Yet another finger-tape discussion

June 7, 2010 at 05:03 AM ·

I know there have been many discussions about finger tapes in the past and there were some heated debates about the merits of using them. So please forgive me for another finger-tape topic, and let's not start about whether or not one should use finger tapes at all, please.

Here are my questions - Did you start with finger tapes on your violin? If so, how long did you have them? Was it difficult at first to play on a "naked" fingerboard? How long did it take before you overcome it?

When my first teacher put finger tapes on my violin, I was apprehensive about it. I always thought that I have a good ear... So when I down-sized to a 7/8 about 3 months into my learning, I tried to play without them at first. I thought I was doing OK until I was playing Gossec Gavotte with a 5-year-old -- I hadn't played it for a while, and I was out-of-tune, so I put tapes back on myself...

I decided not to put finger tapes on when I was doing my last round of violin hunting 1.5 months ago, which was 10 months into my violin learning.  My teacher said that it should not be a big deal if one is ready to play without the finger tapes, so I guess I was not ready -  I was struggling with intonation for weeks.  The struggle was also partly because I was switching between a 7/8 and a 3/4 on trial and using borrowed violins while my own violin was modified.   My teacher asked whether I'd like to put the tapes back on after the first week, and I said no - I was determined to take the "training wheels" off for good. I sort of settled the 2nd week after I got my own violin back. However, even now, there are days that I struggle with intonation, which was never much of a problem when I had tapes on... I guess I was relying more on the visual references and the fingers feeling the tapes rather than using my ears.

Now I'm back into another round of violin search, and this time trying to decide between a 1/2 and a 3/4.  I'm amazed that I haven't struggled with intonation as much as the first time. I'm not sure whether it's because my ear has developed, or my muscle memory has improved (so my brain knows how to adjust to the spatial differences between two sizes), or something else altogether.

Please share your experience and insight. Thanks!

Replies (51)

June 7, 2010 at 06:47 AM ·

I had tapes for the first 5 or so months of playing. intonation wasn't too different when they came off, though my ear has improved considerably since then and i've slowly become aware of my intonation mistakes that i'm sure were there all along.

the biggest issue for me is that my left hand is no where near good enough to stay keyed in when attention is distracted by trying to learn new music, or when switching spacing around dealing with a bunch of accidentals. the tapes just gave nice visual feedback to stay oriented instead of trusting to less practiced proprioception

June 7, 2010 at 09:11 AM ·

when I started learning violin I told my (then) teacher that I would refuse using any tapes (as he put a couple on my son's violin...).

Obviously he accepted my decision and I learnt with no tapes, but I am thinking if for some reason I did learn with tapes, I'd just take them off and go 'cold turkey' and really hone down in learning to listen to myself, for example by having a tuning CD or a chromatic tuner which plays all the pitches for you.  It's 'time consuming' it takes patience, but I am a very stubborn person who likes a challenge so I know I would do it.  Not saying that's what everyone should do, but it's what I'd do.

June 7, 2010 at 10:26 AM ·

 Tape doesn't work for teaching you to play in tune.The whole concept is wrong.

I use one piece of tape for first finger in the beginning months ,but when teaching intonation the students are not allowed to look at the fingerboard , or I let them look at the finger board once, then repeat without looking.A piece of tape for 1st finger helps them at home.Looking at the fingerboard to help with finger placement is a bad habit and a very slow way to learn.

Intonation is like this -when you are playing in tune, you know you are playing in tune, there is no question in your mind.When you play out of tune you will question it, and thats when you know your out.

Intonation doesn't fix itself or you don't learn to play in tune over time.

Learn to play in tune NOW! and it will become more consistent over time.

The only way to play in tune is to correct poor intonation, most beginners don't have this ability.The main way for them to learn intonation is to have a teacher correct it ,to inform you that you are playing out of tune.A teacher that never corrects your intonation is an absolute  absolute  absolute  waste of money and time. You naturally enjoy the music more and learn much quicker when you play in tune.When you are constantly  playing out of tune , there is no reward for your hard work and playing becomes a frustration.

The  way to learn intonation is to hear a in tune note FIRST , then try to repeat it on the violin. I find this way to be the best concept to learning intonation.

