Finger position with no stickers and books

November 9, 2017, 10:19 AM · Hello,

I'm a 27 year old adult learner, I've been playing for 2 months now, and am working with a teacher.

I've been working from "A Tune A Day" book 1 by C. Paul Herfurth.

I'm just starting to get to the lessons where I'm moving from open strings to first finger position. During lessons when I'm trying to find the correct place my teacher will play the note I'm looking for either on her violin or the piano.

However I don't have that available to me when I'm at home, and my teacher is fairly adamant that I don't use stickers. So my first question is any advice on how to go about training my ear and finding the correct finger position when I practice at home?

Secondly I'd like to ask about books, I only have the one book and i'm thinking about getting others. I'm looking to learn fiddle playing, specifically English, Irish and Scottish, that kind of thing.

At this stage I'm not too concerned with the music I'm playing, though I'd prefer folk, but I'm more concerned about practising my music reading and technique. Can anyone recommend any good books which start right at the basics that I can go through and solidify my knowledge, perhaps pick up on anything I might have missed?

Thanks in advance,

Replies (17)

November 9, 2017, 10:56 AM · For something a little less classical, you might try Mark O' Connor. I have never used it, so I have no idea how good it is. Additionally, some guitar shops have some transcriptions of all kinds of stuff for random instruments.

As for tapes, they give you a visual idea of where to put your finger, and if placed accurately, and potentially reinforce intonation. That said, they should come off pretty quickly, since they can become a crutch. Whether you actually need them really depends on the person. I did not, took them off almost immediately against my teacher's wishes, and surprised her with my ability to adjust the intonation. Some others in my beginners group class used them for about two years, and there was everything in between. There was even a girl in my precollege program at Colburn playing the hardest repertoire, who used one tape for a note way up on the finger board, though I would suggest you not be like her.

If your teacher cannot adapt to your needs, I would suggest finding another.

November 9, 2017, 10:57 AM · I didn't want to become dependent on the stickers so I opted to learn without them. I found if I could get the first note in pitch, the rest of the song tended to fall in line since based on that pitch and knowing the key. After awhile it becomes muscle memory to get the right positions.

Playing fast sometimes still throws me off a bit. I know something isn't right.Probably the most difficult for me so far is the sharps.

I'm still learning at a bit past my second year and looking back I am glad I didn't depend on the stickers.

I'm sure others here who teach have good recommendations for learning materials. Scales help .....or you could get a violin with frets.
*ducks and runs*. I don't recommend that. Makes slides impossible.

Mostly I think it just takes practice and time to learn those positions.
Maybe some here can comment on this as well- Since most beginners learn first positions, is it easier to learn second and third positions as you go? I find that learning those second positions later on still has me wanting to play 1st position.

November 9, 2017, 11:35 AM · Download the app "Da Tuner Lite" for your phone. It displays the note you are playing in large, color-coded letters. So you get instant feedback on your intonation.

A method is to drop your finger onto the string where you think it should be and observe how close you got with the phone app. If a little flat, then raise the finger and drop it a bit higher on the string, or lower if you were a bit sharp.

November 9, 2017, 11:46 AM · The reason you play familiar tunes like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or "Twinkle Twinkle" or "Lightly Row" is because you know what they should sound like. Record yourself playing these tunes -- once you work up to them -- and listen to the recording. You'll know if your C# is not high enough, etc. What might be hard for you now is knowing that while you're playing which is, obviously, a critical skill but for some, one that must be learned.

Please be patient with yourself. Learn first position very well before you shift to third. In the Suzuki program, the first shifts into third position do not occur until Book 3.

November 9, 2017, 11:57 AM · Thanks for the replies, the tuner app seems to have been a very good idea. I'm at least able to hit something that sounds right using it as a very rough reference.

And of course as frustrating as it is I will be give myself time to pick this all up. I'll try recording myself as well as trying to find these tunes first, that way I can tell where I'm going wrong.

November 9, 2017, 12:53 PM · You may want to search this site for similar threads, as there's a gazillion topics related/about this.
November 9, 2017, 3:38 PM · Teachers have all sorts of opinions about stickers (well actually, either "good" or "bad'.....).
I'll just say that it really depends on the student themselves. Some need them, and some don't. Some need them longer, and some for a shorter time. We vary tremendously in our sensitivity to violin intonation.
November 9, 2017, 3:52 PM · Scott is right on the ball. Personally, I would go without by default unless the violin happens to come with stickers already on them.
November 9, 2017, 6:07 PM · The idea of the tuner is a good idea. I use it, even with the tape, since it may take a micro movement higher or lower to get the note on the money.
November 10, 2017, 9:33 AM · Try not to obsess too much over getting the note precisely in tune with the tuner. This gets into an involved discussion about scale "temperaments" and "expressive" playing which might be too much information for you at this point in your violin playing. You can do a search on this forum to read many great discussions about this.

Check the settings on your tuner/app and see if it let you specify the in-tune range for a note. If you have sensitive and well-trained ears, you might detect a difference of 4 cents. So +/- 4cents will get the tuner to say you are "in-tune" and the note will sound good.

