Classical Guitar without fingernails? An opinion by Rob MacKillop

Never ask a group of classical guitarists if you can play even without the nails of the right hand!


You risk being insulted brutally….and absolutely do not mention Tárrega!

Seriously, I came across this video where Rob MacKillop explains his technique developed without using the nails of his right hand, inspired by Fernando Sor technique.

Often, when you play other instruments besides the guitar (such as piano, bass, lute or ukulele) the right hand nails can be an obstacle or more susceptible to breakage, and it must be found a compromise solution.

It could be an interesting inspiration for a discussion on this topic, like this interesting article by Adam Rafferty:

  • You are producing a FAT sound that originates from a deeper place than just the surface of the string.
  • The front of your note should be like a “plump grapefruit” — not a cat claw!
  • You “pop” the string into motion and love the sound you make playing a single note on your high E string.
  • If you don’t like your sound, seek to fix it at the finger and string origin point — not the amplifier or eq knob.
  • Don’t worry about speed. That’s a lower priority than tone.
  • Listen to all great musicians on other instruments and go for a strength and center in your tone like theirs.
  • Commit to your choice whatever it is and practice. It can take years to develop technique, so be patient.
  • Listen attentively to the sound you are making, all the time.

One thought on “Classical Guitar without fingernails? An opinion by Rob MacKillop

  1. I play with fingers and only leave enough nail for when I’m playing a song where I strum. That isn’t much nail at all, just basically enough to protect the tender fingertip. I find long nails to be slippery and to catch on the strings. Besides, I prefer the rich warm tone of flesh on strings.


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