I am delighted that Hector Garcia consented to answer my emailed questions concerning his no-nails technique. Hector is one of the most successful guitarists to come out of Cuba. He has for many decades been a USA citizen. As you will see, he is a man of few words, who prefers his guitar should do the talking for him. I like that!
From his publicity material:
Born in Havana, Cuba, he received Master of Guitar and Master of Music degrees from Peyrellade Conservatory and subsequently joined the faculty of the conservatory. He later studied with the eminent musicologist and guitarist Emilio Pujol in Barcelona, and assisted him with master classes for advanced students and performing artists. Hector García’s repertoire consists of works spanning the Renaissance through the present day, performed on the original instruments; he plays a Pimentel guitar in addition to vihuela, lute, and Baroque guitar. He has performed with orchestras including the Havana Symphony, Los Angeles Sinfoniette, New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, University of Albuquerque Chamber Orchestra, Dupont Consortium (Washington, DC), and Caspar Symphony, and has toured major U.S. and European cities as well as Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, and Africa.
1. Dear Maestro Garcia, it is an honour to be able to discuss guitar technique with you. Can you tell me if you played with nails before meeting Emilio Pujol? I’m wondering if he changed your technique at all?
I played with fingernails before I met Maestro Emilio Pujol and continued playing with fingernails after I met him. However, since Fuenllana, Sor, Tarrega and Pujol played without nails I was curious, there had to be something good about it. This was about three years after I met Pujol – and he never encouraged me one way or the other.
2. Is playing without nails a result of a medical problem with your nails, or has it always been first and foremost for musical reasons?
I have never had a medical problem that affected my fingernails. Today, my fingernails are ready to be used if I so desire.
3. Domingo Prat and Isaias Savio say that Francisco Tárrega suffered from hardening of the arteries, which caused him to lose the use of his nails. Pujol seems to say it was a musical choice by Tárrega. Can you shed some light on this?
What Domingo Prat and Isaias Savio say is not true.
4. What is for you the most attractive thing about playing with just the flesh of the fingers? And also, the most frustrating thing?
The most attractive things are quality of sound and volume. I do not have any frustrating thing about it.
5. Do you find yourself playing a lower-tension string? I mention this because I do, yet others are happy playing heavier strings.
I do not have any preference but I avoid super high strings even when I was using nails.
6. You have played concerti with many orchestras, did playing without nails cause you any problems?
7. You also play vihuela and lute, is that correct? Did you study vihuela with Pujol?
Yes, I studied vihuela with Maestro Pujol. – I do not play lute.
8. In your own teaching, do you show the students the no-nail technique, or do they all play with nails?
I do not try to influence their choice. Some students use fingertips and some use fingernails.
9. Some no-nail players grow their nails a little bit to give strength to the finger pad, but not long enough to reach the strings. Is this something you do?
No, I use fingertips only.
10. Can you tell us about other no-nail players you have met over the decades?
Isaac Nicola, Professor of Havana Conservatory, Cuba; Juan Mercadal, Professor of University of Miami; Manuel Cubelo, First Prize Winner in the Competition of Radio and Television, Paris; Craig Russell, Professor at CalPoly, San Luis Obispo, Ca to mention a few of them.
11. There are fewer no-nail players around these days, it seems. Why do you think that is so?
Ignorance and influences of some well known players.
12. Please add anything else you want to say.
I recommended to those interested guitarists to read “El Dilema del Sonido del la Guitara” by Maestro Emilio Pujol published by Recordi (this is not a commercial). [You can read the English translation on my Technique page – RM]
August 11th, 2015