Using tapes

February 9, 2015 at 04:30 PM · Hello. As you know I just start playing again and so far it's not going well.

My ears just don't like my intonation. I feel that every note, every shift is incorrect. Usually I hear a note and try to replicate them and sometimes I got them, but I'll just forget them again.

So my idea is using tapes on the fingerboard for intonation and using little bits of tape on the neck for shifts. I'll just use them until my ear can hear it nicely and then I'll take off one at the time and compare.

So is it a good idea or...?

Replies (87)

February 9, 2015 at 04:34 PM · I've been teaching for about 20 years and I've found that using tapes is very helpful in the beginning (or re-beginning!). You are not only training your ear, but you are also training your fingers to go down in the right spot. Be sure to have a teacher or violinist help you to place the tapes properly. As you get more comfortable, you can learn how to tune in to "resonant notes" to help refine your ear. Also, do a lot of listening to good recordings of classical music, and that will help your ear. If you can listen to recordings of the pieces you are playing, that can also help you hear when a note is out of place. Best wishes with your studies!

February 9, 2015 at 04:47 PM · I agree with Laurie that tapes on the fingerboard are a useful guide in the beginning. Some people will say that you should start shifting from the outset, but it's rather telling, in my opinion, that the first two Suzuki books are entirely in first position. A good teacher will help you prioritize and organize these various objectives, so please do ask them whether you should be trying to shift when you are not yet confident about your intonation in first position.

February 9, 2015 at 04:54 PM ·

February 9, 2015 at 05:00 PM · I agree. Many folks are very hostile, and maintain that such pupils will never play in tune, but that is absolutely not my experience.

With my beginners, I put only 3 small round stickers,: G on d-string, B and E on A string.

I can put more, in desperate cases!

The stickers act like spies: if they stay shiny and new, the student hasn't played enough, (or very out of tune!); if they start to slip, it shows that the fingers & thumb have "twisting" action (or very sweaty fingers!)

The stickers represent fingerprints, and must be covered by the fingertip. And the student must learn to play a little "higher" on the thinner E-string, due to inharmonicity.

When they fall off, we usually don't need them any more, until moving to a bigger violin, or starting positions.

February 10, 2015 at 12:36 AM · no.

February 10, 2015 at 12:40 AM · I agree Rocky

February 10, 2015 at 02:45 AM · Greetiings,

I don't personally think they are a good idea either, but this is really more a question of different approach. One of the issues involved is group versus individu teaching. I have no trouble teaching Ana beginner of any age without them but I've never had to teach a whole class of various levels and I can't imagine that without some kind of aid like this.

Adrian's idea of dots seems an improvement on the traditional tapes although I found those bloody thinngs get everywhere when I've been using them on students' bows , which I do.



February 10, 2015 at 05:32 AM · A case of ends justifying means, I would say! Many great players had tapes, along with plenty of bad (or former) players. I can't speak to experience with adult learners though.

February 10, 2015 at 07:18 AM · Sticky dots getting eveywhere..

They do, except the ones I want to remove, which stick like mad.

A few students never need them, so they don't get them!

And could the "no" camp be a little more explicit: it makes the debate more helpful to all readers..

February 10, 2015 at 10:18 AM ·

To answer your question Adrian, no.

The tape issue has been around for a long time and its like trying to tell conspiracy theorist that Bush wasn't in on 9/11.

February 10, 2015 at 11:33 AM · Dick Cheney is the guy actually responsible for finger tapes, shoulder rests, and the Dominant E string.

Bush was simply a puppet in the entire scheme.

Although, Bush did use a "follow the bouncing ball" aid for reading off a teleprompter...

February 10, 2015 at 01:08 PM · I never found the finger tapes or dots to be helpful for students' intonation but they do help start the formation of correct hand formation and finger placement. I used them with young students, but tried to shun them with beginning adults, whose sense of pitch is already developed (for better or worse). When following the Suzuki books, which I started to do about 1975 (about 10 years after I started teaching) I would only use tapes for the first 3 fingers (in A major), never for the 4th finger - by the time students reached 4th finger use I expected them be having well-formed hands and be using their ears.

For one thing, the tapes or dots are too imprecise for precise intonation. However, in combination with simple melodies, such as presented by Suzuki, for learning intonation, they can help start a process.

For another thing the student should learn that it is not where the finger is placed, but where the finger contact with the string just ends that determines the pitch.

Finally, students holding their instrument properly cannot actually see the relationship between the tapes/dots and their fingers correctly.


