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Jason Vieaux's Manicure Mishap

Jason Vieaux creates his own thumbnail from ping-pong balls and Krazy Glue. (Tyler Boye)

We've been recounting onstage calamities this week. Below, guitarist Jason Vieaux remembers a certain misbehaving fingernail.

As many classical guitar fans know, I use a ping-pong ball for my right-hand thumbnail. Not an entire ping-pong ball, mind you. That would be weird. No, a crescent-moon-shaped portion of a ping-pong ball cemented underneath a smaller length of my actual thumbnail via Krazy Glue, that handy household product originally developed for the military as an instant suture during combat.

In 1995, I found myself in Thailand as an Artistic Ambassador of the U.S., performing in 100 degree heat and 100% humidity. My method of creating a more consistent ping-pong ball thumbnail was still in its experimental stage. I was only 21 and still learning a lot about my technique. I had not yet discovered that to fully secure the plastic piece to the remaining portion of my thumbnail, it would be prudent to file off some ping-pong ball dust into the seam.

During my performance of music by American composer James McGuire, after a forceful strum, my artificial thumbnail flew off in the direction of the audience. It was impossible to know where it landed, hopefully not in anyone's eye. I finished the rest of the suite without a thumbnail, which hopefully didn't sound too much like a pianist suddenly playing with the right hand only.

Have a performance faux pas or onstage mishap of your own? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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