 

 

June 7, 2010 at 12:06 PM ·

Joyce,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but intonation is something you will struggle with as long as you play the violin, with or without fingers tapes.  I heard Itzhak Perlman play last year, and he too was struggling with intonation, granted he had  shoulder surgery a few months prior, but that's beside the point.  There is not a violinist alive (or dead for that matter) that does not struggle with intonation.  It's something that comes with the territory.  Keep playing those scales!

June 7, 2010 at 12:55 PM ·

Per Joyce Lin, "and let's not start about whether or not one should use finger tapes at all, please."

Already two people have decided to ignore her request!

When I started a year ago, my teacher put dots of Liquid Paper under each string for my index, middle, and ring fingers.  I relied on them a lot in the beginning.  The dots are almost worn away now, and I don't have any trouble playing in tune.  I also can go to other notes that never had any marks to begin with, and started the fourth finger with no marks.  I can read music and play at the same time, so I don't have to look at the fingerboard all the time.

I have been able to play my teacher's violin with no problem.

June 7, 2010 at 01:24 PM ·

Hi, Joyce, I'm curious about why you are switching between sizes and violins a lot? I would think you may have some mental/physical "confusion" going on which is affecting your ability to stay in tune. I learned to adjust to a variety of instruments & fractionals when teaching a large group of elementary students, since I regularly played on the kids' fiddles to check them out, but that was mostly on beginner/intermediate lit. Right now I travel with a 4/4 violin and a 14" viola for demonstration purposes in private lessons. I have a 3rd finger marker under the viola A. The spacing is just that little bit different, and switching back & forth so quickly is challenging. Sue

June 7, 2010 at 02:12 PM ·

Smiley is so wright!  Even pros sometimes are a little "off" intonation...  (But talking about pros, I prefer a little off intonation and a few srctches to hear real musicality and daring to take risks) 

As an amateur student, I never learned with tapes and am happy I never had them on my fingerboard.  I think as Joe that I would have refuse to use them and would have change teachers if my teacher had forced me to use them.  For me tapes are like rests, a teacher can't force a student to use them if the student doesn't want them.  A teacher can be critical on intonation though!  (and should be...)   

In private lessons where there is not 50 students to look at at the same time, one should try to avoid tapes... (but this is just my opinion). And I know that the "group" situation is different than the private lesson situation for tape issues. 

Anne-Marie

June 7, 2010 at 02:18 PM ·

 If you want to drop the tape and have a microphone for your computer there is a great little free program called Syaku8 that gives you a display of how close you are to a note.  If you practice you scales and watch the needle on the display you can see how you are improving and get great feed back on intonation.

June 7, 2010 at 02:41 PM ·

 Sorry, to answer your question

I have had students come to me with tape on the violins and no eartraining or when I started teaching I left the tape on to long and didn't do enough ear training,or didn't catch them looking at their fingers between notes.These students got into a habit of looking at their fingers all the time for finger placement,not relying on their sense of proprioception .When the tape was removed they could not play in tune at all and struggled to find the right pitch.They basically had to relearn to play in tune ,which is much harder to do. I find it takes a year or two to relearn to play in tune ,this consist of a lot of ear training exercises and no looking at the finger board.Not fun.

 

June 7, 2010 at 03:17 PM ·

Working on shifting, and I am happy to have my "3" tape back on for a while...I really do need it sometimes. 

June 7, 2010 at 03:25 PM ·

My granddaughter started with tape. When her primary teacher had to leave town for a month she took some lessons from a lady who schooled her in the dialect of Irish fiddle; she had to memorise several tunes, then go to a pub and play in a "Kid's Jam" with a bunch of kids who knew all the tunes in the book provided.

When she saw that none of them had tape, her tape cam off the next day. She continued with the Irish music on the side for another year or two. It seemed to take her to another level in some fashion.

As for me, no tape, thanks. I can hear when I'm off; too offten, alas.

June 7, 2010 at 04:44 PM ·

In A New Approach to Violin Playing, Kato Havas points out that, since the violin is not a well-tempered instrument, there is no such thing as absolute pitch.  A-flat descending to G-natural is not the same as G-sharp rising to A-natural.

"Let's not start [another heated debate] about whether or not one should use finger tapes at all."

I'm all for robust debate, provided that we maintain a sense of respect.  So far, we have.