February 10, 2015 at 05:55 PM · Do kids need to see the tapes, or can they feel them?

Fretless electric basses used to have tiny LED lights down the side of the fingerboard. Maybe there is some kind of optical sensor that could be installed in the neck of a violin that would determine where the finger is placed in real time and provide a note-by-note intonation report to the player.

I'm surprised "tapes" have been associated here with Dick Cheney. I thought Richard Nixon would have been a better choice.

February 10, 2015 at 08:10 PM · "Although, Bush did use a "follow the bouncing ball" aid for reading off a teleprompter..."

So he could read!

February 10, 2015 at 08:15 PM · No. They were large colored picture.

February 10, 2015 at 08:36 PM · "To answer your question Adrian, no."

That's like the anti-SR posts which resolutely ignore the issues...

E.g. Heifetz didn't use tapes...........

It seems that the anti-tapes/dots league:

- have students with already-trained ears, or,

- don't care if things are a bit off to start with, or,

- hope that apparently-tone-deaf students will give up.

I have a few students who sing beatifullty in tune, but play out of tune without realising: things are more complex than we sometimes think. If I have ten students, they fall into at least ten different categories.

February 10, 2015 at 08:51 PM · Cheney utilized tapes in a different manner

February 10, 2015 at 09:06 PM · he would put such a tape on a violin with "don't play" on it?

February 10, 2015 at 11:02 PM · Maybe "don't squeak"?

February 11, 2015 at 01:49 AM ·

No Tape For Me You See

I have tape on my bow and tape on my knee

I have tape on my feet as you can see

I have tape to move forward and tape to move back

Tape to go high tape to go low

But this is too slow for me you see

Tape is just not for me.

I have Tape on the fingerboard

And Tape on the scroll

I have tape everywhere to help me go

But I don’t use my eyes you see

My Proprioception guides me

I close my eyes and it will see

I just need to think first and it guides me

I think of a note and think of a tune

I may play too high or play too low

But Proprioception will guide me you know.

So teacher no tape for me: I’m not three

And I will play fine you see

For I have proprioception to guide me

Proprioception makes my sharps sharp and my flats flat

And does it just like that

He keeps my bow where it needs to go

I don’t have to look you know

Proprioception is my best friend

I close my eyes and he sees me and I see him.

So no tape for me please

For I have Proprioception you see

He’s better than tape will ever be.

So now I have a violin with no tape as you can see

No tape on the fingerboard and no tape on the bow

Now my violin is ready to go

I can close my eyes for now I can see

And let Proprioception do some work and guide me

Happy happy as I can be

Because Proprioception,

My friend, is finally free.

By Charles Cook

This message brought to by Obamacare, because even duct tape can't fix that.

February 11, 2015 at 02:30 AM ·

The tape concept is flawed, severely. To play in tune, all we basically need to use is our proprioception sense(cerebellum, and other brain areas) and our music memory(audio cortex). When you use tape to aid intonation, you are not using the audio cortex, but rely on the visual cortex. Basically the wrong part of the brain is being trained. You are going zero steps forward and two steps backwards.

Adrian, there are real ways to teach good intonation that have students playing in tune, or have them sense poor intonation, in months, but if you stick with the tape method you will not learn these excellent techniques.

Tape is not for the inadequacies of the student, but from the inadequacies of the teacher or the method they use.

As for using tape for correct hand posture, poor intonation is a better indicator of poor technique. Again, you don't need tape for this.

February 11, 2015 at 05:20 AM · Cmon now.

If we're going to have The Tape Argument again, let's at least have some new material. Some new arguments, not just a rehash of the last time it was brought up.

February 11, 2015 at 05:29 AM · I'd like to agree with you Charles, because it fits my idea of what intonation is and how it's retained. But there are so many examples of kids who started with tapes and played in tune the rest of their days. Maybe these kids would have done so without the tapes. As I don't teach kids regularly, I can't offer personal experience except my own as a youngster (you can guess that I had tapes starting out)! What I'm sure we agree on is that if they're left on too long, they will delay real ear training.

I'll leave with a comment I heard about a (recent Grammy-winning) violinist: "Her hand doesn't know how to play out of tune." Speaks to correct early training, however it happens. And no, I don't know if she used tapes! :)

February 11, 2015 at 05:39 AM · Charles, I tend to lean to the position of viewing tapes as a crutch in slowing the student down. But I will say that there are times when they are a useful tool.

The trick is knowing when they will serve as a temporary useful tool. Just as a teacher knows when to push a student, and when to ease up; tapes also have their place. What makes me cringe is when teachers just slap them on the instruments without their being an obvious need for them.

