Nail Tips For Clawhammer Banjo

by David Bandrowski

One of the biggest problems clawhammer banjo players have is how to keep their nails in shape so that they can produce a warm, clear tone out of their banjo. Nails break and get worn down and without a proper nail, it is very hard to produce a good tone out of your banjo. Here are some tips and tricks to help get around this problem.

1. Grow Nails On 2 Fingers

Most clawhammer players choose one finger on their right hand, either the index or the middle finger, and stick with that finger to do all of their picking. They grow a longer nail for that one finger. I grow a longer nail on both the index and middle finger and have taught myself to be able to use either finger for clawhammer playing. This gives me a backup finger in case a nail breaks or gets worn down.

2. Nail Hardener Oil

You can apply a nail hardener oil to your nails to help keep them from breaking and wearing down. We will confess, we are not experts on nail hardener oil, but Hard As Hoof oil seems to be getting rave reviews! Might be worth a try!

3. Take Biotin

Biotin is sometimes known as Vitamin H and is one of the B complex vitamins that helps the body convert food into energy. Derived from the Greek word "biotos" which means "life", biotin is well known for keeping skin, eyes, nervous system and, you guessed it, nails healthy.

You can take biotin by mouth to help grow healthy, stronger nails. You can find this in the over the counter supplement section of any drug store. Or failing that, biotin is readily available in foods such as avocado, salmon, nuts, egg yolks, sweet potato and cauliflower. As with anything, please consult your doctor if you have any concerns. 

4. Put an Artificial Nail On

Go to the nail salon and get an artificial nail put on. This will sound great and last a good amount of time. And for the guys, if you’re embarrassed of going to a nail salon… get over it. Fun fact: Mark Johnson, creator of the Clawgrass style uses an artificial nail. He also wears cowboy boots and saves lives on a daily basis in his role as Director of Emergency Operations for Levy County, FL. Be like Mark. 

5. Use A Clawhammer Finger Pick

Some people just use a standard banjo fingerpick and put it on backwards so it goes on like a fingernail. There are also a number of good fingerpicks made especially for clawhammer style banjo players.

Check out this clawhammer pick made by ProPik 

Have you tried any of the above? Let me know what works for you in the comments below!

COMMENTS

Kristin Scott Benson chooses the Deering Golden Series banjos
New call-to-action

Search Blog Post

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

May 30.2024

How to Develop Your Unique Banjo Style

Every banjo player dreams of a signature sound, a style that sets them apart and instantly captivates listeners. It's the difference between mimicking your...

Oct 26.2022

How Hard Is It To Play the Banjo

One of the biggest myths about the banjo is that it is hard to play. After generations of blisteringly fast bluegrass licks dominating the public's perception...

May 23.2021

Can You Play Clawhammer Banjo On a Resonator Banjo?

"Can you play clawhammer banjo on a resonator banjo?" It's a question that comes up fairly often both on online forums and out in the public. The answer is...

May 12.2021

Irish Tenor Banjo - What Is the Standard?

When it comes to Irish tenor banjo, it is hard to define exactly what type of banjo that is. Yes, it is a four string tenor banjo. But is it a 17-fret or a...

sign up for our newsletter

Archives

see all