When should the fingering tape come off?

March 27, 2011 at 08:10 PM ·

I know the answer to this question will vary, but at what point should the fingering tape on the violin board come off?  They can't be on there forever.  And how long is too long leaving the fingering tape on the board? 

Replies (34)

March 27, 2011 at 08:22 PM ·

When I asked my pedagogy teacher that a couple years ago she said that she would leave them on until they fall off on their own, maybe replace them once if the tape was just not gooey enough and came off quickly.

March 27, 2011 at 08:41 PM ·

That depends on you and your teacher.

I never used them when I was a child.  But I do have a small sticky  to help me orient to the high E on my E string.  However, I'm shifting much more consistantly and can now hear when I'm 'off'...time to get it off too...

But, to answer your question, when you can consistantly hear and know where the correct notes are.  As soon as you can, get the tapes off...


March 27, 2011 at 09:10 PM ·

There's no doubt in my mind that the short answer is "Immediately, if not before".

March 27, 2011 at 09:17 PM ·

I would agree with Trevor but add that once you've washed your ears out you won't need tape. Just need a good teachers as well who does not condone tape.

The best place for tape really is over the student's mouth ...

March 27, 2011 at 09:27 PM ·

I am with Trevor also....should'nt put them on then you are not left with sticky residue.

March 27, 2011 at 09:44 PM ·

Steve, I second the advice to get them off as soon as you can -- or "immediately, if not before."

I never used tapes, either.  In A New Approach to Violin Playing, Kato Havas states that ear-training is more important than finger-training -- so that you hear the tune in your mind and anticipate upcoming pitches and recognize right away when you're off.

Then, too, I will never know how many little finger-position adjustments I've made over the years to compensate for strings drifting out of tune -- especially gut strings, which I ordinarily use.  In this situation, tapes would be no help at all -- and probably a hindrance.

Keep us posted.

March 28, 2011 at 01:10 AM ·

I agree with Trevor and Peter - what is the point of tapes? The violin isn't a mechanical instrument that "here is c#" - that's what ears are for. What's the next step - frets?

March 28, 2011 at 08:41 AM ·

Remove the tapes immediately , the sooner the better,the concept is wrong.The best technique to find where to put your fingers is to "listen first ,then repeat" IMO.If you were take dancing lessons ,the first thing the teacher is going to say to you is "don't look at your feet'.Well the same applies to the violin "don't look at your fingers".


EDIT; new link March 29

When I  started teaching I used tape on the fingers boards ,because I thought it would be easier for the students to learn.  The opposite happened , students struggled with intonation and reading.

March 28, 2011 at 09:13 AM ·

Charles - you are 100% right.

(That piano or whatever scale on the link does not sound in tune to me though!!)

March 28, 2011 at 11:03 AM ·

The violin isn't meant to have visual markers or aides such as frets to find notes.  That's for guitarists. :D  The tape should come off right away in my opinion.

March 28, 2011 at 12:50 PM ·

@ Peter  The piano isn't out of tune ,the velosity was set too high in the software. So what we  are hearing is the overtones, I guess. I am going to have to fix that.

March 28, 2011 at 03:51 PM ·

I think the tapes are used as part of the "speed up" of everything in our modern age. If a violin student had previously learned to hear things "in tune," no tactile or visual aids would be needed. After all, there are no tapes for singers!

The tapes lead a player to very bad habits, because a real violinist does not need to watch fingers or see the fingerboard. I've been playing the violin for over 70 years and I cannot remember ever watching my fingers.

Tapes may allow a person to play something semi-recognizable sooner but it will propagate the bad technique that sufficient, proper practice can overcome.

And yes, I have used tapes with very young students and incompetent adult beginners. However I never use a tape for the 4th finger - they have to gt that one on their own. For cello students the tape on the fingerboard is really useless, and some marks on the side of the fingerboard may be helpful for initial hand training of some students because they an be seen without totally improper posture and they also help the student learn something of the angular perspective needed across the cello fingerboard.


March 28, 2011 at 04:51 PM ·

Andy, "angular perspective" is a good point, especially for the violin where the player looks along the fingerboard at a relatively low angle. Seeing the finger position accurately, with or without tapes, is therefore a little difficult. The other point of course is that when you're playing, if you're looking at anything it's going be the music, the conductor, the section leader, other players, your bow, Aunty Flo in the third row of the stalls ... anything except your left hand. In particular, gazing at the left hand will, certainly for someone who is not an advanced player, detract from bowing control and therefore tone and coordination. 

March 28, 2011 at 04:58 PM ·

I was in the third row at a quartet recital last night given by the Kodaly Quartet - from - HUNGARY.

Apart from the level of musicianship which was second to none - I think I MAY have heard one note that was out of tune - in a programme of Haydn, Mendelshonn and Bartok quartets. In other words it was 99.99999999999999999999999999999 % perfect.