I began playing violin as a preadolescent, having had elementary piano training soon before.  I never had any fingerboard tapes, never expected to, never even thought of them.  My teacher never even brought up the subject -- thank goodness.  I simply understood, right from the beginning, that the violin, unlike the piano, didn't have keys and fixed pitches.  I was fine with this.  From the start, I expected to have to LISTEN -- and mentally hear upcoming pitches.

Then, too, I will never know how many times I've subconsciously made little adjustments in finger positions between tunings to compensate for strings that gradually go out of tune during practice and performance.  In this situation, tapes would be anathema.

June 7, 2010 at 05:32 PM ·

I started out with tapes. For me it did help to solidify where my fingers were supposed to go. After several months, my teacher removed the first two and left #3 and #4 in place to help me find 3rd and 4th position. Later, I decided on my own to remove tape #3. I was kind of scared to remove the final tape but since I did so, my intonation has improved a great deal. I believe I must have been ignoring the input from my ears and hands in favor of the visual landmarks.

June 7, 2010 at 05:37 PM ·

I had tapes for a really, really long time. If I recall correctly, we took them off one by one, starting with the first and second, then the fourth, and finally third. They weren't gone entirely until I was well into Suzuki book 4. I think we took the last one off right after I "finished" the Vivaldi A minor. I can't say much for the merits of tape vs. no tape, but I don't recall the transition being particularly...overwhelming. However, looking back on it, I think I would have preferred to learn without tapes. I spent a long time relying on my eye rather than my ear for finger placement, even without the tapes. It took me a few YEARS after removing the tapes to learn how to "listen" correctly. Perhaps if I had been forced to listen from day one, I wouldn't have had to relearn the skill later.  

June 7, 2010 at 05:43 PM ·

Smiley, yes when I saw Itzhak Perlman this year, he did not always play in tune, but I thought he probably no longer cared about his audience... I understand that intonation is a challenge for almost all violinists, but some fare better than others, so it would be interesting to know how those with successful track records manage it.

Sue
, I change between sizes and violins a lot because I have yet to find one that works well enough for me (I have tiny hands, extremely short pinkies and thumbs attached to an otherwise normal-sized adult body), and I switch back and forth to try to decide which size is right for me - I play the same passages on different sizes to see which is easier...  I suspect that my intonation difficulty is compounded by my odd hand frame - I often have trouble with reach unless I swing/twist my hand or do "micro-shifting," and it's hard to come back to the same position after doing that, and that's when finger tapes really help.

Stuart, I disagree with the "watch the needle" approach. I have a chromatic tuner. I tried it once when I was having difficulty staying in tune playing a scale. Not only was it distracting, it was also very frustrating because bow pressure can change where the needle ends up (and also arguably incorrect because electronic tuners are equal temperament). I have been much happier with my tuner generating the drone notes when I practice scales and arpeggios.

People who object to finger tapes seem to assume that people who use tapes are not using their ears, but that's not necessarily true, at least in my case - I know it when I play out-of-tune with or without the finger tapes most of the time.  I say "most of the time" because usually when I playback my recording of a lesson or a practice session, I hear more places that are out-of-tune than I realized. Sometimes when my teacher pointed out that I was out-of-tune, I did not always realize it while I was playing (especially in very high positions on the E-string, which I am not accustomed to hearing), but I can always hear it when I play back the recording. So, my ability to discern pitches is not the real issue here probably thanks to years of piano and singing.  There is something interfering  with my hearing while I'm playing, be it concentration or something else, I don't know... I play out-of-tune because my hand is at the wrong place and/or my fingers happen to land on the spots that are outside of the "in-tune" range, not because I can't tell what "in-tune" is.

June 7, 2010 at 07:02 PM ·

Mimi Zweig uses finger tapes for a long time

June 7, 2010 at 09:00 PM ·

I'm a fiddler, so I do things a bit different.

I use finger tape, but it is FINGER tape, not VIOLIN tape; I put it on my fingertips, to show what part should contact the violin. The violin neck is free and unencumbered.

It works, in a bit of an odd manner; I sometimes have difficulties shifting, as the tape is a bit sticky on the edges.

June 7, 2010 at 09:53 PM ·

 I know the question wasn't to raise the controversy of tape vs. anti-tape but there hasn't been a lot of explanation as to why not to use tapes so I'm going to write it out.  I'm going to explain it the way my pedagogy instructor explained it to me.  These are Ivan Borgiev's thoughts on the matter and I think it makes perfect sense.