February 11, 2015 at 06:24 AM · Greetings,

perhaps there is a compromise solution. The tapes are used over the fingers to fix them in the correct position.



February 11, 2015 at 12:38 PM · Charles, do you allow your students to write in fingerings? Or what about circles? Is a student allowed to circle something to remind them of something they missed the first time around? Do you let them use sheet music? If you do you should stop because it'll just tempt them to use their visual cortex. Tape is useful for keeping eyes shut. That way you can save students from polluting their brains with visual information without having to blind them. What about concepts in general, not just flawed concepts? They're so non-proprioceptive and non-auditory.

Who are these visual propagandistas anyway?

February 11, 2015 at 03:31 PM · What's all this about procto-perception anyway?

February 11, 2015 at 03:34 PM · Hi Angga, I think one barrier to improving our sense of pitch is our strong emotional reaction against playing an 'incorrect' note. Most of us have probably internalized that cringe from a teacher, or parent and so have a strong avoidance of making clashing sounds, what we call dissonance. But as with everything in life there is no consonance without dissonance, and there are many degrees of dissonance, so we have to learn to recognize, or organize all combination of pitches in order to be able to play in tune. In other words, like it or not, we have to listen to our wrong notes too. What we are doing is differentiating our brain maps for pitch. (Similarly we differentiate our brain map for movement in order to refine motion.)

We might also find it difficult trying to assimilate information in ways we don't easily process. There's been a lot of research on learning theory in the past 50 years or so and I think some of it is finally trickling down to the general population (in North America.) If you think you learn best with visual aids then that is the short answer to your question. Along with tapes, use an electronic tuner, draw a representation of the fingerboard and the finger patterns for the key signature you're learning. Picture in your mind not only where you place your fingers, but also what shape each finger makes. Visualize all this when you focus on finger placement. I think those who worry about such an approach believe that somehow visual learning doesn't get integrated into the desired skill. But just as a pitcher acquires a target visually, then uses an internal visualization to guide proprioception (the feel for the motion of the pitch) we can learn to visualize patterns and shapes and placement of our fingers and arms to find notes on the violin.

So if you find you don't like your intonation, play it again, but resist the urge to correct yourself reflexively. Instead play it wrong and hold it, listening for the 'wrongness.' Look at your fingers, the fingerboard, look in a mirror and internalize the picture of wrongness. Make little adjustments to alignment, posture of the hand, contact points, shapes of fingers, finger patterns, all the while listening, and look again to hear and see the change from wrongness to rightness; listen for the resolution, thereby drawing distinctions in your brain map, connecting the visual to the auditory to the proprioceptive and tactile. Once you've found the correct pitch, repeat everything, but with each repetition visualize internally. Once you've got correct pitch for a note, and can find the exact spot with the correct feel for it, then make many correct repetitions of that note to solidify it.

February 11, 2015 at 03:51 PM · "What's all this about procto-perception anyway?"

I'm sure it has something to do with that dreaded feeling you get when you're not eating enough prunes or something...


I wonder what would've happened to Glen Gould if he had been forbidden to look at his fingers like so many piano students are made to do.

February 11, 2015 at 04:51 PM · It's recommended to not look too closely at the prunes before you eat them.

February 11, 2015 at 08:00 PM · "Adrian, there are real ways to teach good intonation that have students playing in tune, or have them sense poor intonation, in months, but if you stick with the tape method you will not learn these excellent techniques."

Charles, thank you for taking the trouble to offer your opinions, but they just do not correspond to my own teaching experience.

The stickers I use for some students are a very short-term visual "kickstart" for the other processes which you so ably describe. And I don't take "months" to get an awareness of intonation: it comes far sooner than that.

"Tape is not for the inadequacies of the student, but from the inadequacies of the teacher or the method they use."

I relate what I do without assuming it's the only way. This the great value of this discussion board. But my probably numerous "inadequacies" as a teacher certainly do not include the matter of intonation, nor for that matter my "made-to-measure" methods!

February 11, 2015 at 10:23 PM · Greetings,

I am not entirely convinced by the non visual approach either. In order to this one has to have some pretty solid mental schema in place.

perhaps one way of getting some perspective on this is to look at a whole slew of soloists on you tube. Surely those people who have spent as life time creating incredible mental constructs are the most likely to play with their eyes closed? How many of them do?

In a recent RCM master Zuckermna exhorts an incredibly advanced student to 'watch/look at where the bow is. We are doing an incredibly complex thing here...!

