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Yes, this is common.
I developed this bad habit early on. I suppose it was a combination of trying to learn the fingering, trying to get used to the violin, the application of fingering tape, and just not working as hard as I should have to keep my eyes on the music.
It still plagues me to this day, although it is getting better. There is no magic trick to correcting this habit. It is a matter of deliberately and intentionally reading and playing so that you are more and more able to play without looking at the fingerboard.
The problem, and why this is a bad habit, is that we don't always memorize. I am very aware that when I start in orchestra that I will need to read the music, watch the conductor and keep on time. Trying to watch the fingerboard will just slow me down and be a hindrance. It is one of the topics I will discuss in my orchestra experiences posts.
So I work at it all the time. I need to be able to play entirely by muscle memory. This is one of my goals.
- Pete -
My glasses I got for music reading last year are not quite strong enough now. I find myself leaning forward to read some notes. I need t get them replaced. I have to wait until I get my bifocals replaced. They did not need replacing this summer when I had my eyes checked. This mid-range is an issue.
I cannot tell you how many times I have mistakenly read a C on the staff when in fact it was a B. I have aging eyes as well.
My cello instructor gave me a good tip our first lesson. He said he always has his music stand raised higher than really needed for cello because it makes him sit up straight to look at the music. I did that, and it really does! My other instructors always had the stands lower.
That is probably good for posture as well as reading.
- Pete -
Interestingly, I have the opposite tendency. If I'm playing from the music, I have fewer intonation errors than when playing from memory or playing by ear. This is probably because I don't have to think about what the next note is, and because I can see the intervals on the page. It probably comes with experience reading music.
As for stand height, in orchestras I tend to raise it as high as my stand partner is comfortable with, so that my focus doesn't have to jump back and forth over a large angle between the conductor's baton and the music on my stand.