on #60514

    Hi James,

    Welcome to the world of harp and more specifically the nail players corner 😉
    Until now, Sherri and I were probably the only nail players on this forum, so it’s good to know we have some company now.
    Just as myself, you only have nails on the right hand (I’m a guitarist by nature as well, although I play harp for 20 years now) which is fine unless you want to focus on classical music…the brighter tone of the right hand obviously sounds different than the left hand without nails, and that mix is not the preferred sound there. But still you can play lots of other styles and have great fun. You just have to find that out for yourself.

    I wish you a great time playing harp, and welcome to this very useful and friendly forum; there’s lots of knowledge and practical info available here!

    All the best

    Sherri Matthew on #60515

    Hi guys,

    Yes, we’ll definitely have to start the HarpColumn Nail Players’ Club! 🙂 Maybe even the monthly newsletter or blog! Lol

    Anyways James, welcome to our corner of the harp world! Do you know much about your new harp that you’ll be getting?

    randal on #60516

    Congratulations and welcome James!

    I’m a life-long classical/flamenco gtr player–switched to wire-strung harp one year ago, after finally acquiring one. I played all the strings, but have largely given them up due to commitment to wire harp (and left-hand nails being basically anathema to string-playing). There are of course general and basic aspects we can advise on, but as usual you’ll just need to find your zone–what you can/can’t do, with how much nail, and so forth.

    For example, my large harp has quite large string spacing–so if I break nails and need to file them down in order to compensate for the broken one, I can adjust my approach/attack and play using more flesh–until my nails emerge again. Conversely, my small harp has quite narrow string spacing, and I’m unable to play it in any way other than total nails–as there just isn’t room enough for any finger. So, the larger harp allows me to vary my attack much more–providing more room for various finger angles–which is nice for those times when my nails aren’t optimal.

    With experience you can find the optimal way to employ what (left-hand) nails you can muster. Although I always preferred just a moderate length of nail for guitar, I’m no longer particularly fastidious nor diligent and just let them grow until I can no longer stand them–with long nails on both hands, of course, string-playing isn’t viable. So it’s the harp for me now : ). When I file to more optimal/shorter length, I’ll pick some tunes on the fiddle. But serious guitar playing is absolutely behind me.

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