I do practice stuff with closed eyes on occasion for the very reasons put forward. But if I am working on basic technique I want to see the string maximally vibrating and the bow staying exactly on the sound point I wish,

I also have a theory that new lovers could put tapes on their bodies but that is another thread.....



February 11, 2015 at 10:34 PM · Wendy O'Williams was famous for her use of electrical tape as part of her "outfit"

February 11, 2015 at 10:43 PM · Perhaps Lady Gaga could take lessons from her.

February 12, 2015 at 01:05 AM · Tapes seem like an okay idea for people just beginning, for the roughest idea of where to place your fingers.

But I don't think they could be accurate enough to be all you need for good intonation. Also, the pitch of the notes change a little bit depending on the context.

Using an electronic tuner helped me a lot, but I think you need to use it correctly. Start by playing something simple, and very slowly. Aim for the next note without questioning yourself too much, and play it. Don't adjust at all. Then you can see if you played it sharp or flat. When you play the interval again, aim a little bit farther or nearer next time. Make sure to get it spot on a few times in a row before moving on.

The next thing that helped me is playing double stops, as it very easy to hear if the two notes are in tune with each other.


The tuner won't give you correct intonation for the context either. But it's a good starting place.

It should be much better and more consistent than tape I think, because your fingers could be touching the tape but still above or below the pitch (because the difference are small).

But more importantly, it makes you use your ears to hear the differences between the correct and incorrect pitches.

February 12, 2015 at 07:44 AM · So tape or no tape?

I'm do it by feeling it. Then after I feel that I am ready, I'll try removing it one by one and see do I remember them or not. If I don't, I'll put them again.

Same thing with shifts. At first, I shift with the feeling of tape and then repractice where to stop and once I felt ready I'll remove them.

February 12, 2015 at 08:16 AM · I often ask my taped, sorry dotted, students to play eyes closed. (My dots are not felt by the fingers.) Angga, you could try that!

And Matthew, it's true that tapes are simply not precise enough for good intonation; in any case, when peering down the fingerboard the perspective makes it a hit-&-miss affair.

Really, tapes are the equivalent of the "footprint" mats used to show fidgety 3-year-olds where to put their feet. But in matters of intonation, we find 3-year-olds at all ages!

But in no way do visual clues prevent the

aural and tactile ones. (In my experience....)

February 12, 2015 at 06:35 PM · Visual fingering aids are extremely effective, as are visual bowing aids. The challenge is using them when they are appropriate, since we need to match the use of instructional materials (including visual aids) to the cognitive ability of student(s).

As a private teacher who usually only has students beyond age 9-10, I don't need them. I have the time in their weekly lessons to approach intonation another way, which I prefer.

However, I'm also a K-12 school ensemble educator who teaches elementary school orchestra with a mixed cohort of 4th and 5th graders who play violin, viola, cello, and bass. We have limited rehearsal time each week and are not really able to do individual one-on-one instruction. Visual aids really make a difference for the majority of the students in teaching them to see, feel, and hear whole and half steps, and develop appropriate bow distribution during their first two years of playing.

February 13, 2015 at 01:22 AM · Great conversation. Hope someone's taping it.

February 13, 2015 at 03:09 AM · I was reading the thread with my eyes closed.

I didn't want to become to reliant on visual aids while reading.

I absorbed all the information through my proctoprecitation.

February 13, 2015 at 04:08 AM · do you have a Braille iPad?

February 13, 2015 at 05:23 AM · If the tapes are going to keep a kid from quitting during the first year out of sheer frustration, then use them.

February 13, 2015 at 02:19 PM · Just a nagging curiosity ....... at what stage of progress is a student expected to be successfully weaned from tapes?

Few months? A year? Other?

February 13, 2015 at 03:22 PM · Until:

- you hear that they are not accurate enough, and

- you manage to adjust without looking.

Could be days or weeks, in known repertore.

February 13, 2015 at 08:38 PM · Personally, I gave up on tapes almost immediately.

I could not figure out how to watch the tapes and the music at the same time.

I've now progressed to the point that I can not watch a clip-on tuner and the music at the same time.

February 13, 2015 at 08:48 PM · Darlene, I think most teachers who use tapes are hoping they can come off in a few months, but learning the violin is a pretty individual thing. Still, when I see students who have tapes and they're playing stuff from Suzuki Book 3, that seems weird to me. Having said that, cello instruction seems somewhat different in this regard. Cello students seem to go higher up on the fingerboard at an earlier stage and something like an octave dot for thumb position may be present well past the raw-beginner stage.