Intonation isn't about memorizing the exact spot on the fingerboard, that comes as a side effect of what's really going on when you practice.  It's more about the relationships between your fingertips and how that feels for your fingers and for your hand.  That feeling relates to what you hear and what you expect to hear.  When you play scales you must actively think about how each note feels for your fingertips and for your hand as you listen for errors and correct mistakes.  This creates a connection between the feeling in your hand and your ears and it builds intonation that you can rely on.  When you think about it that way, the whole notion of using tapes for intonation is exposed as pedagogically counterintuitive.  It's important to teach students to rely on what will always be available to them: fingers and ears. 

 

 

June 8, 2010 at 01:09 AM ·

 I believe that the violins inner tone (sound transfered to the inner ear by your jaw bone) can interfere with your ability to recognize intonation.Placing a folded cloth on the chinrest is all that is needed the hear  purely with the outer ear.I find that after a while your mind learns to only listen to the outer ear.When I 'm in the recording studio I still find it best to play with a folded cloth under the chin and I only use one headphone over the right ear(important) , if I don't do this I notice that I  play slightly flat- singers struggle with this inner voice also.

June 8, 2010 at 04:11 PM ·

I'm a total newbie, and I don't use them.  I don't feel the lack.  Sure, I'm off sometimes, but I can tell with my ear anyway.  If I'm off, I just play it a zillion times until I get it right.  I figure I'm going to be doing that tapes or no tapes, anyway.  Also, I'm not sure putting my finger on a tape of finite and noticeable width would be any more precise than putting it down where I think it should go; it still isn't as precise as a raised fret.  But again, I'm a newbie and playing very basic music.

It's not that I'm in love with making anything harder than it needs to be though; I've got one of the tailpieces with four integrated fine-tuners on it, so I'm happy to use technology to aid myself.  I just figure that if the instrument in its native state doesn't have fingerboard markings, then I should start playing the instrument in its native state as early as possible.  It may sound crappy in the initial stages, but sounding crappy in the initial stages is part of being a beginner.  Others may feel or learn differently.

June 8, 2010 at 07:00 PM ·

Did you start with finger tapes on your violin?

Yes, for both starts. When I was 9 and when I restarted as an adult a few years ago, I had them again. 

If so, how long did you have them?

As a child I probably had some variation of tapes on until I was 14. As an adult re-beginner, I had them on for about 1.5 yrs.

Was it difficult at first to play on a "naked" fingerboard?

It was actually easier for me. My tapes would always wear off and eventually it became apparent that I was better off without them. I was very distracted by feeling the tapes under my fingers and deciding visually if I was correctly on the tape. I think my intonation is better w/o tapes, b/c I can focus on just what I hear vs. whether I hear it, see it, AND feel the tape. But, maybe my muscle memory was finally just better developed and I was ready for them to be off anyway.

How long did it take before you overcome it?

I'd say it was a good 2 months to get myself situated after the tapes came off. To learn to trust my ear. I use droning on scales a lot. I still have one small star sticker marking a harmonic that I wasn't quite landing (but it could go away now).

I do have to say that the most difficult time I had after losing the tapes was during group/ensemble practice. Since I can't clearly hear myself and I was more focused on reading the music, shifting was much more difficult w/o any visuals or feeling of the tapes. But this is also getting easier now.

Hope this helps!

June 9, 2010 at 12:16 AM ·

Here's a thought to complicate the issue. Is there some better way of marking than the tape, that would be less intrusive?
I was thinking of this because I purchased a violin that had tape previously; I could see faint changes in the smoothness where the tape was removed.

I could use those as a kind of guide when I was watching, and ignore them when I was listening. I think it did help some, but I did not really plan to use them; it was just additional information I had avilable.

June 9, 2010 at 11:16 AM ·

First - I never had finger tapes.

Second - my violin. She's about 100 years old and has obviously been well loved and played by someone before me. When shifting to third position I can feel a little something under my thumb. It could be a little swirl in the wood, or is it a mark scratched by someones nail? Whatever it is I don't tell my teacher but instead hope to impress with my faultless and fluent shifts. I wish!

Also looking down the fingerboard in certain lighting conditions you can just about see the indentations worn in the ebony of countless string pressings over the years.

