The Significant Role of the Fingernails in the Production of Tone on the Classical Guitar


Daniel Nistico


In the 21 st century , tone production plays a vital role in the communicative and expressive powers of the classical guitar and fingernails form a core part of a guitarist’s means of providing this resource. Debate and uncertainty still lies as to how tone is specifically produced on the classical guitar. A limited amount of literature exists regarding tone production for the modern classical guitar . Within many of these limited texts, the fingernails are often over looked, or are not given the emphas is they are due.

As opposed to the 19 th century and before, the 21 st century regards the classical guitar primarily as a concert instrument . The 20 th century saw the transition of an ins trument not taken seriously , to one that  is regarded as a serious concert instrument.“ During [ this transition period ] the classical guitar has evolved from being a rarity in the concert hall to become a familiar instrument in all the major recital centers of the world.” (Wade 1980:xi) Transition periods inevitably lead to change, and tone production and its elements comprise one of the most signif icant changes of the classical guitar in the 20 t h century. The significance of the finger nails was one of the key elements of these changes.

The classical guitar is capable of producing a wide palette of tone colours that may be produced by a thorough unders tanding of the f ingernails and their role in the production of tone. The popular cliché, attributed to Ludwig Van Beethoven af ter hearing the Italian guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani, that the guitar is a miniature orchestra within itself , highlights the classical guitars tone production capabilities…)

The Significant Role of the Fingernails in the Production of Tone on the Classical Guitar


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