I got a manicure yesterday afternoon here in Barinas, Venezuela. It was a stroke of great good fortune.
At the harp class on Wednesday, I was like everyone else, playing as hard as I could just to hear myself. Everyone was playing independently, as the teacher came around and gave personal instruction. Afterward, I noticed that I had broken my left index fingernail. What a disaster! With two weeks to go here, I would not have time to grow it back out!
Beauty parlor to the rescue. The young woman did not seem at all surprised when I showed her the broken nail. It was only half broken. She glued my left index first, then went to work on my right hand. Then she worked back and forth, giving each nail three coats of acrylic stuff, and a top coat of clear nail polish.
The creole harp technique here uses a lot of fingernail, but also use the finger pad for its own special effect. Pure nail gives a tinkling sound. Pure pad is used in the bass, along with damping, for a thumping effect that is very much favored. In the extreme, the thumping is almost toneless, snapping like a drum.
I am very pleased with my new hard nails. Mine are very conservative, clear and not very shiny, maybe 1/8 of an inch showing when looking at my fingertips from the palm side. I´m guessing local harpists have 3/8 inch, maybe more.
I should have figured this out a long time ago. Any other players have stories about how they manage their nails?