Some tuners allow the selection of a temperament. The default is Equal Temperament, aka Piano Tuning. One that is more appropriate for a violin, Pythagorean or one of the Just temperaments, can introduce problems when playing scales. This is because the frequency of the notes are more appropriately a function of the scale you are playing. But the tuner makes these temperaments relative to the key of A Major.

I suggest you stick to Piano Tuning with your tuner. When you get to the point where you can play an Equal Temperament scale in tune with ease, you can think about playing in one of the other more expressive temperaments.

To give you a taste of this, slowly play a one octave D Major scale on the D and A strings. This uses the same fingering pattern on both the strings. Get it in tune with the piano tuning of the tuner.

Now repeat, but this time deliberately stretch the 2nd finger note so that it will land closer to where you would place your third finger. This is called tightening or sharpening the half steps (F# closer to G, and C# closer to D). Many consider this to give a more singing quality to the scale.

Edited: November 10, 2017, 9:49 AM ·
The best place for tape is on a hockey stick, a violin is not a hockey stick. Your teacher gets a goal.

A tuner can help with intonation, but it is important that it is used correctly. O on a tuner is rarely in tune for us. With the aid of a tuner we want to go 10-15 cents above 0, then 0, then 10-15 cents below 0 with a note. Do this once with the aid of the tuner, then 2-3 times without it. Over time this practice will aid in discerning if a note is in tune or not.

Edited: November 10, 2017, 11:00 AM · I am not opposed to using tapes as markers for beginning students. But I taught I would start students without the tapes. When I started the violin 79 years ago there was no Suzuki program in the USA and I do not recall ever having tapes on my violin. But I do recall that the first piece I was taught was "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," just as it now is with the Suzuki books (and program).

If you can learn how to place your first 3 fingers based on intonation of a familiar song, "muscle memory" will eventually develop the skill you need. When teaching I moved to using the Suzuki books as soon as I discovered them about 10 years after I started teaching. I found that adults who started violin with prior singing experience did not need tapes, but pianists did. You cannot really see a tape when you are playing and you can't really feel it properly either - if your senses detect the tape you are doing things that will affect your ability to develop proper technique, so the tape is only a way to help you get accustomed to the "feel of your fingers" in relation to each other in only one possible orientation.

I also found the Suzuki approach that started the students only playing on the A and E strings built skills faster than approaches that have them working over all 4 strings from the beginning. Using Suzuki does not prevent a teacher from using many other sources in their teaching program. I enjoyed slipping in "Devil's Dream" fairly early - it has the same range as nots as "Twinkle," kids and adults all got a great sense of accomplishment from playing it - although some religiously inclined parents objected to the name.

November 10, 2017, 10:52 AM · @Fred I've been learning violin for 14 months. I use the book 'Eta Cohen' and it has the sort of music pieces you're looking for.

As far as getting the notes right is concerned, I tune my violin, and then play a particular note (say F#), I continue to play the same note with slow bowing for as long as 10 mins and it gets registered in my head.
I carry out the same exercise for each note that I get wrong. I Play the same note for a while and my ears get attuned to it. I'm then able to easily identify if the note is in tune or not. It sounds boring and dull, but it does wonders.
Never again do get the intonation of that particular note wrong.

November 11, 2017, 4:18 AM · "Secondly I'd like to ask about books, I only have the one book and i'm thinking about getting others. I'm looking to learn fiddle playing, specifically English, Irish and Scottish, that kind of thing."

Fiddle music is from aural traditions and is best learned by ear by listening to good players from those traditions. Youtube, CDs, etc can help with this if geography is a barrier.

Edited: November 11, 2017, 6:31 AM · For information on Irish music and the necessary ornamentation I suggest visiting and doing a search for books. Also visit the tune section to get Fiddle tunes in standard notation.
November 11, 2017, 6:55 AM ·
The most important notes in most beginner pieces are the first 3-4. We need to get these correct first and then the others will more likely be in tune.
Drop your left hand to your waist, and then bring it back up to the first note.Focus a lot on proper finger height,A LOT! and proper intonation, then play only the next 2or3 notes. STOP!! Repeat this 3 -6 times. Now you are ready to play the rest of the piece.

November 12, 2017, 4:39 AM · Thanks for all the great suggestions. I'm a native of London so geography isn't a barrier at all for listening to music from the British isles. I do try and go to see people playing as often as I can.

I think i'll carry on using the app as a rough guide of when I'm in the right place, and definitely more long slow bows, good for sound and bow positioning generally (not hitting the wrong string as much as I used to thankfully)

Scales from what I see are perhaps a bit beyond me for the moment. I'm 8 lessons into my current book and first finger is only now being introduced, its all been open strings up till now, but of course I'll stick with it.

I think i'll get hold of the Suzuki book one, I see a fair few folk pieces in the beginning, and anything it can give me about basics generally will be good for reinforcement of knowledge.

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