5 Practical Tips For Playing Guitar With Long Nails

Learning how to play guitar with long nails can present some challenges, but you can do a handful of things to make it feel better if you aren’t used to it. If you’ve been wondering, “can I play guitar while having nails?” you certainly can, but you need to be mindful of specific aspects when you perform. Here are some tips for playing guitar with nails to make it a more enjoyable experience for you.

1. When Fretting Notes, Avoid Using Your Nails

The first and most crucial piece of advice for people with long nails is that instead of making the common mistake of trying to press with your nails, use the tips of your fingers! Try to have the meatier portion of your fingertip be what’s making contact with the strings, rather than being right up on the nail, but don’t go so far down that you’re playing on the pads of your fingers.

Using this method will help prevent you from accidentally digging your nails into the fingerboard and reduce any pain and discomfort you might feel while playing the guitar. However, learning how to do this can be tricky, as having nails that are too long can prove to be a physical obstacle that prevents you from playing properly.

2. Pay Attention To How You Hold The Guitar

Additionally, one of the best tips for playing guitar with long nails is to be extra careful about how you position your hand on the guitar neck. 

Avoid placing your hand in a way where your nails might come into contact with the strings, as this can cause your nails to break off and possibly create unwanted noise and discomfort.

3. Manage Your Nail Length

Whether you have natural fingernails or you’re using really long acrylic nails, it’s probably a good idea to trim or file them down or purchase shorter ones before playing the guitar. 

Getting them to an appropriate length will help prevent them from snagging on the strings or getting caught in the fretboard. You might love your nails as they currently are, but you most likely will need to find a healthy compromise by getting them to a manageable length that allows you to keep playing without issues. I think in the long run, you’ll probably get more fulfilment out of playing the guitar than having very long nails that can prevent you from playing it as well as you could.

4. Use A Comfortable Guitar Pick

There are several different kinds of guitar picks available on the market, so find one that works best for you and your playing style. If you have longer nails, it might be difficult to grip a thinner pick, as it can feel more flimsy, so opt for a thicker one. In most cases, a medium-sized and standard-shaped guitar pick that’s between 0.5 to 1.0 mm should suffice! I have some great suggestions in this guide here that can be used effectively for acoustic and electric guitar players. 

If you’re playing fingerstyle guitar exclusively, angle your finger so that you’re incorporating some flesh into your pluck rather than using only your nails – your nails should not be a substitute for a plectrum, so be sure to add enough skin when plucking your strings. Even classical guitarists who deliberately have nails on their plucking hand use it to shape their tone and volume and not have be the primary source of their technique and sound. Here’s a great video that will show you how you can shape your nails on your right hand (if that’s what you pluck with that one).


5. Don’t Be Afraid To Take Breaks!

If playing with long nails is causing you any annoyance or discomfort in your fingers, take a few minutes to rest your hands and give your nails a breather. 

You can always come back and try again later when you feel better. Taking regular breaks in your practice sessions is simply a good habit for anyone, regardless of whether or not they have long nails.


Playing guitar with long nails doesn’t have to be a painful or burdensome experience. You can make playing much more comfortable by paying attention to how you hold the instrument, using the right picks, and taking regular breaks when playing for extended periods.

In certain instances, such as classical guitar fingerpicking, having some nails can be advantageous, so don’t be discouraged if you’re struggling at first – keep at it, and soon, you’ll be playing like a pro with consistent practice!