Why a Baby Boomer Man Went For His First-ever Manicure

I posted this question to my Facebook page to see if anyone could guess. The Musician Factor is a bit of a giveaway. Classical and finger-style guitarists are really serious about their fingernails, especially on their plucking hand. For an example of what I mean, check out this great video by guitarist Keith Medley.

So one page follower's guess about me finger-picking the banjo was close... but alas... no cigar. For bluegrass and 3-finger style banjo, I use a plastic thumb pick and metal finger picks. Professional manicure might help some with making those more comfortable, I'll see.


Right... OK... sorry... the answer can be seen in this photo:

Why baby boomer banjo player went to the manicurist

It's a little hard to see because it's so clear, but I went and had a sculpted nail put on my right index finger. No others, just that one. Why? Because I'm practicing a lot of clawhammer style banjo these days. In that style, you play melody and other notes by striking strings with a downward motion using the fingernail of your index or middle finger. (Index works better for me.)

Even if you have thick strong nails (and mine are thin and wimpy), clawhammer banjo can quickly wear your nail down to the point where you can't play for a while. Clawhammer players have a variety of ways of dealing with this. There are specially designed finger picks available, or you can try reversing a standard finger pick.  I've tried those and just didn't like them. Another approach is this one... an artificial nail applied to the stroke finger.

I expect it's an eye-opener for any manicurist for a late middle-aged gent to walk in carrying a banjo and asking for a sculpted nail on only one finger! Certainly it was for Svetlana, manicurist at a nearby Saint Petersburg salon. But she took it in stride like a true professional!

After one good practice session, I must say I like the result so far. The tone is pretty much the same as with my natural nail, but with at least twice the volume, and it feels very natural. How well and how long will it hold up whacking against metal strings? Time will tell!


Ah, er, oh... right... sorry. OK, here's a little video where I'm playing clawhammer style (or at least my version thereof):


BTW - herein lies a clue about a new musical project I'm looking into. More if and when it materializes. Meanwhile, y'all can speculate! Thanks for stopping by. Have a nice day. Stay out of jail.


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