February 14, 2015 at 10:57 AM · Tapes, as opposed to my dots, are sometimes too thick, or covered with scotch tape, and are treated by the teacher almost as frets. Indeed they can disturb the string when playing further behind them. If a student new student arrives with such a mess, I clean it up and use my dots.

The edge of the dot nearest to the bridge gives the tuned note, and the rounded fingertip seems to overlap it. The dots are not to be felt by the finger.

I think the violent opposition to tapes comes partly from their frequently chaotic placement.

If straight tapes are really necessary, it must be clear to the student where the finger should go: behind, on top, or halfway.

February 14, 2015 at 11:59 AM ·

The norm is 1-2 years.

1 or 2 weeks is unheard of.

February 14, 2015 at 12:08 PM · Charles, I always find your posts stimulating and useful, and I like your poem!

But are you sure you can apply your "norm" to other folks work?

An awareness of good intonation can be acquired surprisingly soon; playing in tune reliably is another matter.

February 20, 2015 at 10:02 AM ·

-playing in tune reliably is another matter.-

If they can hear poor intonation, then it is usually speed that limits them or incorrect pieces that are beyond their level.

Poor proprioception(inability to control or sense muscle movement without vision) with young students (ages 9-13) will cause poor intonation. I had two students with this, they were able to pitch match, but their intonation was very inconsistent.

A video on a description of proprioception and how to recognize students with poor proprioception:

February 20, 2015 at 10:58 AM · Buri, your suggestion that they could be useful in class teaching is interesting - I don't remember ever hearing anything from my father about such tapes, and he started, organized and taught in, and was responsible for the stock of (though in due course he was able to recruit a friend to take over this responsibility, especially the maintenance of the instruments) a Schools Stringed Instruments Scheme for over thirty years. I would think that the amount of time spent on putting such tapes on each instrument in a class would make it a non-starter. And getting those fingerboards clean afterwards ... (!!!)

Charles, have you set your poem to music, preferably out-of-tune music?

February 20, 2015 at 11:14 AM · Charles, I agree with all that (!) and thanks for the link (which leads us to other links).

I have learned a lot from a conference with a psycho-motrician, as well as from a physiotherapist friend. I should love to watch an ortophonist at work..

Speed and repertoire are certainly causes of bad intonation, and so are lack of well structured practice, and plain physical and cerebral immaturity.

I do find that folks of all ages vary enormously in their intrinsic learning sequencies: in some, including myself, the visual "trigger" is usual; in others it is a tiresome distraction. But all must pass from "audio-visual" to "audio-tactile".

February 21, 2015 at 04:40 PM · I am conducting an informal survey about the transition from "newbie" to perhaps a Shar intermediate class and I would appreciate your brief definition for "audio visual" and "audio tactile".

February 21, 2015 at 05:05 PM · I was trying to be succinct!

Audio-Visual: what we learn from watching our teacher, videos,..and ourselves: bow contact point, finger placement (w/wo tapes!) etc. etc..


Audio-Tactile, (or Audio-Kinetic?) to replace the propiothingummy which I can't spell. Straight from the ear to touch and motion. Four-octave arpeggios with our eyes shut?

Both of these do involve knowing the sounds in one's head before playing them, and while playing them. Sometimes calles Audiation (I would prefer Auralisation (with a Z for across the Pond) to rhyme with Vocalisation, Visualisation.

February 21, 2015 at 06:05 PM · If I understand your explanation, I would have to disagree to a certain extent.

I think that the printed note(s) and/or pitch (note) recognition are simply different but related means of defining a specific location on the fingerboard.

My main confusion at the moment is that I have a hard time playing a tune if I don't know the melody but I never deliberately trained for fingerboard pitch location.

I see regular training tapes as not much different from other means of fingerboard "navigation".

February 21, 2015 at 06:57 PM · Like everyone else, I can only say what I do, or what I observe (or guess) in others.

The written note can evoke

- note names, intervals;

- places on the fingerboard, taped or not;

- imagined sounds, as in "knowing the melody".

If the real sounds don't match the anticipated sounds, the fingers make hopefully minute adjustments. When playing one note, I am anticipating the next: not "hearing" it, but some how "knowing" it.

Playing from memory:

I know one colleague who "reads" a photographic memory of the score: her playing sounds like that of a fantastic sight-reader.

Most of us lesser mortals forget about scores (and tapes) and wallow in sound and sensation.

Personally, I like to see what I'm doing (fingerboard & contact point), and where I'm going next (quick glance at the score), but ideally I can do it in the dark (like blowing my nose or walking round the furniture with intact shins).

