I've just finished learning the left hand for Recuerdos de La Alhambra and while I can play tremolo it does not sound overly clear. My teacher suggested two things for me to improve: The first one is moving my right hand fingers less. The second is growing nails (Mine are short as a result of biting, and I don't like the feeling of my nails hitting the strings, which is why I haven't tried growing them before now).

I've tried to reduce the movement of my right hand while playing, but I find it necessary to be able to play the notes loud enough. Growing my nails out will improve volume and therefore allow me to play with less hand movement, but will it affect any of my other guitar playing?

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    There are few things that have had a greater impact on my ability to play the guitar well than growing out my nails. This is not an answer, as I am not a classical guitarist, but I can tell you that as a jazz guitarist having some nails has allotted me a considerably greater degree of dynamic freedom, not to mention access to more timbres and sounds.
    – Fugu
    Aug 4, 2017 at 17:37
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    Personally, I think you will not regret growing nails. I am playing with nails for 10 years and have never ever wanted to go back to no nails. Playing with nails allows you to play classical pieces more precisely and allows you to have a very diverse sound, from soft to agressive. I find tremolos easier with nails since it's harder to miss the string compared to just having your fingertip. Keep in mind however, that playing jazz is very different. There, I wouldn't reccomend using nails, because you also lose some freedom/ease in switching from melody to chords in my opinion.
    – Mafii
    Sep 7, 2017 at 14:55

2 Answers 2


To play tremolo needs a steady plucking (usually right) hand and arm. Lock the inside of your elbow onto the guitar body, so that your fingertips are just on the strings, with knuckles held high. It will help in practice to rest your thumb on the bottom string, but obviously later you'll need to keep that thumb free for any other notes played on lower strings.

Long(ish) fingernails on that hand are useful as they give options of different sounds - hard nail, soft finger pad. Growing them to sensible length is something you won't regret. Find something else to chew...!


I think there has been a great change in classical guitar technique over the last 100 years. If you read Sor's Methode, he suggests very little or no fingernail. The delicate tones you can get from an all-flesh attack is very nice.

But by the time Segovia was trying to play Carnegie Hall, we had to get more volume, more shimmer. We were envious of the volumes and tones that a Mandolin choir can produce.

So, I agree with Tim and your teacher that you should make an effort to grow a little bit of fingernail on your right hand. But you only need a little bit. I believe the tremolo in this piece is easier and more effective with less nail and more apoyando. The nail takes away some momentum from the attacks and the fingers get tired sooner (IME).

I was a nail biter into high school. When I wanted to grow my right hand nails, I did it by baby steps. First I stopped biting my right thumb and index finger. With those two fingers only, if the nail got chipped or otherwise tempting for a bite, I resisted until I could get home to use nail clippers.

After success with 2 fingers, I stopped biting the right hand entirely. And I kept a nailfile in my bookbag and one in the guitar case.

Eventually I stopped biting the left hand fingers as well. And now I have the moral authority to tell my mother to stop biting hers!

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