June 9, 2010 at 11:46 AM ·

You could always employ a portamento, that thing works WONDERS

June 9, 2010 at 01:33 PM ·

I have finger tapes, one on first finger and one on third finger. I use my ears, and can always tell when I get something right, or if it needs to be adjusted. I don't look at my fingers when I know what I'm playing, it's only when I'm learning new things (which is all the time) that I look.

When it comes to twinkle, and lightly row, I always look at the notes on the book, or in the mirror. Scales aswell. I don't think I mind having them, if not for myself, then for my teacher. I think it helps her notice when my second finger isn't stretched as far down as it should be.

My teacher also has a little stickers she uses on younger students that she places on the bowing arm, just inside the elbow on the forearm, and tells them to "take it for a ride" so that they move thier elbows more in the bowing. Overall I don't mind the tapes, and I don't think I'd lose any progress without them, I generally know where my fingers should go, and muscle memory should be there eventually.

 

 

(Edit: And when I say help my teacher, I mean if she just wants to glance, she could see what I was doing wrong right away, so if we're focusing on something besides finger placement it doesn't take up a whole lot of time.)

June 9, 2010 at 09:47 PM ·

In the beggining (being self-taught for first few months), I didn't know what finger-tape was - so I tried playing twinkle-twinkle.. I had no concept what it ment to play #/b so I always played it as F# as F, and I thought the next note was G (which would of been F#) .. so it was almost a chromatic-twinkle

My Twinkle-Twinkle sounded depressed ... :(

Now is a different story thank god.

Actually ... I don't know even how I learnt intonation...

But as for finger-placement, I learn it pretty fast - I think it has to do with my computer-typing abilities though. The way I map out my violin fingerboard is the same as how I map out the computer keyboard, actually anything where I have to use finger-placement the mapping is all the same.

June 12, 2010 at 02:21 AM ·

 I started off with tapes on my violin in sixth grade(when I started playing), primarily because I was learning in orchestra class at school and because my parents wouldn't get me private lessons.  -_-

Over time, I gradually just let them fell off.  The third one fell off around 8th grade, followed by the first early in 9th grade, then the fourth later on in 9th grade.  The second fell off about two months ago.  
Now, the only one left is one set in place as a reference for the third finger in 3rd position.  
So far, I don't find it too difficult to play without the first four tapes, but occasionally I've run into a few spots where I've had issues in intonation.  Although I still haven't gotten private lessons, I have been staying after school during the school year quite a bit with my orchestra teacher to work on pieces for school recitals and similar events since I entered high school.  That has definitely helped my playing quite a bit.  :-)  


I found that for me, by just letting each tape come off at a different point in time, it wasn't as humongous of an adjustment than it would have been by taking them all off at one time.  Are there any teachers that use this method when a student is ready to remove the tapes on their violin?  

June 12, 2010 at 03:16 AM ·

I am a beginner and I started using the left hand fingers a few weeks ago (using the Laoureux method volume 1). My teacher did not even mention the possibility of using finger tapes or anything else that gives a visual cue of where the fingers should be placed. Instead, she emphasized on the importance of learning to recognize the interval between notes and "imagining" the tone before actually playing a note. This is meant to help develop my ear and learn how to correct my intonation using the sound I'm playing vs. the sound I imagine as a reference. When I can't seem to "catch" the pitch I'm looking for, she either plays it in her violin, or uses the piano, or sings the open string/1st/2nd/whichever finger note followed by the note I need to play, as to remind me of the interval that I need to consider. I find the piano really helpful for this.
 

So far, I haven't found it that hard to detect when I'm playing in tune or not. I can correct my pitch with relative ease, but I'm still struggling (and I guess I'll continue to struggle for a long time) to find a comfortable left hand posture and the other 1000 things you need to refine when you're 20 and you're learning violin as your first instrument.

I don't feel finger tapes would be necessary for me but I don't think it's entirely fair to say that since I haven't really tried them and I haven't been studying for that long... I can imagine that they can be helpful, but I suppose it also depends on how your teacher works, the method you are using, and one's own ability to learn, associate and coordinate (which is to say, it depends on everything...) In the end, I suppose that if it works for you, it can't be a bad thing.

June 12, 2010 at 04:21 PM ·

If you want finger tape that's not an eyesore, and is very low key, and not even really visible, this is what I use:

Black chart tape, as thin as you can get.  Take a strip, grab your tuner and go to town.  Granted, I only have two strips on mine, 1st finger and 3rd finger in the 1st position, but really that's all you need as by the time you start moving into 3rd and fourth positions, you likely won't need them anymore.  It's black, thin and easy to take off if need be.  I don't really need them much until I start going back and forth from sharps to flats, then I need the tape for reference to get my hand back to the neutral position.