So, tapes and proper practice get me exremely near the right pitch, then aural anticipation guides the fingertips the last, vital, millimetre.


February 21, 2015 at 08:21 PM · I have never seen the fingerboard while playing because I really need to be looking ahead at the music. I don't know if that is a good or bad habit.

Actually, I think we are in basic agreement on this original thread topic.

Just out of curiosity I checked to see if I could recognize the fingerboard notes looking from the scroll end. Mission impossible !!

February 21, 2015 at 09:52 PM · My French students can't get their eyes off the page: it's a bit like looking at the SatNav and never at the road. The music is what we do and hear. A quick glance at the page for reassurance.

Provided we know the melody!

February 22, 2015 at 12:51 AM · Assuming that the violinist is advanced to the point that most of the complexities of playing/reading become only a subroutine in the scheme of things.

I am working on the problem of focus right now. My biggest obstacle to being a much improved player.

February 22, 2015 at 04:25 AM · I think what Adrian said is spot on.


I would experiment with taking bite-sized portions of music and seeing if you can't do more with them when you aren't reading the music.

February 22, 2015 at 11:49 AM · ..yes, "chunking", not letting the eye be too far ahead of the ear.

I should also spend more time playing scales and known tunes by ear only, like a folk fiddler.

Then go from simple scales to simple arpeggios: more scrambly/gropy.

Try transposing the known tunes by shifting.

All this will imrove youactual playing more than reading new stuff.

February 22, 2015 at 05:11 PM · I closely watch the printed notes but not entirely for the sake of melody.

My main concern is position. Where should my left elbow be? Do I have a string change? Do I want to pick off a fingered "A" or open? Is there a special bow instruction? And more!

Why all this? The most common case when I lose control of a piece is when I find myself in the wrong place doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

This said, the music is "easy". The violin plays by itself if I'm doing my job.

February 22, 2015 at 06:31 PM · I do elegant "slow-motion" practice ( but poor tone), followed by jerky "frame by frame" practice" (w/wo tapes,); all to "programme" the motions with precision. So slowly that my attention can switch back & forth From page to fiddle to gestures with zero errors. Even if it's one note per minute, we will at least be repeating something correct!

Then I speed up without the page...

Short sections, though, as Mathew said.

Edit. And for those students whose eyes are stuck to the page, I have a multitude of little signs for raised finger (number crossed out), extended or curled finger (various arrows), finger prepared during the preceding note(number in brackets), elbow swings etc. When a few notes are surrounded by these signs, we have to stop to see why, and only continue when the instructions are felt in the fingers, and appreciated aurally. i never just add an arrow for intonation, there is always a physical reason added to the distracion, or to lack of awareness.

May 4, 2016 at 08:09 AM · Well this discussion of tape usage appears less 'passionate' than previous versions. I am a new student, as in 7 months, with an instructor who prefers I use tapes. I began with three strands and as they eventually got loose I removed them one at a time, and today I took off my last strand. She would prefer that I keep then on, though I just don't want them on there anymore. Ego perhaps! I possess no special hearing ability, though I do know from repeated practice where to land my index finger on the D string for the E note in mostly a mechanical sense. It helps that one of my favorite tunes begins here so I know pretty closely how it should sound. I may also use a tiny tuner clipped on the body for reassurance, but that will eventually go away too. For now I don't want to get into the habit of listening to an incorrect tone, and committing that to my memory.

A few guides that have really helped me, which I have no idea if this is true for all violins, but on the A string, when I play the E note, it rings the E string pretty strongly. That is a good sound to hear! Also when I play on the E string, and play the note G, it really gets loud, so I always know I am in the right place with at least those two notes.

Reading music is no problem for the most part. Exact finger placement is the hard part. I am not good at determining if I am a bit high or low on specific notes by sound alone, though if it is a piece I recognize, at least I can mostly tell if my finger is in the right position. I'll get there eventually I hope. The violin is a beautiful instrument I wish I had started courting earlier in life, but here we are, and we have to make our relationship work. We are in this for the long haul.

May 4, 2016 at 03:17 PM · Even shoulder-rest threads have been more polite recently. I find everyone is right - except those who lay down the law.

Two details:

- I feel strongly that tapes or dots should not be thick enough to be felt by the fingers, only observed visually while setting up the hand;

- while I do not ask complete beginners to use the fourth finger, we spend a few minutes placing it in a proper curved shape to etablish the perfect-fourth "frame": in slender hands, the index may well be leaning back. I use three dots, for 1st, 3rd and 4th fingers.

