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Remembering First Finger First Position Without Fingering Tapes
A tip to remember where your first finger first position is when must beginning to go finger tapeless
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cid
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May 22, 2019 - 3:39 pm
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I have a cello lesson today. I took my fingering strips off Belle today. I really was not looking at them that much and when I did, I should have just been going by the reach from finger to finger, just like violin. I thought about it.

I really did not want marks or ghosts of the fingering tapes on the fingerboard when I removed them. Not sure if that would happen with this better cello, but did not want to risk it. I decided to take them off except for the two I had just put on last week for the E and F on the A string. I am glad I removed the ones that were on for a while. The tapes are actually sticking much more securely on this new cello. I had to really work on it to get them off. 

I have been practicing for about 2 hours sans fingering tapes. It was not too bad. I can tell where the first finger note is fairly easy and am using stretch memory for the other fingers. 

I use the relationship of the cello and first finger to my shoulder for that first finger. My end peg is pulled out the same distance each time, so the first finger position is always the same. The angle of my cello is always the same, also. 

I do get off sometimes but am able to actually notice it more because I am also hearing the notes more clearly. We are doing a minuet in F major and the fingering is quite different than the other songs I have previously done. It is also my first song with a shift. That is why I left those to bottom fingering strips. They are red and not real prominent, therefore, stretch memory is also being used. The stretch from D to E, E to F. I am hoping to remove them this week.

I am hoping my instructor will not mind my being off a little once in a while, and possibly have to find my way back if I lose my home positioning. I don’t think he will mind. If I am going to begin shifting, I should be able to do first position without fingering strips, as far as I am concerned. He said I was more than ready to shift at the end of the lesson last week. He also said, “You are so ready to shift” during the lesson. 

We will see how this minuet goes today. Last week was the best I had ever played it. Fingers crossed for today. I had issues with some odd timing I never dealt with last week. We worked on it during the lesson. About three days ago, it clicked. Weird. That light bulb just turned on.

So, fellow cellists, use the relationship of the cello, tuning pegs, shoulder and first finger first position as an assist when going without finger strips. Just make sure the relationship of the length of the end pin and angle of the cello to your body is the same each time.

Hope this helps all ye fellow cellists! bass-1222

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Pete_Violin
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May 22, 2019 - 4:40 pm
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@cid 

I don't play cello, but I have used fingering tape on my violin and I know you play violin as well as cello.

So here is my experience with fingering tape...

In general, I don't like fingering tape for several reasons... They can be somewhat beneficial, but not enough in my opinion to justify the problems they cause.

The idea is mainly to help kids who are young enough that their finger dexterity is not quite developed to create the muscle memory yet.  But this isn't really the problem.  Fingering for a child, especially with a violin that is correct for their size, is actually fairly easy for them to pick up.  The problem is really the teacher.  Teacher's believe in this myth that tapes will help develop muscle memory and teach a student how to learn where the notes are on the fingerboard.  They believe it is even necessary for some students, and while I can see that, at first, this teaching technique can be helpful, it ultimately has the opposite affect, making learning fingering harder and taking longer.

There are several issues a student can have with tape.  First, they learn to expect the tactile sensation of the tape to find notes.  Additionally, they may learn the bad habit of constantly looking at the fingerboard, rather than positioning their fingers naturally.  A student needs to be in the habit of reading the music they are playing (for sheet music playing). So constantly looking at their fingers, then looking back on the music makes things much harder on the student.

Also, and perhaps the more serious issue with fingering tape is they may rely more on the position of the tape, rather than hearing the actual note.  As we know, string instruments are subject to all kinds of things that can change the tune of the instrument.  Humidity, temperature, length of time between playing, where the instrument is stored, etc., are all factors that affect this.  So where you place your fingers on the fingerboard one day may be different on another day to play in tune, depending on the environment.  The earlier a student learns to train their ear, the more in tune they will be able to play.  If you only rely on tape to indicate where your fingers go, you will potentially be playing out of tune.  And you may not even know it if your ear has not been trained because of the tape.

Another problem that can happen (which happened to me) is the tape can move.  As I was playing, over time the tape would move on the fingerboard.  So in this case, if I relied on the tape, I would always be out of tune.

In my opinion, it is just not worth it to start a student on tape.  It doesn't work all that well and it doesn't help the student in the long run.

- Pete -

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intrepidgirl
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May 22, 2019 - 10:51 pm
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@cid I have never used tape on either my violin or cello, just bashed away.  I have been shifting a bit now on my cello and find repetition is the best teacher. You will get it. 

I have found when I memorize a piece, I am much more able to focus on pitch and tone. Use your ear. Our teachers forgive us, this is the tough part of these instruments!

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Gordon Shumway
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May 23, 2019 - 6:35 am
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For me, learning the violin has been at least as much about learning to use my ears as learning to use my left hand, so I'm glad I never used tapes. They offer a rough guide to where to put your fingers, but 30 minutes' practice offers a rough guide too. Your ears are the final arbiter. I suppose that people (e.g. young children) who don't know anything about semitones (half notes), tones (whole notes) and minor thirds will probably benefit best from tape in lieu of frets.

