Everything You Need To Know About Fingernails And Piano Playing

If you take piano lessons like me, you’ll know that teachers always want students to keep their nails short when playing the piano.

While it’s annoying not being able to use your long nails to easily peel stickers or scratch lottery tickets, there are huge advantages when playing the piano with trimmed nails. This is why professional pianists always keep their nails short when performing.

In this article, I’ll explain why it’s better to keep your nails short when playing the piano and how to keep your nails short all the time without always having to cut them.

For anyone that fancies nail polishes or fake nails, I’ll also discuss whether it’s OK to use such products when playing the piano.

Why do piano players keep their nails short?

Piano players keep their nails short so that their fingertips touch the keys. This gives them a better grip on the keys and ensures proper curved fingers for playing the piano. Also, playing with long nails is annoying because of the clicky sounds they produce.

Because your fingertips have more surface area than your nails, you’ll have a better grip on the keys if you play with short nails, and you won’t miss notes as often.

Also, playing with long nails means that you have to compromise and bend your fingers so that your fingertips touch the keys. This leads to an improper hand curve which can affect your playing.

The ideal hand curve for playing the piano is the one where you curve your fingers to hold a tennis ball under your palm. By bending them because of long nails, your hands won’t be as nimble and can’t freely move to your will. You will also be tenser because curved hands are the natural positions to play the piano.

Finally, the clicky noises that your fingernails make when tapping the keys are the worst. Imagine a click after every note: C(click) – D(click) – E(click) – F(click). It’s distracting to you and everyone else listening.

These reasons are also why you shouldn’t wear fake nails when playing the piano. The longer the nails, the harder it’ll be to play properly. Wearing fake nails means you can’t play quickly and accurately.

Keep your nails short when playing the piano
Keep your nails short when playing the piano

The ideal nail length for playing the piano

Ideally, you want to keep your nails as short as possible – cut them so that you can’t see any white nails on your fingernails. This makes sure that only the fingertips are on the keys.

If you don’t want to cut your nails that short, you can cut them so that your fingernails won’t tap on the keys when you place your fingers on the keys.

A quick tip: If you don’t want to cut your fingernails frequently, get a nail file. Nail files are basically sandpaper and you use them to sand down your fingernails. They are useful if your nails haven’t grown enough to be easily cut using nail clippers. Also, you won’t have to deal with nail pieces flying all over the place when using nail files.

My nails grow very quickly, I usually see the white parts of the nails grow after a week of cutting them. So using a nail file to quickly sand my nails is better than fiddling with nail clippers every time I want to shorten my nails.

You can get a cheap nail file at a dollar store or here on Amazon.

Is it OK to play the piano while wearing nail polish?

Piano players can paint their nails since nail polish doesn’t affect piano playing. However, nail polish chips that fall off your nails can damage your piano by getting in between the keys or getting stuck on the surfaces of the keys.

Nail polish chips in between the keys will damage the actions over time, making the keys feel heavier than normal.

Chips that are stuck on the keys will be annoying to remove. Not to mention, using nail polish removers to remove the chips can damage the finish of the keys.

This is why if you want to keep your piano in tip-top condition, don’t wear nail polish when playing on the piano. But because wearing nail polish doesn’t affect your piano playing, if for some reason it’s not convenient to remove the polish, it’s OK to play the piano with nail polish on your nails.

A child playing the piano with nail polish
A child playing the piano with nail polish


I've been learning piano for the past 4 years, tried both online and in-person lessons. I'm very excited to share my experiences along with what I've picked up over the years in this blog!

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