June 13, 2010 at 01:16 AM ·

 Juan, your teachers is showing signs of experience , don't let her go . It's nice to see this.The ability to teach intonation is like the foundation of a house .or like the front door when looking at a new house.If they can't get this right .....

 

June 13, 2010 at 11:12 PM ·

I teach all my students to look at the fingers as one aspect of tuning, in addition to using the ear and feeling the intervals. It is the combination of sight, sound, and tactile feel that all contribute towards accurate pitch.

In looking at one's fingers, we aim to establish clear placement of whole and half steps regardless of which string(s) they are placed on. The justification for this really is that light is a whole lot faster than sound...if you can *see* that your interval is incorrect before you actually play it, you can adjust it far quicker than if you wait till it sounds wrong!

Since placement of the fingers for most works is done through a system of "mapping" out patterns so the fingers can be in place before the bow even arrives, the visual practice is extremely useful.

June 14, 2010 at 07:43 PM ·

Charles, thanks for the tip about covering the chinrest. I'll give it a try. Maybe we need another discussion (debate?) about why we can't always detect our intonation errors while playing (insert evil grin here)...

"You could always employ a portamento, that thing works WONDERS"

Dimitri, you are joking, right?

December 12, 2012 at 09:13 PM ·

Here's what I'm using right now:

It's one piece with the lines on it painted in to the whole shebang.

Basically what I'm saying is that since it's a continuous piece of plastic, there's no feeling of a tape under the fingertip. I can only check the position with the eyes.

The more I practice, what I've been doing is trying to force myself to play something and then pause exactly where I'm at and then look at it to see if the finger is in the right spot.

I can't always tell by ear yet. Sometimes I can - sometimes I can't. I practice scales on a regular basis using a tuner to try to learn the correct sound of the notes. Recently I also have started to add harmonics to this practice, but I'm not where I can "hear" the note automatically. Not yet.

So in the mean time, I also use the "taped" fingerboard. And more and more, I'm on the right spots when I look.

The only draw back to this tape (IMO) is that you have to release tension on all the strings at once to put it on so you have to be very careful with making sure the bridge gets back in to proper position once you apply it (or remove it eventually I assume)

But at least by it being all one piece you don't feel the edge of a tape with your finger. So you won't get used to moving your finger and "finding" the spot by feeling that edge.

December 12, 2012 at 10:59 PM · Draco: i hope that you have the right fingertape size there for example you have 4/4 size violin, to not put a fingertape for 3/4 violin, you'll be out of tune if u do.

The next problem of fingertape like the one you mentioned is:

Not all the full size 4/4 violins have the same size!

For the example, me comparing my large german violin (markneukirchen) and my teacher's english violin: the body of my violin has a length of 35.9cm while my teacher's violin body has a slightly smaller size (i think it's an average size of 4/4 violin which is 35.5cm) but....the violin's neck is longer and the scroll is bigger, so when i put my violin next to his, it's very noticeable that:

- my violin's body is bigger than his

- but his total length of the violin (body, neck, scroll) is longer

This means to say that such fingertape you mentioned on ur comment is a mass product, while different violins have different set up and size. You don't know if you're playing in tune or not.

Last year i bought a similar fingertape (slightly different, with all the bubbles that tell where the natural notes, flat and sharp notes are). I was just curious. As soon as it arrived i put it on my violin's fingerboard and after trying out i was upset and put it off again. Upset because it only told me how to play false. Plus i heard the sound of plastic every time my string vibrated...very unpleasant to hear!

I haven't used finger tape. When you play in tune, the note rings better

December 12, 2012 at 11:06 PM · I probably should have mentioned that I couldn't find the image for the 4/4 one. But I have the 4/4 one on my instrument. =)

(Thanks for noticing and asking though. If I had made that mistake, it would be devastating!)

There's no sound of plastic either.

And the markings are right. At least my tuner thinks so. Of course when I started I placed the pad of my fingers on the lines but with the tuner discovered that the front edge of the pad should be right on the line (it's a slight difference backward) - and if anything that's a danger the product could have been a bit more clear about. (Exactly where or how to tell where - to place your finger according to the line)

Yikes I just noticed I had resurrected a very old topic which is something I try to avoid. Sorry about that. It's not normal for me to raise threads from the dead. I'll keep a better watch over the tabs I opened as a result of a search vs. the tabs opened on current topics.

