Cynthia CathcartCynthia is one of the world's experts on the Clarsach, the wire-strung harp of the Highland and Islands of Scotland and of Ireland. Performing and teaching internationally, she is leading a new wave of interest in the wire-strung harp. Based near Washington, DC, Cynthia represents Ardival Harps of Strathpeffer, Scotland and is their North American Artist in Residence. Cynthia is a recording artist, and the author of several books for the clarsach. She holds a number of prestigious awards, including two-time U.S. National Scottish Harp Master Champion, three time winner of the Clan Lamont Trophy (in Virginia, Texas and Ohio), and holder of the Pennington-Grey Award for service to the wire-strung harp.
The best advice I can give you as far as breaking a nail is not to. Wire harpers, we tend to be very careful about the things we do. Picking up heavy wet laundry, be careful, take a little bit at a time. When you reach to open a file cabinet, assume it is locked. When you reach to open a car door, assume it is locked. When I travel, I wear gloves, just nice gloves, so that I am little less likely to catch my nails on things to break them. You can use creams, lotions; there are all kinds of products in the market for strengthening your nail. You want moisturizer, buy them sometimes will help. What you dont want to do is nail polish, and also avoid the fake nails, I dont even know what they are called, because I do not use them. You want to avoid using fake nails. There is a product that is related to super glue and I have been known to use it to glue a broken nail, either back on or to mend a tear. You can do that, but the best advice really is to just be careful and dont break your nails. If you are starting out from scratch and you dont have nails, some options that are available to you are picks. There are banjo picks, I think they are called Alaska picks. There are Sitar picks that you can use, you can play without nails, people do, and honestly my nails are about as long as you want let them get. This is long, you can get just above, just enough nail to get over the string and thats really all you need to play.