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I have been doing some research on the violin for a good bit now and I have a question that I keep getting different answers for. I notice in some videos that people have stickers on their fingerboard marking the notes. I also watched a few videos where people say to not even bother using them as you'll learn to play by ear. I have two questions regarding this subject.
1. Why or why not should I use fingerboard stickers in the beginning?
2. If I choose to use the stickers, could I possibly become dependent on them or will it affect my learning process in any way?
I was wondering about dependency as it kind of reminds me of when I was young in school. I knew I could do math without my fingers, however, at a certain age, the teachers taught us finger tricks for multiplication and over time I became dependent on using my fingers for math. I wouldn't want that to be the case with the violin stickers. Perhaps it is an entirely different situation.
Thank you in advance!
For myself, I didn't want a crutch, and knew I'd be able to hear if I was playing in tune, so opted to skip them. It sounds like you don't want to end up stuck relying on a crutch, either, so I would suggest skipping the tapes and listening to your notes. If you end up feeling like you need them, you can always add them on later 🙂
On a journey to learn the fiddle since July 24, 2015
It's not so much a 'dependency', but rather something that will keep you 'lazy' and hold you back..
Even if you start with stickers.. that's perfectly fine, but the only reason you would want to use them if you really really cannot tell the difference between higher and lower pitch, like.. if you have absolutely zero musical talents.. In that case yes, it would give you a head-start as opposed to 'nothing' to rely on, though you would want to remove them as soon as possible and try to give some work to your ears based on what you remembered from the stickers.. In fact if it was me really really needing stickers.. I'd probably wouldn't even stick it on, since first of all it kind of ruins the look of the violin and secondly I could just hold it up against the fingerboard and look at it for a bit sort of like a 'quick-guide' and would still try to press down on my own afterwards.
But if you have listened to enough music.. maybe even tried singing from now and then.. then you simply don't need that and you will be able to work on your intonation from the get go. It's amazing how fast your ears will adapt to be able to tell that you're out of tune.
You should be able to learn really fast without them so my advice is to try it without stickers and if after a couple of weeks you really feel like you NEED them, then sure.. get one, but try to rely on it as little as possible. Otherwise, like I said.. it's not so much dependency, it's more of a... 'your brain doesn't need to learn intonation since there's a sticker and it can be lazy'.. - but this doesn't mean you won't be able to learn it afterwards and become dependent on it.. you will be more like.. postponing something that you could practice right now alongside everything else you learn.
I'm in the 'no tapes/stickers' group. When I first started out it was incredibly tempting because I wasn't that musically inclined but I watched some videos from Fiddlerman (that's also how I found this site years ago). He recommended not to use finger tapes/stickers because we are perfectly able to learn without them by learning what the correct note sounds like. It's slow and painful to start but once you have the basic first positions down you (or at least me) seem to progress rather rapidly when learning to shift to other positions since the pitch of the note has been memorized by thoughtful repetition....if that makes sense.
So to answer your questions most people are completely able to learn the notes without finger tapes, especially an adult or teenager that's starting out. It's just hard not to 'cheat' the system a bit and put on tapes. I feel I learned it better and more accurately by ear then I would have by tapes. I've known a few people who became rather dependent on the tapes and used them for a visual marker instead of an audio one and essentially had to re-learn the notes further down the road when they didn't want to be seen with tapes on anymore.
So I guess it depends on your personality and if you find yourself using the 'easy' way to often and not the correct way then I'd at least start out with no tapes. Try it for a month or two (and trust me stick it out for a month or two of solid practice before you decide) and if you just feel like you're completely stuck then you can put on stickers. You may be amazed at how well you can learn them once you get going.
Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!
~General George S. Patton
I don't think there's any shame in using them, but make sure you have them positioned correctly if you do choose use them. I used them when I first started and I don't think they hindered me at all. I just progressively began to remove them as I built confidence. If you want to minimize your dependence on them, you could just use one each for the first and third fingers. Having said that, I don't think they're necessary at all to learn effectively, even on your own. They can help give you a visual cue to build up your muscle memory and and your ear for the notes.
I think that violin is one of those instruments that you can learn pretty quickly where to place your fingers for the best sound, or at least learn where not to put them! My first violin already had a sheet on it when I got it on eBay, so I did learn with the placement guide for about a month because I was afraid it would leave sticky residue if I took it off. (It didn't.) I found that the placement guides at first were extremely distracting. I also taught myself poor posture because I wanted to pull the violin down towards my front so I could see what line I was touching for which note. (Plus I was used to playing guitar so I felt like I needed to feel the fret rather than just see a little line.). On the other hand, though, once I corrected my posture and I started to play without it, I found that I had built up muscle memory in my fingers so I was able to play pretty accurately without it. I did miss it for a couple of days, but then I was just happy it was gone because it wasn't distracting me anymore. So while it can have the potential to help, I think it's more worthwhile to just go for it without the placement guides, especially if you're already playing.