December 12, 2012 at 11:23 PM · Started playing a little over a year ago. Never had tapes - never will. My teacher is very much against them which is why I didn't have them to start. Now that I'm aways done the road I'm glad I don't. As my teacher says - it's not where you put the finger, but what it sounds like when it gets there. Now the only times I'm looking at my fingers is when I'm working on string crossings. Going from the E string to the D drives me nuts! I'll actually close my eyes when I'm working on the tone otherwise, I'm looking at the book.

December 13, 2012 at 12:08 AM · Draco: glad to know yours is doing just okay. It's my violin that has such different size, i still remember that i also had to stretch my fingers more when i just got this violin (i've used a rent violin before this and it had an average 4/4 size that is 35.5cm).

December 13, 2012 at 12:37 AM · My first teacher put them on my violin. Two weeks later I changed my violin to a better one because the one I was using was terrible. At that point I refused the finger tapes. I'd rather learn the sound by ear. How can you do it by ear if you don't have to rely completely on just your ear? Anything else is a crutch that would hinder this if you want it to develop more quickly.

December 13, 2012 at 12:51 AM · Finger tape is not better for the students, it takes them a lot longer to learn good intonation this way. Tape is more for the inexperienced teacher.

December 13, 2012 at 06:21 AM · It really depends on the learning situation.

Visual fingering aids are an effective tool when you have a hundred beginners around age ten in a group class that meets once or twice a week, and need to get them to a minimum level at set points throughout the year without the help of any other instructors.

Those fortunate enough to have access to regular private instruction can learn without it. As a private teacher as well, I haven't needed to use visual aids for my students since I have the time to work with them comprehensively in ear training and left hand organization.

December 13, 2012 at 01:43 PM · I have excellent intonation, though I did originally have tapes as a rough guide. I still remember when I was advanced enough to get a fourth tape, for my fourth finger. The tapes came off as soon as I could hear where to put my fingers and developed the muscle memory that way.

I also keep one of those "Don't Fret" thingies Draco Rat referred to in my violin case, but it's for sentimental value. My teacher (not the one I started with) was developing that product, and I was just kidding around and inadvertently ended up naming it for him.

He swore by it for his beginning students, and even though I've never actually used one myself, it does strike me as a good idea.

December 13, 2012 at 04:42 PM · Vanessa,

Although violins may differ in size, what matters to a violin player is the neck stop: body stop ratio; 2:3

The first measurement is the distance from the nut to the edge of the violin.

The second is the distance from the edge to the f-hole notches.

De facto standard is 130mm:195mm. (2*65mm vs 3* 65mm)

It does not matter if the violin is longer or shorter as long as this ratio is in place. Since one can not change the body stop easily and moving the bridge would affect the sound quality, the way to find out if the neck stop is proper is to divide the body stop by 3 and multiple by 2.

For example, a long Maggini violin with a body stop of 200mm would have to have the neck stop of 133.33 mm (200/3=66.66 * 2 = 133.33)

This exact ratio exist for violas, and that is why it is sometimes easier to switch back and forth between standardized violin and viola than from non-standardized violin to a standardized one.

That is also a reason why so may new HIP violin players are faking the setup; if they use a typical (shorter and thicker) baroque neck, learning baroque fiddle or switching back to a modern violin would be a nightmare.

Regarding the frets, violin is not a guitar or viola da gamba. If one can not train the fingers with ears.... why bother?

December 13, 2012 at 06:26 PM · Rocky,

Thanks for the explanation. I dont know what's with the fingertape, i was just curious and once i put it on, the spot where i had to put my fingers on were just false. I put it off again.

Your last sentence, you're right about that.

December 14, 2012 at 05:08 PM · I started out with the, "Don't Fret it" thingee before I took lessons, thinking it would help and having a piano background it made sense at first. My first teacher went with it and actually I made good progress learning some of the Bach Partitas and Mozart pieces. In retrospect however you wind up looking at the keyboard to find the notes and thinking, "Is it on the green strip or the red strip?" When I switched to a different teacher and I first took out my violin, he saw the thingee, rolled his eyes and gave me a big long lecture on what a mistake it was, including how the glue could damage the fingerboard and on and on. So the first thing I did when I got home was to take it off. Fortunately it didn't damage the fingerboard, but it took me a long time to get all the little sticky pieces off. After that I had many, many lessons just on getting correct intonation. Long slow practice, over and over and over again. The bottom line would be that the thingee just postpones the inevitable.