It might be useful to think about the way Hungarian musicians are trained - using the sofege system and the Kodaly system.

Finger tapes should be forced up the student's smallest orifice - and care taken to clean out their ears. Then they can learn do-reh- me etc. And then play THE FIDDLE IN TUNE!!!!!!!

EDIT: Sorry, I mean up THE TEACHER'S smallest orrifice, as they are the ones responsible for this awful situation. They should really have to suffer for this appalling practise. I would send them to the guillotine ...

March 28, 2011 at 07:42 PM ·

"the way Hungarian musicians are trained "

The Physiology of Violin Playing, Publisher Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, Hungary Out of Print

Okay, so what do the Hungarian Academics have to say on this topic....

"Our violin teaching does not use enough of the opportunities residing in an improvement of tactile faculties; it fails to approach violin performance from this aspect"..."Delicacy of touch can be improved by means of kinetic and visual sensations, since it is in specific connexion with them.  The role of auditory control is secondary here, because it becomes operative only after audition of the  sound."

Peter, I have another shock for you.  Rosand cites Mutter as one of the great violinists of all time in his teaching DVD with ray chen.

March 28, 2011 at 07:52 PM ·

While I agree that finger tapes should never be used, I assume that the person who started the discussion started out with finger tapes. You can't change what has already happened.

It's in your best interest to take the tapes off as soon as you can. However, you'll need to be ready to listen to yourself. It takes more awareness to listen to yourself while you play than to occasionally glance at tapes. If you feel you are ready, take the tapes off.

Best of luck.

March 29, 2011 at 01:54 AM ·

I've actually had teachers admit to me that the tapes were more for their own benefit than the students'. Seemed pretty lame to me. Most students I've talked to claim that they don't really use the tapes anyway.

March 29, 2011 at 02:52 AM ·

My first instructor offered to put them on for me to help learn positioning my fingers.  I don't think that makes me him a bad instructor.  He was trying to help me and at the time I felt I needed them.  But now I have a new instructor and she has not said anything about removing them or keeping them.  She probably believe I still need them, but I'm sure she'll be agreeable with me to remove them.

I kind of feel held back by them now.  I kind of feel like Dumbo and the magic feather (if you understand the analogy).  A part of me feels like I need them to play and another part of me keeps insisting, if not screaming at me, to take them off and play.....

I will remove them ASAP.  Thanks for the feedback.

March 29, 2011 at 12:35 PM ·

March 29, 2011 at 01:20 PM ·

One thing is for sure: the tapes won't teach or help teach intervals at all.

You learn intervals from listening, playing, singing. Simple, really:-)

May 15, 2011 at 10:13 PM ·

It shouldn't be on in the first place.

May 15, 2011 at 11:57 PM ·

Steve,  I've only been playing for 10 months and I taped my violin.  Several months ago I realized that I really didn't need them so I took them off.  Then I went to my Sunday jam session and it was a disaster.  At home I have the time to think about what I am doing but when playing with a group there is too much going on and I found that I still needed the aides.  I put the tape back on, but in a dark blue so that they are not easily seen.  It is also not all the way across the neck.  Just specs here and there to give me a general reference.  The tape for the third finger tells me how far I need to reach but not where to land my finger.  That i have to figure out on my own.   I am working on my intonation and do not look at my fingers.  I try to feel the position of my left hand when I have a note right.  Take the tape off and see how you do.  It's the only way you will know.


May 16, 2011 at 02:16 AM ·

Depends on whether it's there to hold the fingerboard on the neck, or to show everyone that you're basically deaf.....seriously: Listening and adjusting are integral and endemic portions of learning to play....and adding tape is an unwarranted crutch. Having seen so many instruments with the tape or stars, or little animal stickers, or even white-out slashes placed in the wrong place.....sort of like a guitar with misplaced frets, it is likely to foster poor senses of tonality and creates a dependency....

We've all played gigs where the singer is supposed to end  the cadenza on a D and has wandered off and is closer to B.....can't say, "Well I was on the tape !" 

May 16, 2011 at 02:25 AM ·

If you want a big boost in your ability to find notes on the violin - check this out:


These are workbooks I've used with students for over 20 years. Learn where the notes live on the fingerboard by sight, sound and feel.

If you fill out the subscribe form on this site you will receive emails with fingerboard geography lessons. No gimmicks. Just high quality content.

Smiles! Diane

May 16, 2011 at 05:10 AM ·

I like the idea of white-out used for marking fingerings for beginners instead of tape. First of all, white-out won't leave the sticky residue that tape does. When applied correctly, it is easier to feel than flat tape, allowing a beginner to rely less on sight and more on how and where their fingers are placed. Best of all, after a certain amount of playing, the white-out will rub off the fingerboard and by then, a beginner should be more or less familiar with first position finger patterns.

May 16, 2011 at 07:03 PM ·

I am an adult student and started playing again about two years ago, first very briefly without a teacher. I did take lessons for two or three years twenty years ago, but starting again without a teacher I used a grid on the fingerboard which is very much like the tapes but covers the first seven positions. My first teacher said it was fine and I have to admit it helped me a lot, especially with shifting and extensions. And I would add especially on double stops. Then I changed teachers and he took one look at the fingerboard and groaned. So off it came and I found that I didn't miss it at all because by then I believe I had enough foundation not to be intimidated by a blank fingerboard. I did play the piano, so naturally something approaching a keyboard was useful in the beginning. In retrospect, probably a year is long enough if it's helping. Intonation is all about auditory sensation, and finger placement is proprioception. After a while using your eyes to place your fingers slows everything down.

May 16, 2011 at 07:23 PM ·

 > After a while using your eyes to place your fingers slows everything down.

I don't think that statement is wholly accurate.

If you can see a whole or half step before you put it down, then you have additional information with which to place your finger patterns before the bow comes into play. It's much faster to SEE that an interval you're going to put down is not at the right distance in your fingers, and adjust from there than to HEAR it first, then adjust (at that point, you're already playing out of tune). The eye/brain is capable of distinguishing very tiny spatial differences, a skill which is usually associated with something like surgery, but comes into play for things like violin as well.

For example, the whole concept of using tetrachords to determine finger placement depends on being to reliably identify the different interval combinations of four fingers, like WWH, WHW, HWW, etc. This visual feedback is used in conjunction with the tactile and auditory information in order to play the instrument.

EDIT: A colleague reading over my shoulder just mentioned to me: scale the problem up in size. Are you really going to try and play Double Bass without looking at the general region of where the intervals are? The complete absence of visual information here would make playing quite a bit more challenging. Ever watch a cellist play harmonics in thumb position off the end of the fingerboard? A lot of visual processing goes into that too!

May 17, 2011 at 06:12 AM ·


This video describes how to study visualizing notes, feeling them, and hearing them using the fingerboard workbook system.

Take off those tapes and develop your internal awareness of mapping out the violin.

Smiles! Diane

May 17, 2011 at 06:41 PM ·

 Diane, you are very thorough in the way you explain and help people learn, it's very good.  As we know different people learn in different ways and you being so thorough you are likely to help a very large number of people as you take different approaches, well done :)

I wish my first teacher I had 4 years ago helped me the same way, I would not be struggling so much now!  Now that I am supposed to be a more advanced learner/player I am going back to basics and will re-touch/re-visits things with your help, thank you ;)

May 18, 2011 at 02:47 AM ·

Jo - Thanks for the compliment!

Don't knock yourself for going back to basics. I love teaching because I'm dealing with basics all the time. And let me tell you - it does wonders for my playing!

Smiles! Diane

May 18, 2011 at 04:06 AM ·

 What Mr. Constantinescu said. If you can hear whether or not the notes are out of tune then you don't need the tapes. Now is the best time to correct your intonation by ear and not by eye. IMHO.

May 19, 2011 at 05:30 AM ·

Ah, well yes I was referring to looking at the finger tapes, if you have them on the fingerboard when playing NOT excluding visual clues. The question was about using finger tapes and when to take them off. I only have my own experience to go by, but I found that eventually having tapes on resulted in playing by looking at the tapes first and then listening to judge if the intonation was correct. So playing in tune became a two step process rather than one.

May 19, 2011 at 05:53 AM ·

I agree that with an effective private instructor, tapes aren't necessary. One-on-one it's quite simple to cover the ear training, theory, and technique necessary to discover how pitch on a violin functions without the reliance on a marking aid.

However, tapes do have a purpose, and it would be unwise to dismiss them entirely:

1. Very young children (age 3-4) may have not yet developed the mental capability to make the connection between distance and pitch (similar to how they can recognize things like length in two dimensions, but not volume which requires three). In some cases, seeing the physical expression of a whole step in a two-dimensional form (tapes) is extremely helpful in bridging the gap until they develop more cognitively and can analyze forms in three dimensions (hand frame).

2. There are many students who never take lessons, but enjoy playing in some capacity through their school music programs starting in the 4th grade, and stop playing after a few years of the experience (after all, not everyone is interested in practicing a stringed instrument). When you are a teacher with 50+ beginning students in your classroom, you don't have the instruction time to go down the line one-by-one. In this case, fingering tapes offer a reasonable solution to establishing some framework for the hand, within the available time for instruction. Is it ideal? No. Is it realistic and practical? Yes. With kids in public programs seeing their music instructors for as little as 45 minutes each week, you don't always get to do what is "good" but sometimes have to settle for what is necessary.

May 19, 2011 at 05:55 PM ·

I think Gene makes an excellent point. One has to do what makes the most sense with the given resources. The purists might decry the use of tapes, but the realists and pragmatists make compromises. Not everone can ride a two wheeler right away!

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