But if I wanted to learn the cello, what would I do? I can imagine I'd find tapes useful for a while, but probably I'd just bash away at it.

Apart from music theory, guitar and uke have probably helped a little, so maybe every prospective violinist/fiddler could buy a cheap (soprano) uke to get used to frets (and half notes and whole notes) and finger placement? Or they could get a mandolin for the tuning, but that would be a more serious proposition.

Or a better suggestion for a cellist might be to get a tenor guitar (or tenor banjo) tuned CGDA.

Andrew

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bocaholly
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May 23, 2019 - 10:28 am
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Seems there are some popular, online cello teachers that suggest tapes for beginners. Beats me, though, how anyone can see them considering that a cellist's left hand is up by the their left ear. I don't have the super human peripheral vision that, that would require without a lot of neck contortion drooling

I did use tapes on my violin for about 4 months and got really good at visually second guessing where my fingers should go (on top of, above or below the tape) depending on where exactly the tapes themselves had melted to in that first, hot muggy summer of violin learning, LOL.

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Gordon Shumway
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May 23, 2019 - 12:10 pm
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bocaholly said
Beats me...how anyone can see them considering that a cellist's left hand is up by their left ear. 

Yes, I hadn't taken that into consideration.

Andrew

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cid
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May 23, 2019 - 12:37 pm
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I had no problem with using tapes when they were on my cello. I could see them on the side. They were pretty much approximate area markers because it depended on how in tune the strings were, angle of the cello against me and the length of the endpin. I do pretty good keeping it about the same each time, but it is never perfectly matched to the previous session. 

When I started cello I had no idea about what was the right sound. I could not just “bash” it out (loved that deacription - had to use it. 😁). I had no idea where the first finger was to be. I spent most of the time just moving my finger around. Doing that was not really teaching me anything to get into memory, it was just hit and miss. I needed the tapes to at least get me started in the correct spot to begin memorizing proper sounds and feel. I don’t see a problem with it. Some people can just hit it right, or sort of right to be able to adjust, others cannot. Some take longer than others to be able to go without, also. I figure ypu do,what works for you.

All I know is is that the time was right for me. As long as I don’t have to have an extended period of time without practicing, I should be able to keep on without the tapes. Luckily, we don’t have a trip planned in the near future. Now, I have to be anle to go interruption free for an extended period. The more I do it, as expected, the better it is. 

Belle looks nicer without the tapes. Next time I play Ada and Monte, I will remove those tapes. I removed the bottom two tapes I left on Belle for that shift last night because I was able to figure it out without them.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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HP
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May 23, 2019 - 12:58 pm
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Tip: listen and feel for resonance. When you hit a note right, the instrument resonate more and the body vibrate better. That's the most effective way to tell whether or not you're in the right spot. This is particularly true in cases when you play the same note as one of the open strings, but you can feel and hear the same if it's not the case. 

'Armed with theory, practice becomes meaningful. Through practice, theory becomes fulfilled.' - Egon von Neindorff.

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x Coach
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May 23, 2019 - 1:00 pm
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I used the tape on my violin for 4 months until my teacher told it was time to remove them. I have found I use my ears more and am more conscious on my finger position. They served me well but am taking the next step toward my goals.

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cid
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May 23, 2019 - 6:15 pm
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@HP Yep. I mentioned that in another post when I still had a violin teacher. I love the feel of that resonance. That is one of the things I love about my Rudolf Doetsch violin and viola, and my new cello. They resonate so much when spot on.

As I said, though, if you have absolutely no idea where to place the fingers, some of us need that tape to begin with just to have a place to aim for so we are not randomly touching here and there. For me, that meant nothing except hunting and pecking. Once I got familiar with the general area and the stretches for each note, I was able to use the feel, sound, and placement memory to get it and be able to adjust quickly when needed. 

Right now, I am able to find my way without a lead (tapes), before that, I was not. 

I agree that when not using tapes it helps you pay attention to feel and sound, but for me when I have no idea where to place my fingers, without tapes it is just hunting and pecking and I can’t really remember which place was correct. Therefore, next time it is hunting and pecking again. I am imprinting the hunting and pecking motions in my memory, not even the general area. Some people need the assist (to some it is considered a crutch) of tapes to be able to achieve the goal of learning where the finger placements are.

This is so funny because my original post was really not meant to create a tape or mo tape debate or discussion. I love how posts take off.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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intrepidgirl
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May 23, 2019 - 9:03 pm
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@cid - I hear you, on a cello there is sure a lot of room to be wrong. As with violin, we start with scales scales scales, slowly and surely, to build some of that feel at least. Sounds like you are making good progress, that's what matters. As an aside, when I start a song or exercise for my teacher, I always check position by tuning my fourth finger to the lower open string first. At least I am not guessing or estimating to start off!

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