Guzheng nails are just as important as the instrument itself — not only do they affect the touch of the performer on the instrument, they are also highly influential on the timbre of the sound produced.
Other than getting the nails straight from your teachers, have you ever wondered how should you go about choosing the right nails? Here are some things to look out for.
Most commonly used guzheng nails would be those of natural tortoise-turtle shell. These nails are known for better elasticity and hence cleaner sounds when playing the guzheng, producing bright refreshing tones at the high pitched range and deep wide tones at the lower pitched range.
Nylon nails are highly resistant to friction, reducing wear-out and the slight elasticity allows a pure timbre when used on the guzheng. These nails require highly professional polishing such that the tone quality they produce will be clean and minimal with unwanted noise of the materials touching.
Professional performers usually have their own made to order sets despite the higher prices.
Celluloid is a type of dense plastic that is transparent and known to be highly flammable. With its lower elasticity compared to the above materials, the tone quality may be thinner and the prices are also definitely lower.
Plastic nails are most commonly used among beginners, due to the affordable prices. They have coarse edges due to the mass production, causing much unwanted noise when used. Furthermore, due to the cheap material used, they are not resistant to friction and wear-out may easily occur.
The sizes should depend on each individual. Aside from the made to order nails, guzheng nails usually come in large, medium or small sizes so as to fit from kids to adults. Therefore, it is important to take note of the sizes when purchasing them, ensuring that they fit the first joint of your fingers.
The tip of the nail should be relatively thinner than the base, so that it is easier to control your strength when playing. Thicker nails will feel more rigid, requiring a higher level of technical expertise to produce a good tone. But the tone produced will be rich and rounded. Thinner ones produce a thinner tone and may break more easily.
Notched guzheng nails enhance the player’s control when performing, and are more stable, staying in the correct positions. However, it is recommended to take note and try before purchasing as notches may not suit every individual’s fingers. Double notched nails are also very popular among guzheng enthusiasts.
We have also filmed a video on this topic. Do check it out here: