Fingerboard stickers? Good? Bad?

April 4, 2009 at 12:48 AM ·

I thought I had progressed past the stage of needing tape on the fingerboards. Turns out I was wrong and my intonation sucks. My teacher thought it would be a good idea to put tape back on the fingerboard. The problem I have with tape is that it slides and the glue makes a mess.

Has anyone used any of the several preprinted stickers that go on the fingerboards to mark correct fingering? Were they acurate? Do they come off easily?



April 4, 2009 at 12:55 AM ·

Fingerboard tapes are a total abomination and totally unecessary to learn good intonation.

Listen for intonation, move your finger to find good intonation, practice over and over, and you will know where to go.

Finger tapes just act as an intermediate crutch.

Some teachers swear by them, but any teacher who uses them more than just a few weeks or a few months at most is really setting it up for some unlearning later.

The  real value of them is really to see the spacing, to see the logaritmic nature of the fingerboard. But they shouldn't be on the fiddle for long and that lesson can be taught with other graphical aids.

BTW I am not a teacher. I am a student and the parent of a student and I say this from watching this up close and seeing how it all plays out.

In the end, you are the master of your intonation, not some tapes on your fingerboard.

April 4, 2009 at 01:25 AM ·

Agree with Bill. It amazes me to see students play serious pieces and they still use stickers.

A rather famous principal cellist of a major symphony marks certain high notes on on his finger board with black chalk. No he is not here in Houston.

April 4, 2009 at 01:54 AM ·

"fingerboard tapes are a total abomination and totally unecessary to learn good intonation. Listen for intonation, move your finger to find good intonation, practice over and over, and you will know where to go. Finger tapes just act as an intermediate crutch. Some teachers swear by them, but any teacher who uses them more than just a few weeks or a few months at most is really setting it up for some unlearning later." 


I think this view is a little harsh. It really depends on the student and ability level. Very young students generally ignore their intonation, unless the parent is right there every second and can correct them (not very common in this country).

April 4, 2009 at 02:26 AM ·

I use a dot for the 1st finger for beginners.  When it is ready to be scraped off, it comes off.

I think it is similar to training wheels on a bike.  Helpful, but not needed forever.

April 4, 2009 at 02:48 AM ·

I totally agree with Bill...

April 4, 2009 at 05:01 AM ·

I don't use tapes for intonation.  There are two times I put tape on the fingerboard.  One is for a fourth finger excercise used to give the pinky a good set-up and form, and encourage proper muscle development in weak fingers.  I can explain the excercise in detail if you like.  Blue hearts and orange smileys are a popular selection among my students. 

The second is a strip for the second finger in fourth position, for quick reference during vibrato excercises.  I begin these in fourth position to encourage the hand to rock toward the scroll and back without the wrist collapsing toward the neck.

April 4, 2009 at 11:42 AM ·

Haha yes, like training wheels on a bike. But how long should they be on the bike? One day. How long do most people leave them on? Months!

The fact that "young students generally ignore intonation" is a function of misguided teaching. You are supposed to be teaching music, not finger calisthenics. Being in tune is the whole point. And it is not beyond a young child to understand this idea. I've seen it myself.

Interestingly I think my own children benefited from playing around with fretted instruments and singing when they were very young. There was  lot of singing. I think that is the best starting point. And the fretted instruments like the  dulcimer are great because they are small, light, pleasant, non-threatening and fun. Strumming and plucking against a drone is a great way to learn intervals and sounds. A guitar with a few strings works just as well.

But frets are not finger tapes. Since the violin is going to be played fretless, one had better get on with it.

April 4, 2009 at 11:40 AM ·

My kids' first teacher uses white tippex to mark lines for 1st position fingerings. After some time, with sweat and constant practice, the marks wear off, and it's almost time to do without them.

April 4, 2009 at 12:03 PM ·

No offense to above posters, but when you take advice about teaching from someone who doesn't teach then take it with a grain of salt.

That said I think that strips are a valuable tool in learning the violin.  The first step in learning how to play the instrument is purely kinesthetic.  Learning how to move, how to place your hands, and where to put your fingers.  I start off with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd finger tapes.  The first tape to come off is the 3rd finger simply because it is the easiest to place down for beginners (right next to the 2nd finger).  Each student is different however and I watch each of them carefully to see how much they rely on tape.  Some of them learn the kinetics quite quickly and you can move on to helping them guide their fingers with their ears.  The 4th finger tape is important because it's a very far stretch and often I want their eyes to guide them first until their hand learns to stretch out of habit.

The point is that they are useful for beginners, and they should gradually get rid of them.  But one thing I'm not going to do is take away the tape from a 4rd grader just cause 2 months is too long in some people's minds.

I use car detail tape from PepBoys.  It's very thin, comes in different colors, easy to remove.  To get rid of glue from the finger board use either GooGone or Skin So Soft (the oil, not the lotion).

April 4, 2009 at 12:03 PM ·

 I would say it would be best to encourage young players to play with their ears, not their eyes, from the get go. I started playing in 2001 and my teacher never put tape on our fingerboards. It didn't seem like a drawback to me.

April 4, 2009 at 12:14 PM ·

What I've observed with my daughter fits with what Marina says.  The combination of listening and looking at a finger tape seems to have been good for her.  She can hear when things are out of tune, but isn't always paying attention to that.  It helps to have additional kinesthetic/tactile/visual input to reinforce what she is hearing.

It seems to be hard for some students to be thinking of everything at once all the time.  If they have to spend all their time and focus on listening for intonation then they might not have enough attention left for working on their bow arm, or dynamics.  

April 4, 2009 at 12:30 PM ·

 "I would say it would be best to encourage young players to play with their ears, not their eyes, from the get go. I started playing in 2001 and my teacher never put tape on our fingerboards. It didn't seem like a drawback to me."

That's great, good for you and for your teacher.  Unfortunately unless you suffer from a visual impairment then your eyes play an important role in learning (observation, reading, imitation, and visual guidelines).  I have the task of teaching group classes so I cannot babysit one child at a time (private lessons) and developing each child personally. 

Good teachers are taught the theories of Howard Goodall in his book Multiple Intelligences.  The book explains that each person employs different methods of learning things and that good teachers tap into each method of teaching something so that a full understanding occurs.  I remember sitting in math class being taught by a teacher.  Although I was paying attention the person next to me "got it" and I "didn't get it."  Not because I was stupid or incapable, but the teacher hadn't tapped into my learning channel.  Some people need verbal explanations about a math concept, some people need to figure it out on their own through reading about it, some people need diagrams, some people need tactical practice.  A good teacher will employ ALL these methods so that you're not just teaching something, you're reinforcing what you teach.

There's no moral code in teaching.  You give the student what they need to accomplish the task.  Just because you don't believe in tape doesn't mean you should deprive the student of a method that might work for them.  Hey, I don't "believe" in shoulder rests but I would never deprive a student of a sponge if I saw that they truly needed it.  I would not however dole them out to everyone just for the heck of it or without truly assessing the need for it first.

April 4, 2009 at 01:20 PM ·

When I was in public school we had finger tape and our ears were trained also.  At times my ears would be confused and using the finger tape as an adjunct sign post got back on track.  I then heard the diferentials and went from there.  It was always our ears!  Once we, as individuals, demonstrated that we could work without the tape, we ditched it.  Usually tape was removed one strip at a time as time went by until it was all gone.

April 4, 2009 at 04:48 PM ·

April 4, 2009 at 02:08 PM ·

I'll say it again: many, if not most, young students are simply content to ignore their intonation. And even if they understand what good intonation sounds like, their concept drifts. So a week later, they hear everything too high or too low and their ear has to be calibrated.

They're with me 30 minutes a week. I can't correct them the other 6 days, and most parent in this country simply leave their kids to practice by themselves. What's amazing is how many students just ignore both their ear AND the tape.

And again: it depends on the student. I have one developmentally challenged high school student that simply needs the tapes. Period. And a very precocious 1-year-old that doesn't.

Teaching a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works.

April 4, 2009 at 02:44 PM ·

Scott-  I value your input, and when I was learning in school I didn't know of many who didn't care about playing in tune or not.  Most of us wanted to be in tune... we didn't like out of tune.  Maybe things have changed and students don't care one way or another?  Is that what you are saying?


April 4, 2009 at 03:29 PM ·

Anne Marie, I like how you always insult people and then say "I don't mean to insult anyone, please don't take this the wrong way."  It's hillarious.  I hope you print out a copy of what you said so that one day you can revisit your opinions after you have actually taught kids.  It's nice to have an opinion, but experience is even nicer.

April 4, 2009 at 05:41 PM ·

I know musicians are sensitive people and find it sad that I can not place a word without beeing accused of various things, I know I have sharp opinions and I really try to make it clear in my posts that it's only the way I think and nothing more!  I never accuse people of insulting me when they didn't even mention my name, even if they have very strong opposite opinions.  Insulting someone means to say he or she is stupid etc. In short, it is to direct voluntary nasty and negative things on someone in particular.  I'm far from perfect but I never spoted anyone here as a potential person to insult!

Marina, I value everyone's opinion and yours also but you take it way to personally! I didn't point you when writing it even if I deleated the post especially for you because I know you are of a different opinion and hated this post. In fact I did what you said, I took my post and analyse each sentence to be sure it expressed what I though in the truest way. Here is the resault and I swear it was in my post:

I said 3 times that I was not a teacher. Why? So that anyone knows that my intention is not to play to the teacher

Experience? I began my post by telling that even if I'm not a teacher, I've seen many students at good and bad schools and with good and bad teachers and that from what I heard, also from what my teacher told me, generally speaking, tapes are no good. (In my opinion only don't forget)  I don't know if you consider every serious (in the sens of who really do its best)students and their teacher as stupids but I think one can have an idea on something like this even if he or she did not teach kids.

I said that I didn't claim to be right and put it in big characters

I finished my post by telling that it was my opinion only and that I respected other's views also

Yes I've said what I really though and I think there is nothing bad in this as long as there is no racial, violent, vulgar content and that it is clear that I'm not claiming to be right and that I respect other's views too (after all we are in a democratic society)

I think my post was "politically correct" with all the words I put so many times to tell that it was my opinion and that I was really not pointing anyone and didn't claim to be right.

Now, if you were shocked by my opinion, that I repeat was no better than anyone else and surely not pointing you... I'm really sorry and please do never think my goal is too insult people! I love all v.commers even those with very sharp opposite opinions to mine! 


April 4, 2009 at 06:08 PM ·

i think it is a matter of to each his or her own..

we mark students' bows as well to give them a better idea where certain section of the bow is.   we encourage them to use metronome for beats, we ask them to use the mirror.   some of us mark the garage so we don't drive the car all the way into the wall:).  we label fuses in the breaker box for easier reference.  doctors mark left or right side the day before surgery...

i have never seen a student addicted to the fingerboard tape.  it is simply a phase, if desired or deemed by the teacher as necessary.  as scott has pointed out, eventually whether the student has good intonation or not depends mostly on whether the kid cares to develop it or the parents/teachers can really effectively help the kid develop it.

also, any students should/would realize or be made aware that even with a tape line,there is still a wide range of possibilities in terms of  many close to perfect but nonetheless incorrect intonation spots. still need some independent listening, thinking and checking and double checking.  a little tiny movement of the fingertip even right on the correct spot will lead to a false note.   but, if knowing the general area with this tape aid can help develop confidence for some students, it is worth a try.

btw, do guitars always have fret?  

April 4, 2009 at 05:46 PM ·

For me, some of my students have fingering tapes/stickers and some don't. I strongly agree with Scott in that it depends on the student. Incidentally, I also strongly agree that some, maybe most (?) beginning kids don't/can't pay attention to their intonation. It's hard enough to put down the right finger at the right time with the right bow direction! Some kids really struggle with the mechanics of playing, and some are able to immediately do most of the basic things and are able to hone in on their sound/pitch early on. The first group, I usually use finger stickers, and the second group I try to not use them unless there are serious, consistent problems.

I teach 11 group lessons per week currently - kids between 8-11, and in that situation it's pretty much a necessity. Teaching a dozen 8 year olds for 45 minutes per week who have never played before and who I just don't have the time to go through specific intonation things with each one of them means fingering stickers are generally the way to go. 

I've actually been experimenting with my private students' (particularly the young ones) sense of intonation lately. For example, this week I was teaching one student who I haven't been using fingering tapes with, and she came to her lesson playing unusually sharp (her whole hand was probably a 1/2 step sharp on one of the pieces she was working on). I imitated her intonation without first demonstrating the correct pitch and asked what was wrong. While she could tell something wasn't correct - though perhaps she just knew that because I told her to tell me what was wrong - she couldn't hear anything wrong. I then had her close her eyes and listen to me play a little passage twice, the first time with her intonation, and the second in tune. She immediately knew that the second one was correct. Since this was the first marked case of poor pitch, I didn't put tapes on her violin, but we'll see what the future holds.

For what it's worth, I started out with fingering tapes when I was a beginner and I play and teach professionally now...

April 4, 2009 at 06:09 PM ·


I'm not saying things have changed over time, just that different people have different sensitivities to all sorts of things, and not just pitch. Some people are sensitive to salty food, or whether a photograph is too saturated, or whether it's too warm for a hat. Some swimmers can swim a perfect straight line, and some need lines on the bottom of the pool.

Like most teachers, I want my students to play without stickers, and try to remove them when it's appropriate. The important thing is that even while the stickers are in place, the student has to be taught how to listen: are open string notes really ringing? Are half-steps close enough? Are they reaching high enough for the 4th finger? The concepts of good intonation must be in place first. 


April 4, 2009 at 06:30 PM ·

I used to hold the very strong opinion that nobody should use finger tapes.....that was before I began teaching. :-) 

Almost all of of my older (highschool to adult) students do not use them, but I find that most of my younger students (preschool and kindergarten) have enough things to think about with holding the bow correctly, moving the arm correctly, and forming the correct hand frame, that it is impossible to get them to "care" about intonation without tapes.  There have been a few students that I have not used tape with in the first two lessons....and spent the next year trying to fix the intonation problems that they got used to in those few weeks.  Another thing to consider while we're still "off topic" is that smaller violins go out of tune very easily and often do not have the same quality of reverberation as a larger instrument.  Unless a small child has tapes, it can be literally impossible for them to tell when they are in tune and when they aren't.

I think that as soon as God begins using the same mold for everyone, then it will be ok for us to put everyone in the same mold as far as learning/teaching goes. :-)  Agreed?

But, I hope Eric isn't frustrated that his thread is sabatoged!  Perhaps we should get back to the original question!  There is an exercise that I do with my students, to help solidify the hand frame and improve intonation.  I play the following fingers on any string, in various keys.  First in quarter notes, then eighth notes, then sixteenth notes, then 32nd notes.    0 1 2 3  |  4 3 4 3  |  4 3 4 3  |  4 3 2 1  |  0

I often leave a 1st finger tape (pinstriping from the autocenter, like another poster mentioned) to help position the hand before playing.  This may help you.  Also, you can "trill" 1&2, 2&3, 3&4 to get used to how they drop in place, too.  I hope these ideas help you at least a little!

April 4, 2009 at 06:34 PM ·

You shouldn't have to defend yourself so fiercely or get this bent out of shape, people are allowed to disagree.  Nobody is attacking you and using bold face letters does not give what you say more importance.  Deleting your post "just for me" is passive aggressive and silly and is a poor tactic employed just to make me look like an attacker lol.

When someone is writing in for advice it's safe to assume that they're looking for actual advice.  It irks me when people without experience try to chime in on technical aspects of violin playing. 

Examples of annoying sentences:

"I'm not a performer but before you go on stage you should....."

"I don't play the violin but I will answer your question about shifting..."

"I'm not a teacher but this is how you should be teaching..."

"I don't want anyone insulted by what I'm about to say, but I'm about to say something insulting..."

I love coming to this site and sharing stories and information with all kinds of people, teachers, performers, educators, non players, lovers of the violin, beginners, parents of students, it's all wonderful and necessary.  But it is troublesome when people ask legitimate questions about technique and then people answer with all kinds of irrelevant nonsense in which they have no experience.  Violin is difficult enough to play without bad advice.

April 4, 2009 at 07:13 PM ·

since the op has gotten plenty of real violinist answers, here's mine...

heck with tape, give me frets!


April 4, 2009 at 07:20 PM ·

"when you take advice about teaching from someone who doesn't teach then take it with a grain of salt"

True, but original poster wasn't necessarily asking for advice from a teaching perspective.  All the responders have been LEARNERS and their experience as a learner can be respected.  

Somewhat confused about the reply that because smaller violins go out of tune more quickly, the tapes are necessary so that kids can know if they are in tune or not.  Wouldn't the tape mean that they learn to play in a position, but not necessarily in tune?

I'm of the camp that never puts training wheels on bikes - even for kids with poor coordination.  The only time something needs to be added is in the case of an impairment or disability that no amount of practise or experience is going to rectify, then consideration is given to adapting the equipment so that some semblance of the activity is achieved.  

My kids were taught to swim at a school that refused any floatation aids - the idea being that the kids must learn to find their own bouyancy and centre of gravity in the water, and be taught as they will continue.  Of course there are many schools out there with champion swimmers who use floaties and back floats etc and the kids learn, but I think the use of the aids initially is more a matter of efficiency from a teacher's perspective than a facilitator of learning from the student's perspective.  

As an adult at least, my ability to monitor visually as I play is very difficult, even in a mirror. Having a good view of the finger board to look at my fingers as I go, and playing a sequence of notes would still be impossible for me.  Its been kinaesthetic, and I guess a tape would have allowed a tactile cue but not a visual cue.  But for whatever time it might take to get the sound right, I appreciate having to use the kinaesthtic and aural feedback from the start.  I guess I just don't understand how the tapes can work at all, and how they can be better than teaching the student about shape in the hand?

April 4, 2009 at 07:36 PM ·

Gee, quite the battle going on here


some of the best learned lessons in life come from "non-teachers"

April 4, 2009 at 07:39 PM ·

We maybe not have the same definition of what ferously mean but this is okay! 

Yes, I love to hear other people's advice and accept very well the fact that they can disagree but I just hate when they attribute "intentions" to me like "insulting people" when I did not actually name names of any v.commers, didn't use vulgar or racist words.

Why did you feel insulted when I didn't mention your name?  I didn't say the tape users/teachers were stupid! On the contrary, I was rather angry about the fact that with the type of life everyone lives today, parental attention and mass production of students could be some possible causes of why tapes are in style and deplored this.

For deleating the post, I really though it was rather a sign of respect towards you! Because I didn't want to hurt anyone of the opposite view with this. (since you though I was insulting the tape users) I though you would be pleased that I took out of the circulation something with an "insulting" potential!   And for the big characters, it is not to give importance, I study like this all time.  I know I write long posts so it is easier to see the point when the essential ideas are clear. For experience, I know what you mean but  what is the link with my post.  I said I was not playing the teacher and told why I gave this opinion.  I spoke with teachers in my life and know about certain things ennough to give an opinion on a general forum.  I wouldn't write in the strings magazine but this is a totally different thing!

But I find it interesting to see that the way one acts can be seen as ok and polite by one and totally stupid and silly by another!  We are maybe from a different culture but believe me that I always try to do what I think is the most polite and civilised even when expressing sharp opinions!

All the best,


April 4, 2009 at 07:51 PM ·

I don't know how horrible tape is.  If I pick up the violin and plop down B C# D E on the A string without thinking or any aural confirmation it's still reasonably in tune.  It's not perfect, but it's closer to B C# D E than it is to B(#?) Cish D D##.  I think it might not be bad to have tapes until this basic hand position becomes somewhat natural.  Once pieces start including pitches like C, D#, Bb probably the tapes should start comming off...probably in order of D (this can come off right away since it's next to the C#), C#, B, E. 

I don't think tapes particularly change how well a student listens.  Just hitting the tape can still produce a pitch that's horribly out of tune and if they're not listening they're not listening whether there's tape or not.  I remember when I had tape I still had to adjust.  The advantage I see of using tapes is that at the very beginning students can place their fingers in approximately the right place instead of dropping their fingers blindly and having to adjust.  When they learn the feeling of the right positions they they can do that without the tape. Also beginners never play chords so different tuning systems isn't as much of an issue.

I don't see the point, however, of putting the tape back on.  If your teacher want's to though, you should trust them more than me.  

Edit: I see you asked about the preprinted ones.  I wouldn't use them, you can get the little colored tapes fairly cheaply and custom make it to your instrument.  If it starts to slide you should clean the fingerboard with alcohol (keep it off the violin!) let it dry and put new tape on. 

April 4, 2009 at 07:46 PM ·

"Somewhat confused about the reply that because smaller violins go out of tune more quickly, the tapes are necessary so that kids can know if they are in tune or not.  Wouldn't the tape mean that they learn to play in a position, but not necessarily in tune?"


Smaller violins only go out of tune more if they have specific problems, like poorly fitted pegs. If they're in good shape and have steel strings they should be no worse than bigger violins. And that's why I teach kids and their parents to start trying to tune from the beginning. 


The aversion to using training wheels, using pool floaties, and other training aids for kids seems less about pedagogy than about parenting philosophy, much in the way that Japanese school boys are made to wear shorts year round until a certain age: it toughens them up. "Throw them in--sink or swim! I don't want MY kid being a wuss!"

However, swimming and bike-riding are not the same as violin-playing. I applaud teachers whose students can learn good intonation without sticker and perhaps I'll start trying it. However, I haven't yet found a student that didn't benefit from the practice for even just a short time as they struggled with everything else.

Many would regard stickers as a crutch, but let me ask everyone: would you regard a metronome as a crutch as well? Why not throw it away--can't you just not rush or drag?

April 4, 2009 at 07:57 PM ·

 Ack! I didn't even respond to the thread starter!

How about trying it with either black fingering tapes, or just putting on one or two tapes? As other contributors have said, perhaps a method of weaning yourself off would go over well. Possibly better than cold-turkey on removing finger tapes.

April 4, 2009 at 11:17 PM ·

I never realized this was such a powder keg of a question!

April 4, 2009 at 11:33 PM ·

Hi Eric--

I used tape when I was starting to learn the violin, since I was an adult beginner and no musical background at all, that was the way for me, though, after a year, I took it off, not because, I learn to play in tune, but it didn't help me the way I was expecting it.

One day when the teacher ask me if I am hearing the note, I looked at the fingerboard and told her that my finger was on the tape, she looked at me, and then I knew I wasn't paying attention to the note but on the tape. After almost a year of progressing it so slowly, I decided to took it off and play with the tuner. This time, I really , I mean really listen to every note, that's when my intonation progresses, and more accurate.

You mentioned that when you took the tape off, your intonation sucks, how come you know that? That means that you know your not in tune, then, make an effort to play it in tune. You will know when your intonation is right, the notes will sound and feel right to your ears. Your hands are very relaxed on the fingerboard.

Make an effort to play scales, and ask your teacher what a certain note sound like, you hear it, and when your turn to play it, you will hear it before hand, or make an adjustment, if that's what you need to do.

I was at your end when I was starting, I have no idea what a note sound like, but, I made it, so to speak, it takes time and dedication, I know you know that.

I felt you pain and  frustrations and still do, every time there is another endeavor to take.

Wish you best of luck, make it a solid work out on your intonation, that is great foundation in learning the positions. If tapes help you with  it so far, then, stick to it.






April 5, 2009 at 12:10 AM ·

For all prospective conservatory music students: This is what being around musicians is like. :)

@ the original point: to tape or tape not. My dad, who is a violin teacher uses an electrical tape that does not leave the sticky residue and does not slide easily on the fingerboard. Give that a try.

April 5, 2009 at 01:06 AM ·

Wow...I hope I don't get yelled at by a rouge violinist who is having a dark mood this evening, but here is our experience. I will check the door is locked after I post this...LOL! Playing in tune is easy when your teacher is there, but when at home, working on your own, you can really mess yourself up and waste what little time you have on needless activity. You just want to be productive and tapes can help you at first.  It helped us. I have seen some little kids with a bunch (5-7) of tapes. So it seems you can go nuts on any learning aid I suppose. Just enough to know what to do when you are on your own seems like a good way. Of course in the beginning it is hard to even tune the instrument so there you can't win. So when you start since your instrument is not always well in tune you might need the tapes more.

I have also seen some teachers with a little marker for where thumb goes in first position. If that is in the right spot it is easier for the fingers to find their place with fewer or no tapes. We had to look at our contact point most of the time and therefore only referenced the tape once in a a while. We found the thumb position mark very useful on the first few songs.

You know I think that calling out finger numbers is far more confusing than those little bits of tape. I asked our teacher to stop doing it and call the note what it is, by name. Lots of teachers will sing the songs like 1,1, 2, 4, 3, 4, etc. This drove my boys nuts because in piano first finger is your thumb and that gets pretty confusing if you play more than violin. So these techniques are pretty case specific.

April 5, 2009 at 02:22 AM ·

As both a private instructor of students ages five to sixty? (could be higher, but out of politeness I don't usually ask), and a school director that works with beginners in the 4th/5th grades (and up through high school) that don't take private instruction, this is my view on fingerboard aids:

In private teaching, it all depends on the individual development of the student. Those of you familiar with the work of Jean Piaget (he is generally credited as the "father" of modern cognitive psychology especially related to how children learn) will note with interest the area of his research regarding the cognitive abilities of children at different ages. A student who has not yet able to see see and interpret intervals in their fingers because their depth perception has not developed yet will benefit immensely from fingerboard aids. Used in conjunction with ear training, it is a teaching tool that is introduced when appropriate, and removed when it has served its purpose. I have had ten year old kids that needed tapes for a few months to establish a frame of reference. I have had six year old kids that had them for a month then pulled them off by themselves because they already "figured it out." Little kids all grow at different rates, and the challenge of being a teacher of young musicians is understanding *how* to teach them given this rapidly changing set of variables!

In group classes, especially in schools, the use of fingerboard aids is a huge time-saver. Teaching intonation to a beginner class of  8-10 year olds is already difficult enough (as there is a range of cognitive development in the class) and eliminating the strongest tool, the *visual* one, is simply not intelligent. The challenge that I present to my elementary classes is to first use the aids to establish the frame of the hand so that they can play their scales correctly. Once that is done and they begin working using a combination of visual and tactile methods, we begin pulling them off, starting with the highest tapes (4th finger, 3rd finger). This allows for the group teaching to be effective while allowing individual kids to progress at different rates with regard to their fingering/intonation.

Unless you've worked with more than just a handful of beginning students in both private and group settings, just your individual experience with fingerboard aids alone is not enough evidence to come to an absolute conclusion regarding their effectiveness.

They have their purpose, and the intelligent teacher knows when to use them, and when not to use them. The same is true of almost any other teaching tool (bow position markers/guides, note and rhythm flash cards, recordings, etc.).

April 5, 2009 at 03:05 AM ·

Since I'm not an intelligent teacher (hey, dumb people have also a right to exist...!? ) may I ask: Who tunes the violin according to the existing stripes ( pretty difficult thing...) when I'm not there?

April 5, 2009 at 10:11 AM ·

if told that as few as one person in this world has benefitted from using the tape, weaklings like me would have acknowledged that may be, just may be that there is a place and a role for using the tape that i have not been made aware of since all my prior and current students happen to not need extra help...

how long should  the tape stay on the fingerboard?

violin teachers are paid professionals and their main job description is  to exercise their clinical judgement accordingly.  the books violin teachers have not read are to be found in their own brains.  maybe for one student the moment the tape is applied you realize it is a stupid idea and for another SOMEHOW it helps.   IT IS ALL OK!

ever consider using some black tape? :)

April 5, 2009 at 10:28 AM ·

Here is the tape we used with my daughter:

It is wearing off eventually (which isn't a bad thing), but the sticky residue is pretty easy to clean off and doesn't leave a huge mess.

April 5, 2009 at 10:51 AM ·

Claudio, I always claim this too! is a place where everyone can give advice as long as they make it clear who they are so that the readers can attribute more or less importance on thier opinions!  I know my opinion will be regarded as a lesser one since I'm not a teacher but I don't even care about this.  It's just normal.  However, students have the right to exist and respond in a general forum.  The intelligent poster knows that teachers and students will reply anyway.  He is intelligent ennough to pick up the answers he or she wants!

Enjoy your answer Claudio!  

Scott, my point seems has a big similarity to yours about saving time issues...  How true that in this country (USA?) the parents and you can not follow the kid at every second and thus are forced to use tape because of this.  This is not the teachers or parents fault but I find it sad that our type of life is this way.  Can't do anything for it but seems to me that it would be so nice if it wasn't like this.  Much less tape would actually be used.  It would only be for extreme cases!


April 5, 2009 at 12:03 PM ·


Scott Cole said:

"They're with me 30 minutes a week. I can't correct them the other 6 days, and most parent in this country simply leave their kids to practice by themselves. What's amazing is how many students just ignore both their ear AND the tape."

This is possibly the true root cause. Indeed I was with my children for every practice as well as the lessons.  There was no opportunity to be out of tune, nor to play out of tune, without knowing it.

Indeed, it seems really crazy to set up a typical 6 year old to practice violin on her own for a week. For the musically gifted this will work; for the average child who nonetheless has aptitude and interest, it is very inefficient.

The other parallel issue is the tuning of the instrument. I was amazed at how frightened other parents were of even touching the little 1/2 size violins for fear of mucking them up! Parents can do great good for their young charges by simply learning to tune the instrument, and helping their children to do so, too. By age 7, my children were tuning violin easily (with the fine tuners). This is yet another reason to have dulcimers or guitars or ukuleles around. The children learn to tune by ear while playing arroiund. They learn what it means to have your instrument in tune.  My 6 year olds were fully proficient tuning the fretted instruments (which all had geared tuners).

April 5, 2009 at 12:47 PM ·

Thanks Gene, you said it a lot better than I was able to. 

Anne-Marie you make a valid point about parents being involved in their children's lives and we are in less ideal circumstances.  My own personal philosophy steers me away from working with kids privately with very involved parents... not because I wouldn't enjoy it but because I believe that I can make a bigger difference teaching children who cannot afford music lessons and who don't have a support system at home.  I'm happy if my students show up to class with their violin, in clean clothes, and a fully tummy.  I can't depend on their parents to help them practice (many of them can't read themselves), or to cut their nails, or to even help them remember to bring their instrument due to the bouncing around they do between staying with parents, aunts, and grandparents.  To be a good teacher you must give the student what they need, not pass along your own ethics.  Were I to have continued teaching privately I might feel differently about the significance of tape.

April 5, 2009 at 02:00 PM ·

Ah,everything explains itself here!  Here is the debate between survival vs ideal lol. Marina, continu your good work with these unlucky kids!  Of course, I know that you can not change these children's familial situations... and I know the teachers of such students are forced to do whatever they can try to adapt themselves to the situation even if it is not always ideal!  Yes, I was refering to conservatory teachers and students'"views" so this is why I was so much against tape!  But parental support is easier to find there.  This is two different things and I know it's a totally different story when you have to clip nails, tune the violin, put attached sponges kind of one size fits all behind the violin and work with what the school offers!  It's survival approch rather than ideal but it's NOT your fault and it's nice that some people like you work hard to try to make a more "ideal" life for these children who are so much in need!  This is like those who do humanitairy work in Africa.  While the doctors here would never give drug x to a patiant, some doctors in Africa would be more than happy to try any drug to save a patiant! 


April 6, 2009 at 12:44 AM ·

Bill's first response (way up above) doesn't totally abominate tapes.  I could see how they would be useful for some very short period of time for many of the reasons offered by others. But I am amazed to see them on instruments of students who are already shifting and playing somewhat more advanced repertory. You cannot shift properly with tapes and a student who hasn't developed some sense of intonation by the time shifting is taught is way overdue for ear training.

April 5, 2009 at 05:45 PM ·

What Corwin said 

April 5, 2009 at 08:40 PM ·

I have been teaching for several years now, and I still have difficulty relating to students who cannot match the pitches they hear, either with their voice or on the instrument.  It's almost as though we have a preconceived notion of the sound, which can form a static barrier between what is in the mind and what is actual.  Both physical and emotional stress and distractions all play a part in the ability to accurately perceive pitch.  I spend alot of time teaching students to listen.  It goes slowly with some, but every single person I've come across has been able to properly identify and create pitches when given enough time and guidance.  This is the foundation for good playing, and whether you learn it three years into it or from the get-go (or never at all for some, unfortunately) varies in degrees from person to person.  But if you never learn it, you will never be a decent player. 

I prefer to start with this principle, and ideally this would be the primary focus, with everything else being taught as a means to achieve this ability.  We would only progress as fast as the developing ear dictates.  It's a hard, slow road for some, but I feel it's so important that I don't mind taking it with them.

I could see how some people, especially small children, would have their hands literally full with just trying to keep their hand in the ball park when looking for pitches.  In my studio, we simply weather it out, and sometimes it's a long time until the hand and fingers habitually stay in the ball park.  I could see how a physical starting point, like a piece of tape, would give a young child a tangible starting point.  

I guess I like the question mark to stay over their heads.  I want my students to always be asking themselves if it's in tune, instead of putting the finger down and forgetting about listening. Tapes or no tapes, good teaching methods should be established on a philisophy of listening.

PS  I was taught through group lessons in a public school, and we had finger tapes.  I don't recall needing them, and they never affected my playing for better or worse. 

April 5, 2009 at 08:50 PM ·

I expect to have to use tapes with my beginning students who are 6-7 or so. I never allow more than 3 tapes - enough to get them through "Twinkle" and the other A-major pieces in the first half of Suzuki.

I do not permit more than 3 tapes, never allowing one for the fourth finger. By the time students get to 4th finger, I expect to have removed all tapes.

I expect beginning adult violin students to have enough sense of pitch to not need tapes - and definitely the same for beginning adult cello students (by the way for cellists, it is sufficient to just mark the right side of the fingerboard with touches of "Whiteout." The cello finger pacings can be less natural than violin and therefore a beginners guidind metriic can be helpful in 1st position.

I also try to have students use a piano and singing to self-implant pitch information.


April 6, 2009 at 12:52 AM ·

"...self-implant pitch information.."

Ah yes, I've seen those on America's Wackiest Home videos. Suburban kid bored out of his mind whips a fast ball against a wall just to see what'll happen and.....wham.

April 6, 2009 at 02:35 PM ·

> Who tunes the violin according to the existing stripes
> ( pretty difficult thing...) when I'm not there?

Well, in the case of my school students who do not avail themselves of private lessons, a number of solutions exist. Assuming the student practices at home:

1. The curriculum in use for my orchestra program includes a "tuning CD" and wave file (for the computer)  that plays reference pitches for the four strings of their instrument. From the get go, my 4th graders learn to listen to and match pitch (the sonic experience of sound waves colliding).

2. More advanced kids who don't like using electronics to tune (they do exist!) are given a tuning fork for A-440, and taught to tune the open fifths, either by me or one of the coaches that I have hired to assist kids one-on-one in a pullout format.

3. If the student's ear has not developed sufficiently to accomplish either of the above, an electronic fine-tuner that clips to the instrument is provided, allowing them to use a visual representation of the pitch to get their strings tuned. This is a temporary measure used as a training tool, eventually migrating them to using a audio reference (whether it be another instrument, tuning fork, CD, etc.).

4. I am grateful to the private teachers that support my program, because they teach their kids to tune and saves me a lot of time that I can then spend working on ensemble skills.

Obviously, some of these methods require us to adhere to a fairly inflexible standard regarding tempered vs. true intonation, but that is another discussion altogether.

That brings us to how the taping of the individual instruments is done. I actually dislike the single sheet markers because it assumes all instruments are built to the same scale, and enough variation exists in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 instruments that manual taping is a necessity. With the individual tapes, I can start pulling them off one at a time, depending on the advancement of each student during their playing assessments. All things considered, *generally* by the end of 5th grade, most of my non-private-lesson students have been weaned off of the fingerboard aids and have learned to use the visual arrangement of their fingers and have had enough ear training to begin matching pitch in ensemble with some degree of accuracy.

Fingerboard aids aren't for everyone...and not every student makes use of it at the same time. That doesn't mean that it isn't a valid instructional tool. We should not ignore the fact that we are teaching a whole generation of very visual learners (they don't listen to the radio, they are watching TV and surfing the web).

April 6, 2009 at 03:51 PM ·

"I actually dislike the single sheet markers because it assumes all instruments are built to the same scale, and enough variation exists in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 instruments that manual taping is a necessity"

Absolutely true and not merely for the length of the strings, but also a function of the action (string above fingerboard) and the tension of the strings, and the construction of those strings.

In fact if you want the lines to be "correct" you cannot even draw them straight across! A wound D will have a given finger position closer to the bridge than a solid gut string of the same tension on the same instrument. Anyone who has worked on guitars and "intonated" one can explain this.

And then to get pedantic about it, we accept a certain shimmering out-of-tune sound in fretted chords, but they are horrible in violins in sustained situations--and so you actually have more than one position for every position! In practice, you have a high second finger and a low second finger, but also a lower and a higher of each of those positions, when they are played in a third or sixth against a neighboring string.

What needs to be understood is that these locations are not exact and that in every instance, even by the great players, how you put your finger down and imperceptibly shift it is how you make sure you are in tune.

The finger tapes give you only a macroscopic coarse location. To be in tune is finer than that. Of course if you teach this is obvious. But what may not be obvious is that it isn't obvious to the student. The longer the tape is on there, the longer the student reinforces the idea that "I just need to be on the tape" and this is incorrect thinking. That is what I mean by crutch and why it is so important to get on with it without tape.

April 6, 2009 at 03:23 PM ·

Eric Johnson- Powder Keg is right!  Go into the archives and read what was posted the last time this was brought up!  I think it was around winter 2007.

Scott- Yah I see what you are saying and I agree with you and Corwin! When I was in school it was in 7th grade that we were alowed to tune our violins on our own, and going from an airconditioned school room into the sweltering 90+ digrees and into a 88 digree trailor.... well, I'm surprised any of us developed an ear! Ha! I must have learned because even Javier & Naomi complamented my ear & intonation.

     The sad thing though, is there are kids shifting into 3rd & 5th with finger tape and are seemingly lost withoput it!  it was that way when I was in school.  By 7th grade (2nd year playing) mine was off.  and the only kids it seemed in the whole school district that were shifting were a few having private lessons!  For real!  Even sr's in High School were playing peices all in 1st. possition and had a crash course in shifting 1st. year in J.R. College!

April 6, 2009 at 04:02 PM ·

Marina brought up a few things which I decided to respond to.

First involves her situation, which is far from ideal from a violin teaching or learning standpoint. She works with large groups of students who have zero time and zero support other than when they are at school. Her experience is very different from someone involved in private lessons. Frankly if a private studio were to use some of the battle-hardened expedient techniques that Marina must use, I'd run to a new teacher. What she is doing is wonderful and extremely valuable. It is saintly. But it is not teaching violin as much as it is much more than that. Some of her students might actually end up learning violin; most I suspect will get an appreciation for dedication, hard work, the value of other ideas, worlds other than your own etc. Essentially what I experienced as a school musician, is what her children will experience. I make this distinction because it is very important to understand, from the student's perspective, that just because someone is a teacher doesn't mean that they are the best teacher, or have the most effective method, for your own needs.

The other point that Marina brought up was the idea that it is wrong for non-teachers to give advice on teaching, or on technical matters. I have a strong sense of disagreement with this idea. We are as a culture moving very sharply in the direction of everything having to be "approved" by some "expert." Where that always goes is stagnation. It is dangerous and inbred. What makes you  an expert in this paradigm? Why, because an expert says so? And who made him an expert? Etc! What makes a person truly capable is not the paper but the understanding!

Every student has by definition something to say about teaching, and most every teacher was a student. I cannot understand why I should be censured, nor why I should self-censor, for my willingness to speak from experience on a pedagogical issue for which I have direct experience!

Now so as not to give the wrong idea, I do not mean to say that all opinions or expressions have the same value or carry the same weight. In the real world, one's power of rational thought is of very great value. Great minds carry great weight not because they are named "great minds" but because they communicate something which ultimately is understood. In this forum, we have the ability to persuade with rational thought, without anonymous cover, on a topic. We all have the ability to judge for ourselves whether someone's opinion is valuable or not. This stands in stark contrast to places like Wikipedia where nobody is identified, and where every page is held up to be something that it isn't--which would be definitive truth.

In the present case, I explain my position rationally, and I also disclose from what position I come. A teacher may take what I say and discard it out of hand as "uninformed" or she can treat it as any other piece of information and judge it, rationally. One will come to conclusions which may include other insights--that is the idea here--to gain insight. 

Here on vcom we are engaged in a forum discussion, and it is not a closed, cloistered shop of teachers. It is purposely open. Isn't that right, Laurie?:-)

April 6, 2009 at 05:08 PM ·

Hi Calvin:

You can have frets if you want them!

or you can play a viol. You might enjoy the pardessus de viole. it is sort of a small size viola da gamba. There is even a highly regarded violin maker in Connecticut who has made at least one of them:-)

Pardessus de Viole on Youtube:

April 6, 2009 at 05:49 PM ·

i have just started teaching, and something that was suggested to me (by my 'Most Awesome

Teacher'!) was Plastic Tape. It can sometimes be very hard to find, but she sayed you can find it

at Target. A plus is it  WILL NOT LEAVE LOTS OF STICKY RESIDUE!!! Very good for bows and

fingerboards. Another plus is it comes in lots of fun colors!!!

April 7, 2009 at 12:20 AM ·

Bill, I don't really have a horse in this race, except then I remembered a comment you left on my blog last year: 

"From Bilbo Prattle
Posted from on June 19, 2008 at 10:29 PM (GMT)

That looks like a finger tape fetish to me. I can't believe anyone should need them or that a teacher would insist on them for 4 years or more of playing (1/4 to 3/4 size)!

But that is an old and very sore subject for sure. "

Sure, they were in the picture, but finger tapes weren't the focus of the picture or the blog.  I guess it must be an old and very sore subject, since it's still going on almost 10 months later. 

I appreciate the rational tone of your recent posts and I agree that you shouldn't have to self-censor just because you're not a teacher.  I'm not a teacher either, just a student, and I feel like I learn a lot from other students too. 

But I remain puzzled by why/how you can start out a post with the words "total abomination" in the first sentence, or with "finger tape fetish" for that matter, and then not seem to understand why people react the way they do, even if the rest of what you write is reasonable. 

April 7, 2009 at 05:36 AM ·

Marina's initial comments in this thread stemmed from needing to reply to assertions that in no uncertain terms condemned the use of fingerboard aids. As a number of students as well as parents of students frequent our site looking for information regarding a very complex art form (and study thereof), it could be very detrimental for some of them to simply accept some of these opinions at face value without evaluating the reasons for those claims.

So rather than getting all bent out of shape because someone who works with hundreds of students a day has actual evidence to back up their use of a teaching tool compared to just a single personal experience, how about providing some supporting information instead of making provocative blanket declarations? Why was your experience with fingerboard aids not positive? Is there a physical, technical, or musical reason why you are opposed to their use? Are there circumstances in which you feel they are being misused by teachers?

I'm not interested in censuring anyone...what is a discussion board for, anyhow? But if you're going to tell people "how it is," you'd better be prepared to have some facts to back up your conclusions.

April 7, 2009 at 09:04 AM ·

it is all good where people share different perspectives and do so with different levels of passion! :)

punchbags like me are planted on to allow good teachers a chance to shine.  it is a win win situation. imagine how odd it will be if 2 established teachers go at each other publicly! :)

April 7, 2009 at 01:49 PM ·

In an ideal world, nobody would use fingerboard tapes and all students would listen critically and parents would help at home.  BUT, at least with the majority of my students this is not the case.  I always use tapes for beginners, and keep them on until the student's ear is discerning enough to fix their own intonation.  This allows the student to use 3 senses to help with intonation; hearing, seeing and feeling.  When/if their ears aren't able to hear the intonation, I can say, "You aren't on your tapes!"  

Also, I don't believe this has been brought up yet, but I can't believe the product called Do Not Fret is available and sold by major retailers- the finger markers are in the wrong place!  If I get a student who has one of those I immediately take it off, even if it takes the first 15 minutes of the lesson.  They don't encourage close half steps, and the lines are pretty evenly spread out.  Terrible! 

April 7, 2009 at 04:13 PM ·

April 8, 2009 at 10:03 PM ·

I do not want to continu this because everything was setled up and my opinion vs Marina were totally opposite because it was like comparing two totally different realities.  You don't teach kids like Marina teaches the same way as in a conservatory because it is often not possible.  But I don't know why people would find it weird that a poster tells that "he" and himself only find tapes a total abonimation etc... If he tells that it is his opinion, it's find. I would never accuse him for this nor would I imagine that he does that to laugh of others! What is incorrect is to tell you are right and you possess the truth...  Be honest and tell it is only your view.  Make it clear that you don't want to shock anyone. This is not pretentious.  You can have sharp opinions if you tell everyone who you are (weither it is an ordinairy students that saw many teachers and students, a high class or medium teacher/performer etc) so that the intelligent people that come on can make their own opinion of the seriousness of the advice.    I am not bothered by any sort of words if the poster doesn't name names and tell it is only his view of the topic.  But maybe some people have different level of sensitivity and can feel attack even if not mentioned.  Everyone reacts differently and maybe this makes the originality of the world.  Must not forget that we all come from different countries and culture and that what someone lives can be really different from the situation of another. Thus, it is so easy to misjudge people or misunderstand them.  But please, don't condamn Bill for his words.  I know he didn't put those too insult people! Why should we think this?  He didn't said the tapes users were ridiculous.  Even if I was on the opposite side, I would still tell this.  On another post someone said that he find conservatories were wasteful...  I didn't even reply even though I have a very high admiration for conservatories.  Yes, it is sharp to tell this, but it's ok if he doesn't claim to be right.


April 9, 2009 at 05:01 AM ·

>What is incorrect is to tell you are right and you possess the truth

No one is saying that. The focus here is not on being "right." The entire breadth of this discussion is to explore the issues surrounding fingerboard aids for students, is it not?

The advancement of any field is dependent on the discussion that arises from different viewpoints regarding the how, when, where, what, and why...but what I find frustrating is the abject refusal of some participants to discuss the statements that are being made. You're welcome to your opinion, please, it has value and we want to hear it! But when the inevitable questions arise, it is hard to take someone seriously when they  raise a ruckus about protecting their "right to have an opinion" (which no one is in disagreement with) in the face of criticism, rather than helping us to understand the logic behind their statements.

April 9, 2009 at 10:50 AM ·

I've only been playing for about 4 months, and I have tapes on my fingerboard. I don't need them so much now, as I can usually hear the notes as they should be.

However, had I never had the tapes on my fingerboard, I wouldn't be quite to the point I am now, as it would have taken me a bit longer to get the feel of what the notes actually sound like, and I would have floundered around on the wrong notes until my instructor corrects me a week later.


Whatever tape she uses, it doesn't leave any sticky junk, and it doesn't slide around.

April 9, 2009 at 12:52 PM ·

AnneMarie I don't think anyone remembers your opinion.  You removed it so there's no reason to defend it anymore.  An opinion has value when it can hold up under questioning.  Nobody's questioning the right to voice a theory but there should be reasoning behind it.

April 9, 2009 at 05:37 PM ·

The rationale behind skepticism about tapes is well-explained already. I could elaborate further but first you should simply review some of what has already been said:

"Listen for intonation, move your finger to find good intonation, practice over and over, and you will know where to go.

"The  real value of them [tapes] is really to see the spacing, to see the logarithmic nature of the fingerboard. But they shouldn't be on the fiddle for long and that lesson can be taught with other graphical aids."
From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 6, 2009 at 02:44 AM

Bill's first response (way up above) doesn't totally abominate tapes.  I could see how they would be useful for some very short period of time for many of the reasons offered by others. But I am amazed to see them on instruments of students who are already shifting and playing somewhat more advanced repertory. You cannot shift properly with tapes and a student who hasn't developed some sense of intonation by the time shifting is taught is way overdue for ear training.

From Scott Cole
Posted on April 5, 2009 at 07:45 PM

What Corwin said

"... in every instance, even by the great players, how you put your finger down and imperceptibly shift it is how you make sure you are in tune.

"The finger tapes give you only a macroscopic coarse location. To be in tune is finer than that. Of course if you teach this is obvious. But what may not be obvious is that it isn't obvious to the student. The longer the tape is on there, the longer the student reinforces the idea that "I just need to be on the tape" and this is incorrect thinking. That is what I mean by crutch and why it is so important to get on with it without tape."

That is a pretty explicit description of why I think tapes are misused--and why they fail to teach intonation. They are an aid to basic hand position and no more.

 The OP stated that his *intonation* is bad. Perhaps his basic hand position is also bad, perhaps not. In any case, he isn't going to improve intonation without listening for it. If his basic hand position is bad, the teacher should make a point of showing that to him. If the tapes are being used for that reason, she should explain that to him, "I see your second finger is tending to land midway between your first and third, making your c# and your F# flat." Etc. Yet in this particular instance, you'd figure this out by listening and no tape.

Poor hand position tends to be thumb/1st finger, and 3rd finger reach--that's what I've seen as a parent, having seen it taught and then having reinforced the teacher, "what did your teacher say about your thumb?" etc.

Personally my 4th finger is the problem but that is laziness, not a need for tape...then again, I have some electrical tape out in the shed...

I don't know why I bother to post this. I feel pretty abused and insulted for *not being a teacher and having something to say.*

April 9, 2009 at 07:49 PM ·

Bill Platt- you play the violin and you teach yourself.  IMHO you more than qualify to voice your opinion in this thread.

April 10, 2009 at 10:14 AM ·


Steven Brivati has made some excellent posts on placing fingers. He says (and I agree) that we don't really get to imperceptibly move the fingers. We have to get it right the first time. Drew Lecher has written in a related way. Recently Clayton Haslop has blogged on Sevcik who teaches us finger patterns and getting it right the first time. Tapes may give a rank child beginner a little help in the first weeks and months of playing but the sooner one learns to do without tapes, the better. During practice sessions we don't always get it right the first time and learning how to practice so our patterns become exact is a significant part of our practice.

April 10, 2009 at 03:14 AM ·

Jenna, in your post way back on the 4th, you described an exercise to " solidify the hand frame " which I am very keen to do. I understand the exercise is to be done on one string at a time, for instance on the E string I should play e f# g a | b a b a| etc. and that I should practice the corresponding positions on the other strings also.  But in " various keys" ?  Will that not desolidify the hand frame or have I got it wrong ?

April 10, 2009 at 04:00 AM ·

Use them if you need them, take them off as soon as you don't.

BTW the little alcohol wipes that come in first aid kids work great for getting the stickiness off the fingerboard.

April 10, 2009 at 12:57 PM ·

1. If you are teaching me to drive a car, you would want me to focus my attention on watching the road as feedback for the moving of the steering wheel.  Similarly, one would want a child to learn to focus his attention on what he *hears* as feedback for finding a finger's location on the string.

2. E natural, first finger on D string, is in tune with open G on one pitch and in tune with open A on another pitch.  Why would you want to train a child to play out of tune by playing the same E natural all the time?  My view: Never use fingerboard tapes.

April 10, 2009 at 07:14 PM ·

Hi, no I actually wasn't defending my point again!  I wrote the last post because basically I was not understanding why people were upset with the words "total abonimation" in Bill's post when he made it clear it wasn't to insult people.  I will try to write less because the longest my posts are, the most misunderstand the main points of it are!  Can I just give you some short examples of how the infromation get transforms from it's original form.   This does often happen with many posters here.  They say something and some people say he/she said something else...

as for examples

- Some said I got all bend out of shape because someone disagreed. But, I made it clear that it was not the because of the disagrement but  because false intentions were given to me (saying that I voluntarly insulted people when I made it clear I wasn't for example)

- Some still believe I defended my point when I didn't even say the word "I'm against tapes" in my last post.  I was talking about how some people found the word "abomination" terrible when I wasn't.  I was rather defending Bill because I though he didn't made anything wrong with this word.

But I don't blame anyone, it is in the human nature to tranform the information from its original form.  If Obama says something here, 24 hour after, in South Arabia, they can say to the population that Obama told thing X when thing X is totally different from what Obama actually said. (I'm just taking a random example) I will just try to be even more careful to put things really clear so that it can be less confusing and less easy to believe I said something different that what I really said! lol  But, I repeat, it's the human nature and no one is exempt from this...  it's another interesting topic but not related so I will stop here!


April 10, 2009 at 07:42 PM ·

Anne-Marie: Do not become discouraged and stop posting.  You have good insights and opinions.  And if there is a slight by the tounge just remember, " has tamed all manner of beasts in the field and fish in the sea, yet not one has come close to taming the tounge...... He who can would be perfect"  That comes from the book of James in the Bible and it's so true. Weather I or you ever fall short no one is perfect and no one is a harder critic of ourselves than our own self.  Just keep posting, your contributions are appreciated.


April 10, 2009 at 11:26 PM ·

Royce, it's really funny!  Yes, I have to see this site like a big family and like in every family (mine, at least!) there are big debates.  Someone could be misjudged one day and the other day, it is the contrary...  I guess that is what makes the family stronger at the end!  And sure, everything is a question of interpretation, just like in music. 

I just read on yahoo a forum and laugh because it reminded me these passionated debates:  the blog was about an Australian man who went in Philipins this year to get nailed on cross (bad translation from "crucifier", in french!) this friday like Jesus.  This is suppose to be a terrible sacrifice (and I believe it!) Do not try at home! The first batch of posters said it was terrible to do so, that the guy was crazy and wanted to prove something stupid, that he was adding unnecessary suffering to earth, that he should give food to poor instead of this crazy unusful idea.  Then came a pro religious guy who told all the others were idiots and empowered because they dared laught of the religious beliefs of a free individual in addition to laughting of him...   Another one came and told religion was stupid and that god didn't exist etc....   What, what the h... and what a mess!  But this is the human nature at his funniest!  (Yes we violinists included!)

Ah, I love you all!


April 13, 2009 at 03:24 PM ·

The mate to this controvercy is Shoulder / Chin rests or Not!  Last years posts were something else!

April 13, 2009 at 09:52 PM ·

Royce, I discovered this site while reading the shoulder rests wars!  However I swear I didn't post anything in these that could have been controversial!  I didn't knew ennough to have an opinion on this back then...  From what I know, no one is dead, ouf!


April 14, 2009 at 06:49 AM ·

> Why would you want to train a child to play out of tune by playing the
> same E natural all the time?  My view: Never use fingerboard tapes.

No teacher wants to train a child to play out of tune by playing the same E all the time. As a number of people here have said time and again: that is not the function of fingerboard aids, and to view them as marking an absolute point in space that defines a specific pitch is a pedagogically incorrect approach in using them.

Prior to developing a good sense of how the fingers are arranged either by pitch or by looking at them depth-wise, fingerboard aids give the player a *general* reference point for where a finger needs to go. Eventually, as the player is able to rely on their spatial recognition of the distance between intervals based on their fingers alone, the aids are removed.

The reasoning for this is that it is far more efficient for a player to *look* at the region where they need to place their finger, execute the desired motion to get "in the neighborhood," then make minor (almost imperceptible) adjustments for pitch, especially where tuning intervals to the root of the scale being played is concerned. Why?

Because light is much faster than sound.

So rather than just relying on a single sense (hearing) to match pitch, we make use of the dominant sensory organ in most people (the eye) and combine that input to be more efficient players. There is of course, our third sense (touch) but I'm sure no one is disputing the importance of feeling the position of the hand against the instrument!

Fingerboard aids are intended to help train the visual recognition of intervals in the fingers (more advanced students map out organized patterns of intervals, tetrachords and so forth), and like any other teaching tool, are eliminated when they are no longer necessary. Their use is defined not by any all-encompassing directive to use them or not, but rather by the unique needs of an individual student.

It is for this same reason that not everyone needs to work on Sevcik, not everyone needs to use a shoulder rest, not everyone needs to start Mozart 3 on a down bow, etc...

April 14, 2009 at 08:06 AM ·

Anne-Marie: I didn't think that you did.  I couldn't believe that it got that way, nor the finger marker/tape controversy!

April 14, 2009 at 09:53 AM ·

On a personal note the concertmaster of my 5th grade orchestra took off all his fingertapes recently.  He has a good ear and is learning how to use it to guide his fingers.  However, playing in a group of other kids is extremely difficult for him to listen to his own pitch and so far he's playing terribly sharp.  I'm sure this will work itself out in time as long as he keeps at it and as long as I'm there to keep reminding him to use his ear but in the meantime it's a pitch mess.  My other students are doing very well without stickers but I attribute it mostly to kinetic memory while this particular student is relying solely on his ear and not combining it with his kinetic memory.  It's a dilemma.

Let's face it.  Even I don't rely on my ear for everything.  When I play in an orchestra and the brass section is overpowering the orchestra a la Shostakovitch, Mahler, Wagner, etc., I do NOT rely on my ear to play notes.  It is purely physical mechanics that drives me around my fiddle and I suspect it's the same for everyone else too.  Intonation is developed through the ear but physical memory is just as important.  Heifetz was known to say "I do not have better intonation than everyone else, I just adjust quicker than anyone else."

April 14, 2009 at 06:35 PM ·

At my first music school, to learn notes on the scale, they put a big giant staff painted on the floor and make the kids play games with it.  (basically they named a note and the kid ran to the right line or space between two lines)  It was interractive and visual and... fun.  Could this work if you put four lines on the floor pretending it was the violin strings.  (could put dots to indicates where the notes are and make the kid stand on the dot (note) you named...   I don't know, just an idea...!   Could play games like learn a string per week by heart. (1st position)

Would this be great as another way or not?


April 14, 2009 at 09:36 PM ·

I still don't understand how looking down the fingerboard and placing fingers on the tapes seen there, with skewed stereotopic vision, or even mono vision depending on the angle the neck is being held at, is able to help anyone learn where their fingers need to go.  And if the approximate position needs to be adjusted anyway, then can't other guides to say first finger placement be provided? I think my first teacher (I was an adult, maybe it was different) told me to feel for the nut with the thumb side knuckle ? of my index finger, and then there was something about my first finger placement on the first position A and E strings.  that served as my milestone.  I'm sure that the kinaesthetic sense is faster even than light, and if muscles aren't reacting at lightening speed (which in a learner is not going to happen), then the distinction between speed of light, sound or proprioception is moot anyway.  

I'm not saying that the tapes don't have their place, I just don't see how they add any efficiency to the learner.  Rather they add efficiency for the teacher, and that I think is their place.

April 14, 2009 at 11:00 PM ·

> I still don't understand how looking down the fingerboard and placing
> fingers on the tapes seen there, with skewed stereotopic vision, or
> even mono vision depending on the angle the neck is being held at,
> is able to help anyone learn where their fingers need to go.

Looking at the fingers gives us a visual reference to the pattern being put down. Mapping out finger placement, especially in understanding the organization of tetrachords is derived first from the appearance of those patterns. Of course, also realize that as someone who teaches in this manner, I have my students hold the instrument with the chin more over the center of the instrument (tailpiece) so that they can look directly down the strings to the fingers (and quite handily, their point of contact for the bow is right there too).

> And if the approximate position needs to be adjusted anyway, then
> can't other guides to say first finger placement be provided?

We're not saying that that can't happen or can't be taught that way, however for some children that have not yet reached the stage in their development where their kinesthetic sense is at the point where they can differentiate similar points in space, taking advantage of a different sense (sight) allows them to make progress rather than just waiting until they grow older to accomplish the same task.

> I'm sure that the kinaesthetic sense is faster even than light

As I understand the laws of physics, the electrical impulses that conduct messages through your nervous system do not travel as fast as light. This is the reason why (for example) tennis students have this issue with *seeing* the ball approaching with no problem, yet not reacting quickly enough to get their racquet into position to hit it back in time.

> if muscles aren't reacting at lightening speed ... the distinction between
> speed of light, sound or proprioception is moot anyway.  

The distinction is significant since we're training people to be able to do it at "lightning speed." If we were only teaching people to move their fingers to play every piece of music at 20 bpm, then it wouldn't matter.

> I'm not saying that the tapes don't have their place, I just don't see
> how they add any efficiency to the learner.

While they may not have served you, every student is different and that is why different teaching tools exist. The challenge for us teachers is to figure out which tools will serve which students the best, thus the ongoing quest for more information.

> Rather they add efficiency for the teacher, and that I think is their place.

I can't agree more! In improving the efficiency of teaching, fingerboard aids permit us to move forward with addressing specific technical issues rather than just waiting for mental and physical development in a student to catch up to how we *want* to teach them. Instruction should be driven by the needs of the student, and not the preference of the teacher for any specific method or tool.

April 15, 2009 at 10:12 AM ·

I am better not to talk so I will only say that I agree with Sharelle but I can really understand Gene's thoughs too.  As an OT Sharelle really has a great view too.  The body motion and the way it works is very linked to the violin.  For the efficiency, here again is the debate between ideal vs survival.  Of course, if you have 40 students, it is tough to always be with them like if you had 5 but one couldn't live with only 5 students.


April 15, 2009 at 11:55 AM ·

This thread is taking on an elitist tone.  Elitist private teachers versus lazy public school teachers.  The whole thing is demeaning.  Everyone has their own way of teaching which is what is really great about teachers.  But I remember lots of my teachers and the ones that made the biggest impact on me were the ones who tried to address my problems in a way that I could understand.  The teachers that had a negative impact on me had a "my way or the highway and if you can't learn it this way there's something wrong with YOU" mentality.  I mean really... it's pretty offensive going around and saying that I put stickers on my students fingerboards for my own sake and laziness.

April 15, 2009 at 09:27 PM ·


thanks Marina. In the meantime can we have a competition to create the best bumper sticker about fingerboard stickers irrespective of idealogical dugout?



April 16, 2009 at 12:30 AM ·

Marina, I think you've hit the nail on the's really a misunderstanding on a lot of parts because of the huge difference between private teaching and school (group) teaching, especially where the goals for classroom teachers lay...

Even my own private students as young as six, I see them twice a week for 30 minutes at a time and I generally don't use fingerboard aids unless they're absolutely necessary. However, these kids get a lot of one-on-one support that reduces the number of errors and bad habits as they learn the instrument. Now with my 4th and 5th graders, if they don't take privately I almost always use fingerboard aids to speed the delivery of the class content. If I didn't do that, a lot of beginners without lessons wouldn't be able to function to a satisfactory degree...they'd be frustrated and they'd quit (or join band, where every instrument has a pretty simple fingering chart! Not that there's anything wrong with band instruments).

The student (or parents of the student) taking private lessons obviously has more vested in developing their raw talents into appreciable skills. However, I do have school children who aren't really interested in taking lessons nor getting beyond an introductory experience. They're happy to learn to read music, play an instrument for a few years, but have other interests that consume their time. At my school we "force" all of our 4th/5th graders to play an instrument so they all have a chance to get into it, but beyond that we don't coerce

As a school director, I appreciate that I get to interact with kids that range from the conservatory-bound to those who will in the future be part of a more educated audience...and that given the financial climate right now that I still have a job!

April 16, 2009 at 07:55 AM ·

I don't have any claim to being a violin teacher. I have taught many other physical skills and am LEARNING violin.  I can understand Gene's point about when to use tapes.  I still really don't undrestand how one can look down the fingerboard and get a visual image that is of any assistance - but obviously it is of assistance so I'll opt out of the debate. 



except to add, that it is worth looking at stranger796's youtube channel, for the child playing twinkle graduation.  He certainly is looking at those tapes.  It doesn't seem to be doing much for his intonation.  I'm not offering this in support or contest of any point of view, I just think its kind of funny.

April 16, 2009 at 06:05 PM ·

What is so funny about this thread, and others like it, is that it goes way off the handle socially. If we were all sitting around with coffee in each other's living rooms, we would have covered the same ground--we might have disagreed about the value of tapes--but we wouldn't be calling each other "names."

This internet mode of communication makes for frankness, but it also makes for accentuated polemics. In fact I look forward to meeting the "real" people in this thread with whom I have disagreed. I think in person, we area all much more charming.

April 16, 2009 at 06:24 PM ·

Sharelle, the visual assistance that looking at the fingers while playing is dependent on the player having established an understanding of finger pattern placement using tetrachords. If that is not being done mentally, then just looking at the fingers (or tapes) is of little use.

A student taught to simply "look at the tapes for where to put your finger" is not going to have reliable intonation. Especially those who use those awful single sheets with a line for every single position. In only putting a few of the aids in place, it is used as a supporting tool to teach a student the visual, aural, and tactile experience of whole and half steps. For example, when they learn about difference between C-natural and C-sharp on the A string using the 2nd finger, there isn't usually a marker for C-natural. They have to look at the whole step distance between B-natural and C-sharp and make a decision about putting their 2nd finger down for the half step.

As they develop their confidence, first with half-step motions away from the fingerboard aids, we start building up these whole/half step tetrachord structures in the pattern of the fingers. As they get more used to mapping out the placement of all their fingerings, we remove those aids. Eventually, everything is built from the bottom up, starting with proper placement of the first finger so the other three can reach everything in a passage without excessive stretching or shifting (and we could spend forever talking about the possibilities here!).

And honestly Bill, no one is calling anyone else any sort of names here. I believe that the beginning of this thread can be traced right to a statement you made regarding an absolute position on the value of fingerboard aids, which does not hold true for 100% of the population. Others voiced their disagreement using logical arguments and drawing on experience, which resulted in an emotionally charged response without much grounding in fact (and ended up arguing a point that had nothing to do with the original statement).

April 16, 2009 at 06:28 PM ·

If you do such a meeting Bill, tell it to us!  Yes, it is a passionated debate but I've seen far worse on the net...  As for names, I've still never saw someone impolite ennough to tell to another person that he or she is idiot or such word. is still quite polite compare to youtube.  Where it is anonymous and the people have nicknames like "baby66" they tell real insults.  It's a good thing that we actually have our real names for this.

I agree very much with Gene on the fact that we are talking of two types of teaching.  (no type is better so I don't understand why this is seen as an elit topic.)  Gene pointed this so well with her examples.  As a not so long ago high school student (band because we didn't have strings) I can tell that for many people, music and arts were "the" options to take to fool around and many students were not that passionated by music.  They took the course for fun and fun only.  (which is ok in its way).  They didn't want to perform or to become very good so they would have quit if a tirant would have been too strict on them.  (this was in my school and I don't mean it is always like this) but I know where Gene come from with her, "they could quit" if they got to discourage because of a picky style of learning.


April 16, 2009 at 08:23 PM ·

April 16, 2009 at 08:01 PM ·

None of those sentences were directed at you, they were in response to something Anne-Marie said... I don't remember what exactly because it doesn't really matter.  Anyway we came to an understanding so I don't see a reason for you to repost my post.  If I have forgotten it then so should you but in truth I'm glad to see my words again, they're logical.  I'm not here to fight with anyone and I think these discussions are necessary.  It is important as a teacher to keep current and re-evaluate what you do. In fact I have re-evaluated my use of finger stickers and will possibly make some alterations to how I use them.  I do tend to forget and leave them on longer than I should with some students so it's great to re-affirm what I know and tweak it so that it works better.

If you weren't a doctor and were giving me medical advice I would take it with a grain of salt.  I may not be as important as a doctor in your eyes but the fact that I am an experienced teacher gives more weight to my experience than to the opinions and theories of those that have never taught or perhaps even played the violin.  I'm not trying to be compulsively insistant about that but I find it strange that one would argue with that logic.

April 16, 2009 at 10:04 PM ·

Bill was actually against the tapes like me if I remember well and he is also a non teacher that still have ennough experience to post so maybe it is for this reason he though the comments were for him.  But as soon as I understand that my opinions were only based on what I've seen/heard from teachers at conservatories, I undertood the why of this disagrements.  It was like talking about oranges and bananas.  The two fruits are good for your health but with different functions.  One is too try to give a better life to poor and unlucky kids, the other is too keep myself away from depression while doing my difficult studies!


April 17, 2009 at 02:19 AM ·

Sorry, I didn't read all the way down through the posts. i use auto pinstriping from the local auto parts store. Works great and it doesn't slide off.  Eventually I have learned to play the tones correctly. If not, will give up and go treat my car to a spiffy new paint job.

April 17, 2009 at 07:57 PM ·

Kim, what's the average cost of auto pinstriping? Is it sold in reels? I'll switch to that this Fall if I can get it fairly large quantities for a good price.

The product available in music stores looks to be to be no different that cheap plastic tape (electrical tape in some cases), and costs ridiculous amounts compared to the same product (albiet in wider varieties) in the hardware store.

April 23, 2009 at 03:36 PM ·

I use auto pinstriping, and it costs about $7 for a roll (1/8 inch width).  In a year, I use about 3 rolls (and I have 160 students).  Comes off clean.

April 23, 2009 at 06:46 PM ·

I use duct tape.  Around the fingers and toes.  Little strip across the mouth.  They sound great when I'm done with them.

April 23, 2009 at 08:31 PM ·

the ducks or the students?

April 23, 2009 at 09:07 PM ·

Emily you are sure of one thing, with duck taped fingers, toes and mouth, no one in the world achieve better pianissimos than your students!


April 23, 2009 at 09:17 PM ·


alas,  the prune eaters can confirm that one option for fff is left open.



April 23, 2009 at 09:45 PM ·

100 post YEEEEE HAAAA!

Long Live The Prune!!!!!

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