Long or Short Nails for Ukulele, Which is better?

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A common question topic when it comes to playing the ukulele from beginners is about nails and whether nail length is important to play the ukulele instrument. Should your nails be trimmed short, can you just use a pick? Can you play the ukulele with fake nails? The list is long. 

So we wrote this article to answer some of the more common questions about nail lengths for playing the ukulele and things you can do to help get the best experience possible when playing the ukulele.

Table of Contents

Long or Short Nails for Ukulele

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When it comes to playing the ukulele as a beginner, being able to use your fingertips is very important. Ideally, your nails should be short, mainly because when changing chords. You need the dexterity of your fingertips to control what chords you are playing otherwise your instrument playing is going to sound bad. 

You don’t want your chords to sound weird from you not pressing down hard enough with your chord-making hand.

When it comes to your strumming hand though, long nails can have some benefits. You can creatively use your nails as a tool to pluck the strings differently. It could be argued that a naturally grown long nail has more precision than a plectrum would.

That’s not to say that every ukulele player in history has had short nails. But at the beginning stages when you really need to focus on and learn fingertip sequences for the chords, having long nails is only going to hinder you. 

Having longer nails on your non-chord hand, however, can actually open up more possibilities in the way you play.

Can You Play Ukulele with Fake/Acrylic Nails?

Because the fingertips are very important for fretting, playing ukulele with fake or acrylic nails is going to be tricky especially for a beginner. 

When it comes to fingerpicking the ukulele, picking with a nail can give you a louder more precise, and pronounced ping than picking with a finger that has no nail but you have to make sure the glue holding your nails on is strong!

I have heard of more experienced ukulele players playing while having fake or acrylic nails, but I would say for a beginner to keep your nails short until you have a handle on the chords and fretting. Then once you have got the hang of playing, maybe try with fake nails and see how you get on.

Should I Cut My Nails to Play Ukulele?

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If you have tried to play the ukulele with long nails and you are having a tough time playing and you feel your nails are getting in the way of you selecting the right chord, then maybe you should trim your nails.

The beauty of it is that your nails will of course grow back in a short amount of time so it’s not an irreversible decision.

I Have Sore Fingers – How to Strum a Ukulele Without Hurting Your Fingers

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If your fingers hurt from playing the ukulele, you could play with a pick. But I actually think that playing with your fingers is actually a better way to go. You can strum in more ways such as by using your thumb and trying out different finger combinations than you can with just using a pick. 

If your fingers hurt from playing the ukulele especially on your chord hand, there are things you can buy to protect your fingers, these protectors do a great job of stopping your fingers from hurting.

The way I got around the problem of sore fingers from playing the ukulele when I was a beginner was the old way of dipping your fingers in surgical spirit to build up a callous on your fingertips. Some people still do that today, but it might not be your cup of tea!.  

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