Ukuleles are amazing. They are easy to play, sound awesome, and usually come with a pretty reasonable price tag. Being a ukulele lover myself, I succeeded in convincing one of my friends to pick one up.
However, I couldn’t help but notice that my friend had some trouble holding the chords properly – as she had long nails. So, we decided to clear up this confusion regarding whether can you play the ukulele with long nails or not?
Well, your ukulele playing experience can be maximized by keeping the fingernails of your chord or fret hand short, and the nails of your strumming hand long. If you have long or acrylic nails on your chord-making hand, it is almost impossible to play the ukulele.
Different nail lengths can significantly affect your playing. Therefore, we’ll be answering all the questions you might have in regards to playing ukuleles. Let’s get right into it, shall we?
Long Nails vs Short Nails
We’ve given you the answer on whether you can play ukuleles with long nails already. Now, we’re going to go into the details so you will have zero confusion regarding this issue.
Long Nails on The Strumming Hand
Let’s try to imagine you with the long fingernails first. If you have long fingernails on the hand that you use to strum the ukelele, then not only will it create a louder sound but also be a bit easier to strum without any irritation on your fingers.
If you’re confused as to how to use your long nails to properly strum, then follow this procedure. Just put your middle finger and thumb together, with the nails making a 45-degree angle. Take a few moments to get used to and you’ll feel the magic!
If you want to use acrylics on your strumming hand, you can do that as well! Just make sure they’re fitted in properly.
Long Nails on The Fretting Hand
This is when things can go really bad for you. Given your nail shape, it can be really difficult to produce a warm sound. However, if your nails are slightly above the average size, then you can press the flat portions of your fingertips at a relatively low angle. While this technique can prevent unwanted tones, it can a be bit of a hassle to master.
If by any chance you are thinking about using acrylics on your fretting hand, please don’t. It’s literally impossible to fingerpick. You can hold a major chord on the 4th string, but it’d be really tough to hold a minor chord.
Short Nails on The Strumming Hand
A lot of classical guitars and ukulele players prefer to keep long nails on the strumming hand. Having short nails can provide a less shrill sound and can hurt the flesh of your fingers. Therefore, if you do have shorter nails and want to strum with your fingers, your thumb can come in handy.
Short Nails on The Chord Hand
You already know the benefits of keeping your left-hand nails short, given that is your chord-making hand. It’s easier to play a single note and produce sharp tones when you have shorter nails – especially on the 1st string.
Making chords tend to get a lot easier as well. Therefore, it is recommended by professionals that you keep the nails short if you wish to maximize your playing.
Using A Pick to Strum
A guitar player usually uses a guitar pick to play. This is applicable to classical guitar playing styles as well as ukuleles. These picks can create a brighter sound with loud resonance.
So, you can use a guitar pick to play sharp notes and lead lines. However, we think it’s better to practice with your fingers as they can help create the original harplike tone of a ukulele.
There are also felt picks that specialized in ukuleles and are made of soft materials. However, the best option is to master strumming with fingers as that can open up a lot of options for you.
Using Fingers to Strum
The most common and effective way of strumming your favorite uke is with the index finger. When you’re using your index finger to strum, make sure you have the fingernail side down.
This way your nail will hit strings on the way down, and the soft skin will hit on the way up.
While a lot of users prefer to use acrylics on their index fingers, we believe that it’s better to play with your natural nails. On a side note, we’d recommend avoiding strumming with nails for guitar players.
There are a number of players who prefer to use their thumb to prefer. They feel more comfortable playing this way. Some even prefer the warm tone created from using the thumb.
As a beginner, we’ve seen people using their pinky fingers to strum as well. So, do whatever you’re comfortable with. If you’re using the thumb, make sure you have the thumb position right for the most beautiful sound.
The Types of Instruments You Can Play with Long Nails
If you have long nails and feeling a little bit disappointed seeing how you probably won’t be able to play your precious uke, there are a lot of instruments that you CAN play with long nails.
Basically, any instrument that doesn’t require you to use your fingertips can be played with long fingernails. For instance, you can play drums. Harmonica, piano, trombone, etc without facing any difficulty for your long nails!
Is Nail Polish Harmful to Strings?
Usually, ukulele strings are sturdier than guitar strings. Despite that, we’ve heard about a lot of users looking for better strings as theirs had gotten rust on them. This can happen because of a cheap set of strings or nail polish.
Since a lot of musicians love to play with nail polish on their nails, we’d recommend avoiding cheap non-brands. You can even go to a nail salon to revamp your classy nails.
Can Fake Nails Be Harmful to Your Finger?
Yes. Just like cheap polishes, fake nails can hurt your real nail badly – especially if the adhesive tape is cheap. Therefore, whether you’re using acrylics or armored nails, it’s highly recommended to purchase good quality products.
How Does Dolly Parton Play Guitar with Acrylic Nails?
If playing guitars or ukes is impossible with long acrylic nails, then how come Dolly Parton does it so smoothly? A lot of us have tried to get to the bottom of this, and we have learned that Dolly Parton uses an opening tuning system to hold the basic chords easily. In addition, she practiced a lot with acrylic nails in order to reach where she is today.
What Is an Ideal Strumming Position on the Ukulele?
Being a uke player myself, I have tried out a lot of strumming positions and figured out that the best position is strumming along the fretboard. Strumming on the fretboard creates a balanced sound and provides more resonance.
When you’re strumming, try to move your wrist only instead of your hand for the best results.
Playing the ukulele is very rewarding as it is one of the simplest stringed instruments out there. A lot of people struggle to play the uke with long nails on the fretting hands. Sometimes, they end up damaging fretboards.
Therefore, it is recommended that you keep your fretting nails short and have long nails on your strumming hand. That way, you can create the most beautiful sound with great ease! Happy playing!