December 17, 2012 at 02:35 PM · Yea, it's all so confusing, as much as your comment is, John Cadd



December 18, 2012 at 02:49 PM · This is a really interesting discussion. My first teacher put on tape; I remember struggling with getting the notes on pitch. My second teacher had me leave on the tape longer as she thought I still couldn't get the pitch right. My third teacher helped me slowly remove it. That was all in my first two years of lessons... Today I still find myself looking at the fingerboard occasionally. I've been working on breaking this habit (taking long time, though) as I reasoned that if a good pianist doesn't watch their fingers while playing, a violinist probably shouldn't either.

I have a few beginning students myself and started them with the tape, just like I had started. I never knew it can be done otherwise. Now that I think about it, it probably is better not to use it most of the time. It could become a crutch.

December 19, 2012 at 07:23 PM · I think fingertape is a bad idea.

The whole point of playing a violin is to build a partnership between your ear and your fingers, not only the positions, but even the "bend" of a finger to influence the subtle texture of a note.

By putting fingertape on the fingerboard, you are building either a tactile reliance on the tape itself or a mental map of an eye-hand relationship, rather than developing that intimate aural relationship.

At some point you have to "break" the fingertape habit (neurally) to go on to building the ear-finger relationship and I think most of us have learned that building a good habit is MUCH easier than trying to change or re-build one.

To give a somewhat related example: those who learn to touch-type on blank keys learn it far better and more quickly than those who learn on typewriters with the letters on the keys. We're human—we can't resist the urge to peek or to engage whichever sense makes it easier in the short run, but possibly harder in the long run.

December 19, 2012 at 07:51 PM · I think it depends on a lot of factors. Some young children have a hard time knowing where to put their fingers and they get discouraged and give up. There are lots of moving pieces to keep track of for beginners and sometimes finger tapes can take one thing off the plate, allowing the player to focus on other things. The tapes also help solidify muscle memory. Tapes can also give a reference point that can then be transferred into aural memory- When someone says your C is flat, make it higher, that's too vague to be useful for new students. But if you stop the student on the note that is flat, then show them where their finger is and they can see how much further they have to go, it's helpful.

That being said, the tapes shouldn't be left on for too long and the student should be discouraged from looking at them constantly. Further, ear training should be a part of learning violin. Tapes can be helpful, but they can also be a crutch for lazy teachers and students.

I don't think it's a good idea to say 'always' or 'never' when it comes to violin. It's whatever works best for the student. That's my finger tape philosophy, anyway.

December 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM · It's fine to use tapes. It's better to train your fingers in the right placement then to train them to flail around. My students start with tapes, and depending on when each one of them is ready, we remove them. They play in tune with the tapes, and they play in tune after we remove them. I really don't enjoy listening to them play out of tune, ever, nor do I wish them to practice at home, putting their fingers in the wrong place and playing out of tune. So we use tapes.

So use the tapes. But also ask your teacher to talk to you about "resonant" or "ringing" notes to help you get some ideas for listening for intonation.

December 19, 2012 at 10:23 PM · I did begin with tapes on the fingerboard, as I remember the other Suzuki kids in town (Lexington, KY) did. I honestly can't remember how long they stayed on, but I don't remember a big adjustment period. I had a much more difficult time with a straight bow!

December 20, 2012 at 04:58 AM · I started with finger tapes. I'd say I turned out ok.

I think I started taking them off when I learned shifting. I seem to remember only having the perfect 4th from the open string on there so I could aim my shift correctly, then soon after I took them all off.

I do start my students with finger tapes. When I first started teaching, I thought (idealistically) that it would be better to start them without to train their ears.

But they work! Especially for a student who is just starting, who just needs a visual cue for where to put their fingers.

As for how long it takes to overcome fingering tapes and fix intonation? I think the best answer is a lifetime. I always am correcting intonation. But really, your muscle memory is always building. If you practice correctly with finger tapes (lots of repetitions), you don't really need them when you take them off and the transition is relatively smooth.

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