May 4, 2016 at 03:45 PM ·

Bush and Chaney,LOL. Now we have Hillary and Trump...

May 4, 2016 at 04:58 PM · ..which makes us Brits feel so smug! (Though we do have Borris Johnson)

Charles, I meant everybody here is right. Several ways, not a multitude.

We need all the elements you mention in your posts and blogs, but the best learning sequence is surprisingly individual. If I see (hear) talent, great! If I don't, it is my duty (and pleasure) to seek it out.

May 5, 2016 at 11:20 PM · You don't Philip, but when you were a baby (if you've ever watched babies) it took a while to hone the method.

May 6, 2016 at 02:10 AM · It would be interesting to see where and when the idea of finger tapes originated. My hunch is that they are a relatively new and unnecessary invention.

May 6, 2016 at 06:27 AM · "It would be interesting to see where and when the idea of finger tapes originated." Probably sheer jealosy of players of viols, lutes, sitars, guitars etc. (but I admit not sarangis or ouds).

May 6, 2016 at 04:28 PM · When I was in the 7th. grade, I started violin in school. Back then in the 60s, we never saw tape. We were given an A from a tuning fork and had to go from there. Now that I've started up with the violin again, I got tape put on the old violin by the new (and young) instructor. I must say he has helped. After about six weeks playing, I had to take the old violin into have the pegs repaired: I got a loner. I didn't use tape on the loner and was able to do find without it. I guess there are good points for both ways, with or without. I still have the tapes on my violin for now but am considering talking to my instructor about taking them off. I feel the tape helped me for the first few weeks, until I could tell by ear if I was out of tune or not.

May 6, 2016 at 10:09 PM · I agree withCharles Cook! And, Edwin Gordon!

The visual brain will take over! Playing by numbers was invented for amateurs. When we use tapes we are diluting the possibility of a professional level of performance. Do we have the right to make this decision for the student?

May 7, 2016 at 02:29 AM · I play the guitar, other than violin. Guitar players are pretty much "pampered" by the frets, PLUS dot-markers to indicate 3rd, 5th, 7th and 12th frets.

Being a beginner, I do avoid tapes to improve my ear, with the help of a tuner. Having said that, I do put a 'dot-marker' on the fretboard at the heel position for minimal help. Well, I feel it is a matter of how much learning stress vs enjoyment we want in our practise sessions.

May 7, 2016 at 03:20 AM · My opinion:

As a teacher, I think it depends on some "qualities" of my new students, such as:

1. If they have any other instrumental training, i.e. can they already read music

2. How well are their ears

3. How firm can their fingers be

If they already are learning, or learned other instruments previous, and can read music, that means they won't take much time to understand what notes they need to play, unlike "totally" fresh student when they can't read music, they may need to concentrate more and think longer about what notes need to be played at certain bar/time.

Also, if they have good ears, then obviously I won't use tape on their new student instrument.

And, if they have firm fingers, together with a pair of good ears that should make the progress much easier. However, if their fingers are kinda fragile, even if they could place on the exact spot, the intonation may vary if they can't hold on. So a tape would be a good idea to show them how far away their fingers are.

May 7, 2016 at 08:50 AM · I can't believe this unreasoned arrogance! OK, Heifetz didn't use tapes, but what about those who are not Heifetz? I am not going to let any beginner flounder finding his or her notes between lessons. Music is too important. And life is already too short to inflict our petty prejudices on eager students.

It is quite simply not true that using visual clues prevents the audio-kinetic ones taking over. For many folk, visual clues are a valid support for the musical ones. Over 40 years teaching has taught me that minds and ears are as varied as faces, and it is my duty to give every student what he or she needs at a given time.

Do we "have the right" to complicate access for music to those who do not fit into our personal schemes. Who do we think we are?

May 7, 2016 at 01:52 PM · I really don't understand where arguments like "When we use tapes we are diluting the possibility of a professional level of performance." are coming from. Many professionals, including myself, started with the help of tapes as children. It's also not uncommon for professionals to create their own "tapes" by marking the fingerboard with a pencil for shifts or notes they're having trouble finding. Paul Katz is fairly well known for doing this, but I've also seen many players both in my own and in other orchestras doing this on occasion.

May 7, 2016 at 03:08 PM · Philip,

How do you know what Vivaldi did or didn't do in his lessons?

Pilots have people's live in their hands. Violin teachers do not. And cars can be driven with glasses.

