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I've never given much thought to nail/hand care. I keep my nails short and generally don't use lotion, because it transfers to the keytops.

I'm also prone to hangnails, and every once in a rare while my fingertips feel bruised if I practice vigorously for an extended time after trimming my nails.

I'm so used to all of this, it's never until now occurred to me to question it. But then I read this, regarding guitar playing:

Shorten your nails as much by possible, but not by cutting. The problem with cutting them very short is that the tool compresses the fingernail and pulls it away from the skin. That causes the separation and pain. You should cut your nails only to a comfortable point, and then from there continue to shorten them by filing with a diamond file. (SOURCE: SE MP&T)

I cut my nails will a clipper. Are manicure scissors better? Should I file them? With a certain type of file? Should I go all out and get manicures? Should I be treating (or preventing) hangnails is some way? Is there some advantage or disadvantage to more or less dry skin?

What should pianists consider in caring for our hands and nails? What kind of impact, if any, do the care techniques chosen have on our hands, nails, and piano playing?

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  • Aaron, are you suffering from covic-blues? ;) – Albrecht Hügli Jan 27 at 9:17
  • I'm fairly sure you are more knowledgeable than I am, but still going to give my point of view. I oftenly let my fingernails grow kinda long before I start cutting them with regular nail clipper. And whenever I cut them, I usually try to not cut them too deep. Because of which the pink part of the nails seem to grow over the years (meanwhile relatives have finger part above nails because they cut them deeper). I guess it makes playing with the finger tip harder, but I never had much "health trouble" because of that. – Clockwork Jan 27 at 14:30
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Healthy hand skin is better than dry skin since you can grip the keys better and avoid painful skin cracks. I put Aquaphor on my hands right before bed (once or twice a week during winter) so it can soak in all night and not get on my keyboard or anything else.

As for nail care, the concern is that nails that are too long or have jagged edges produce a clicking sound while playing that is audible to listeners and on recordings. I trim my nails frequently (probably about every 4 or 5 days) making shallow cuts and avoiding trimming too close (which can lead to a skin crack right under the nail and is most annoying to have while playing). Finger- sized clippers should be used, not toe-sized clippers. Toe-sized clippers make it more likely that you'll trim too close and get that painful skin crack right under the edge of the nail. Finally, I file the nails with a large emery board so there are no edges or points.

Hangnails can be simply cut off with the nail scissors. Biting or tearing them should obviously be avoided. A simple inexpensive nail-care kit should have everything you need.

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I believe that the same rule is applied everywhere in piano practice: while you feel comfortable it is OK: if you feel fatigue in the right hand - it is good to switch to the practice the left one; if you are bored with a piece it would be beneficial to switch to something else for some time.

When you are doing properly your nails, it reduces the chance of skin injury which can lead to the development of infection at that place and as a result pain and loss of comfort during practice.

So, if skin injuries are a problem for you - then it could be a sign to reconsider your nail-care habits.

Considering tools, you usually can purchase a manicure set that will contain all you need (scissors for nails, scissors for cuticle, diamond file, etc.).

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