Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why Short Nails are Important

One of the most basic, yet most neglected advice given to beginning violinist is the importance of keeping your nails short.  It's very easy to forget about maintaining the proper nail length because we all started on bowing techniques with open strings.  However, once you start using your fingers on the fingerboard, your nails will become an issue.

Finger on strings before trimming

Take a look at the picture above. Ignore the death grip I'm giving to my Hoffer's neck (The name I gave my violin, we'll go to that part in the future, as well as the grip) as I'm balancing the violin whilst holding the camera. Notice angle of my fingers on the strings. It's very hard to produce the correct sound because the nail is interfering with the finger pressure I'm applying on the strings. If I put my fingers squarely on the violin, my fingernails will be cutting into the string. That can lead to either finger injury or a broken string.

Finger pressure after trimming

Now compare the angles of my fingers from the previous picture to the one above.  You'll notice that I'm now applying a more even pressure on the strings without compromising comfort.  My nails are no longer cutting on the string and interfering with my intonation.  I don't have to rotate my wrist and fingers just to avoid hitting the stings of the violin with my fingernails. BTW, Beth has a great violin tutorial in ViolinLab.com on how to apply finger pressure and strengthening exercises for good intonation. 

The length of your nails on your right hand can also interfere with your bow hold.  Long thumb nails can get in the way as you position your thumb right at the crook at the frog.  Instead of getting a solid and relaxed hold on the bow, your thumb will be constantly sliding forward.  As a result, you'll be adding useless pressure and your intonation will be affected because of this.

So next time when you practice, check the length of your nails and see if they need trimming.  That very small detail can really reduce a great amount of frustration as you produce your notes. 

What's your preferred length for your fingernails? How short do you trim them? Please share your tips and ideas, or comment on this posting below. :)


  1. I'm a bit ashamed to say I used to be a nail biter..I've grew out of that somewhat, but I still keep my nails very short or they start to bug me along with affecting my playing.

  2. I have my nails a little long there just a centimeter or 2 long , I can play the violin fine its more your own opinion but if you cant play a song how it is then maybe consider cutting your nails a little bit just to be able to hold the bow and press on the strings.

  3. I'm just learning violin.. I'm a nail polish blogger slash Horder lol.. plus I do nail art so for now I've been doing now and bow on string excercises.. I knew I was going to have to trim my nails off 😪

  4. I used to play the violin,and now I do nail art and I miss to play the violin.. A few weeks ago, I tried to play it but my nails are too long. I'm thinking of cutting my nails short so that I can play the violin again, but I'm hesitant :(