The Nail-Biting Guitar Player

On November 22, 2013, in Advice, by Magnolia Guitar
(cc) License Attribution Some rights reserved by Freddie Peña.

(cc) License Attribution Some rights reserved by Freddie Peña.

The Nail-Biting Guitar Player is an oxymoron. That’s not to say that they don’t exist. Oh, they do. But you can’t be truly successful at playing guitar and getting better at playing guitar if you are a habitual nail-biter.

Now, I admit that I am a ‘Recovering Nail-Biter’. Yup, that’s me. But thankfully I haven’t bitten my nails since March 2009.

As you can imagine, being a habitual nail-biter and playing the guitar are mutually exclusive since you need your fingers to be in good condition to play well. Often when people bite their nails, they bite them down to the nail bed which not only causes them pain, but also causes the nail to recede. Sorry, I know that’s pretty gross. But it’s the truth.

Since I’ve quit, my nails have healed and returned mostly to normal. If you’re a student of mine, you know how fastidious I am about maintaining my nails. But here’s something you might not know.

Once you’ve stopped biting your nails, the damaged nail bed WILL RECOVER, but very slowly. Excruciatingly slowly. But as it turns out, when my nails appear to be a normal short length, they are in reality still much shorter than normal, because of the years of biting them back.

As such, when my nails look like they are at a normal length at a glance, they never exceed past the tips of my fingers. So what does that mean?

It means that if my nails never exceed past the tips of my fingers, then they never get in the way of cleanly fretting notes when playing the guitar. My nails are never in the way. I suspect that this is, at least partially, why my technique is as clean as it is. Well, that and 30-years of playing experience.

I’m not in any way condoning or encouraging you to bite your nails to be a better guitar player. It’s a gross habit rooted in anxiety and stress. And it prevents you from playing guitar well. If you currently bite your nails, and trust me A LOT of people do, you should quit. And probably look into the causes of your stress if you want to be successful.

If you quit biting your nails and join me as a ‘Recovering Nail-Biter’ you will feel better about yourself, feel more self-confident and you will enjoy playing the guitar much more. Now doesn’t that sound like something to work towards?


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