Since I have zero musical background (and a tin ear as per my wife), I added tapes. In the beginning I used them to place my fingers to insure I had a good frame. Now I place my fingers by feel (eyes closed so I don't cheat 🙂 ), check via ring tones (B and D on the A string) and 'most' times get it correct. If I don't get the ring I then peek at the tapes and replace my fingers (do not get in the habit of sliding into tone at this point, it just teaches your fingers wrong). When playing I never (well almost never) look at my fingers or tapes.
Use them at first to get the right 'feel', but do not rely on them as a crutch.
Edited for spelin, wat else 🙁
Journey began on Aug 3 2017
I only have one small tape at the 3rd finger position. I don't always use it. Sometimes for grins I play with my eyes closed and do pretty well. So I guess I don't really need it. It is nice though for me right now when playing something that starts with a note using that finger. Yes I'll remove it eventually. No hurry. I don't see that it is holding me back since my teacher says my intonation with the 1st and 2nd fingers is very good considering how long I've played and the 4th finger is better than average.
I would never use those full or half fingerboard templates. I actually bought one when I started and when I put it in place - without sticking it on - I realized it would be distracting, to me at least. I threw it away.
To me, it all hinges on how good your musical ear is. If you can sing/hum in tune, and know what a major scale sounds like, I'd recommend going without the tapes. If you play the first 4 or 5 notes (5 if you're going to use the little finger too, which I recommend - it's a useful beastie) of the major scale, starting with the open string, you'll be able to hear right away whether you're getting it right or not.
It took me 2 or 3 days to be getting things reasonably close to right. It unfortunately has taken a lot longer to get them dead on, every time, regardless of what I played right before it. (I'm not there yet, as a matter of fact.)
Tapes will only help that so much. What looks like an easy and obvious demarcation of a location from straight above it is a lot harder to see from the steep angle you're at when you're playing.
If you can't sing in tune and/or have no idea what a major scale sounds like, you probably do need them as a crutch starting out.
The biggest way it will affect your learning (negatively) is that it will teach you to look to see if you're playing the right note, instead of listening. If you're going to be looking at the violin at all (a large chunk of the time you want to be looking at music), you're better off watching your bowing.
A good exercise: play that first 4 or 5 notes (and back down) with your eyes closed. If the sound goes horrible, open your eyes and see where your bow went. Then close your eyes and do it again. That will train you to use muscle memory and sound to tell you how to move. Every once in a while, do it in front of a mirror, watching the mirror, rather than the violin. (That's to take care of the bow waving from side to side, even if the end result stays near the same place.)
Wow! You all helped a lot. It was great to see everyone's opinions and experiences with fingerboard stickers. I think I will choose to not use them in the beginning. I have never played an instrument but I have always been into singing since I was very young. Every singing program my school ever had, I always joined so I am pretty good at picking up when something isn't in tune. Hopefully, that gives me an advantage in the beginning.
I thank you all again for the help. You have helped me make my mind up regarding note stickers.
Awesome! 🙂 I think you'll be pleasantly surprised then. Prior to receiving my violin I was watching some of those online violin tutor youtube videos by Alison Sparrow and she always likes scaring people in regards to how hard the violin is and how bad beginners are and how good she is, because of all the experience she has.. and so on and so forth.. (pun intended) So she said she always uses those 2 dots on the fingerboards of students, because it's easier that way...
Well, I had a white sticker so I cut two dots out for myself, while awaiting my violin.. Figured I'll be all ready and prepared... but I never actually applied them, since as soon as I held the violin in my hands for the first time.. I tried finding the first 3 fingers by myself and it was fairly easy so I'm guessing you won't need anything either.
Ferenc Simon said
Prior to receiving my violin I was watching some of those online violin tutor youtube videos by Alison Sparrow and she always likes scaring people in regards to how hard the violin is and how bad beginners are and how good she is, because of all the experience she has..
Haha, I'm glad I'm not the only one that got that impression from her videos lol.
On a journey to learn the fiddle since July 24, 2015
Oh dear, poor Allison :p
I don't think that's her goal. I think it is more about managing expectations. Like don't be discouraged by someone who sounds amazing when you're just starting out because they've probably been playing for years and years. You're seeing the end product, not the moments of frustration and hardship that go along with mastering any instrument. I didn't realize how challenging the violin could be before I started, but now I have a healthy respect for it. Understanding that it does take many years to reach that level of proficiency has helped me with that. It's also helped me be patient with myself when I'm not able to do all the things I'd like to do with the instrument.
Nah 🙂 We're just being silly. Alison is a great violinist and no one can take that away from her 😀 We were just joking with Mandy, pointing out that she can sometimes come across as trying to rub it in our faces haha, but I'm sure she has all the right intentions behind it.
And even though her teaching may be criticized from time to time, like the sideways vibrato she teaches (even though she sometimes uses the proper back and forth version when playing), that's the beauty of the internet.. you can have an endless amount of teachers and try to use your best judgement to filter through the information from each of them and see what will work for you. At the end of the day every single person who ever made a video or blog post or anything with the intention of sharing free knowledge has my respect! 🙂
(That escalated quickly.. from stickers to Alison lol)
Haha, nah, I think she means it as more of a "don't feel discouraged, I've been playing a long time so it looks easy for me" kind of way, I just find it funny.
On a journey to learn the fiddle since July 24, 2015
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