Tapes, or my dots, are not to improve the violin, but, as a short term aid to help start playing it for those whose musical ear and hands are not yet formed. All students deserve our personalised help to go beyond their weaknesses.

A student's time does not belong to the teacher: we have absolutely no right to lengthen their apprenticeship to suit our own pre-conceptions.

Of course I can teach without them - to those who never need them.

I hardly ever get stroppy, but if there is one thing I can't stand, it's intolerance!!

(And ill-informed fallacious reasoning..)

May 7, 2016 at 03:22 PM · Oops!

May 7, 2016 at 05:01 PM · Fair enough! In my 30's I knew everything: in my 60's I know more, because I'm still learning. My firmest convictions are the fruit of experience.

Music is sacred; so are children. The violin is the practical link btween the two.

"I believe the extra time if needed without tape builds better cordinative and mental foundation and worth it." But have you tried both ways? I still do...

Humour is a great remedy for high blood pressure!

May 7, 2016 at 07:08 PM · As far as group beginning instruction without tape, I have seen it done. I started playing in a public school program, where my entire class started with tapes, but we were free to remove them when we no longer wanted them. I took mine off after a couple of weeks, and thereafter, tape removal was contagious. A few weeks later most of the class had taken theirs off, and by the end of the year, only one person still had them, and she ended up repeating the class. Generally, students in that program were tape less by the second year. My teacher was very flexible about the tape situation, because she and some of her classmates had learned without them from the very beginning when they had started off in school.

May 10, 2016 at 08:59 PM · And so the passion of tape vs no tape is back. In a way, I'm glad, though I am not unhappy I used tape to get me started. It was a tremendous help and who knows, I may not have stayed with the instrument for this long if I didn't use a 'crutch' to get me started. Musicians (and artists in general) can be some of the most judgmental people I have ever met, and this coming from an engineer whose career is filled with people who are quite self-assured. It is insightful that a few comments would lead me to believe that a few would be just fine if a person either learned without tape or never learned at all.

As for the story of the great masters not using tape, I had an experience with a colleague during lunch. He is Vietnamese and when we ordered lunch he asked for two forks. I started to eat with chopsticks, and he stopped me and said...they invented a better tool. Why don't you use it!

May 11, 2016 at 04:53 PM · When I was learning to type, I notice that a lot of the letters were in the wrong spot. Like most I was learning on a "qwerty" keyboard, and this was a dumb way to type. I found out through google search that the QWERTY keyboard was design for the salesman so they can spell 'typewriter' easily. I learned on Dvorak keyboard instead. This is the type of person I am: I question something that doesn't seem right; then find a answer to it.

Nullius in Verba - question everything or take nobody's word for it.

Helen is very correct. The goal should be to strengthen the mind not use "dumb them down" techniques that weaken the musical mind or that focus on the wrong area of the mind (eye-hand coordination).

The goal here isn't to change other teachers minds, but to inform new teachers that this is a bad idea and it becomes a crutch for the teacher as well as a crutch for the student. We should be informing new teachers on how to teach intonation, instead of showing them silly techniques that slow or stops a students progress.

May 11, 2016 at 05:48 PM · Charles and Helen, for goodness sake, using such aids may dumb down your minds, but they certainly don't dumb down mine or my students'. If you don't know how to use them properly, so be it, but try to learn from those who do know! (As I do all the time..)

Your apparent arrogance completely masks your considerable wisdom.

May 11, 2016 at 05:48 PM · Oops!

May 12, 2016 at 08:24 AM · To be quite clear, I don't use tapes, but I often put three flat, BLACK dots, usually B & E on the A-string, and G on the D-string, to be checked before playing (not during), to set the fingers. In a matter of weeks, most of my students are spontaneously making the small adjustment to fine-tune the notes.

So my "silly techniques" are actually accelerating proprioception. The visual brain does not "take over", because I don't let it!

May 13, 2016 at 07:15 AM · "K let's do forks vs chopsticks,Ford vs Chevy is dead! :-)

In fact some said Paganini practiced with chopstics, all I know is if he were alive today, he would go to a restaurant in a Lambo!"

I love that Philip!

Well I can say with certainty that the tapes helped me get started. I am also very happy they are gone, so I can't imagine telling someone no. Seems silly to me, but then again I am just a guy trying to learn a thing.

May 13, 2016 at 01:35 PM · I used tapes until almost the end of my first year playing. Try taking the tapes off, and use a tuner A LOT. Play a note and then play it off your tuner and see how in tune you were. It takes a while to get used to playing without tapes, especially when shifting.

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