Clickety, Clickety, Clickety…it’s similar to nails on a chalkboard, just a little bit worse. For any piano teacher, the sound of nails clicking on the keys as a student plays ranks as one of the worst sounds known to man. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you get the picture. In truth, nail length is more than just your instructor’s personal preference; your nails will either help or hinder your performing ability.

What’s Considered a “Short” Nail?

The exact length may depend some on preference, but generally, your nails should be short enough for you to be able to easily feel the key with the entire, flsehy pad of your finger. You don’t want to have to make any hand, wrist, or arm position changes to try and accommodate your long finger nails. It’s not worth it.

Advantage of Shorter Nails

While shorter nails might not be the look you’re going for, choosing to keep them nice and trim will enhance your playing in a few different ways:

  1. Maintain a curved hand position: Shorter nails give you the option of maintaining a curved and relaxed hand position. By curving your fingers, you make each one nearly the same length, giving each finger equal playing ability. A curved position also equates to less tension as you play.
  2. More control: Being able to feel the key with the pad of your finger gives you a better touch on the keyboard, allowing you to play with greater control.
  3. Greater speed: For trickier passages, there’s nothing like short finger nails. Think about it. Your French manicure may be absolutely gorgeous, but it won’t be of great assistance when you try and play anything fast. Long nails will simply get in the way and trip you up!
  4. More expression: Shorter nails give you the opportunity of greater expression in your playing. Being able to feel the key with the entire pad of your finger allows you greater control of the depth of the keys and consequently, greater dynamic contrast and sensitivity.

Disadvantage of Longer Nails

  1. Sound: As mentioned, the clicking sound of nails on the keyboard not only annoys, but can easily distract both performer and listener. You don’t want to the only thing your audience hears and remembers from your performance to be your clicking nails.
  2. Sloppiness: Long nails make keeping your fingers on the keys rather challenging. The longer they are, the more your fingers slip and slide all over the keys. Nothing ruins a good performance faster than sloppy playing.
  3. Injury: Not only do longer finger nails negatively affect your performance, but they also increase your chances of injury. Hard to imagine, but people have caught their nails in between keys and badly ripped the nail…ouch. To think all the pain could have been easily avoided!

Help yourself, your teacher, and your audience—trim those nails!

January 28, 2020
Category: Good Habits, Piano
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