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Excellent poll question and something I was already thinking about. I'm the one vote for avoid them at all costs. A few days ago someone posted a video showing a guy playing the Star Wars theme, (I think.) Fiddlerman said that one should never hold the violin the way this fellow did, with his chin in a position that allowed him to look straight down the violin neck. Looking at the video, it was apparent that the reason he was doing this was that he had stickies on the neck of his violin that he was using as visual position queues. I did some thinking about that, since I too was trying to visually see where to put my fingers to play notes, albeit without the stickies -- and missing as often as not by 10-15 cents. So I decided to try to play without looking at the neck at all, just to see what would happen. Surprisingly, my intonation improved almost immediately, and when my fingers missed the mark, they immediately adjusted themselves to the correct pitch without my looking at the neck at all.
While I realize that visual queues may be somewhat helpful in violin playing, it seems that one might be better off by "seeing" with one's ears more than one's eyes. For the piano or guitar, visual locations are very helpful because you either hit the key; put your finger behind the right fret, or you don't. The visual queues there are easy to see and the targets are pretty large. With the violin, missing by a couple of millimeters makes a noticeable difference in pitch and you just can't see that small a target accurately enough with tape or without. I'm becoming convinced that tactile landmarks like the base of the scroll or your hand touching the upper bout, as well as the feel of how far your fingers are spread (muscle memory), combined with really listening to the pitch is the key to success on fretless instruments. I say toss the tape.
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My limited knowledge of music tells me that using sticker's on the fingerboard are only as good as one's instrument is in tune and that the sticker's be positioned in the exact location. If the instrument is out of tune and one has no ear for intonation, then the song will be played out of tune.
Just my opinion.
I'm going to answer before reading any of the replies. My teacher insists on using finger tapes. I really did like them at first and thought they were sure handy. But I've been playing for a bit over two years now and am ready to ditch them!!! I've even taken them off before (they were worn out!). She said she really wants me to keep using them for now since I still hit a wrong note every now and then, and put them back on. I'm ready to get rid of them again and am perfectly satisfied if I hit the wrong note occasionally. At this point, they are embarrassing to me.
Lol I guess I meant playing out of tune, not a full on wrong note.
I voted to use them if you have to. I never used them (one reason being I didn't want to mark up my fiddle with stickers, haha), but I know that some people need to. I just think you should try first without them, and then put them on if you find you need them, take them off as soon as your ear and fingers are ready.
World's Okayest Fiddler
Six months in and I'm surreptitiously removing one tape at a time, week by week, without my teacher noticing (at least she's pretending not to notice.)
I do see some pros and cons, having been so attached to them for 6 months.
- Helped me move forward faster with repertoire & scales than I would have without.
- My teacher's ears suffered slightly less than without.
- Starting to now work on 3rd position and it's nice to have the tape for 3rd finger - 1st position there for starters.
- Because I was focused on the visual crutch, I probably slowed down the process of getting the feel for my hand in relation to the neck and for my fingers in relation to each other.
- Because I could always just look to orient my left hand, it took me longer to understand the advantage of most always having some finger down.
- Can I also blame focusing on those tapes for having exacerbated my left hand tension problem? 🙂
I started with tapes on but I wish I didn’t or just for a few weeks when everything is new. Maybe you learn slower without tapes but what you learn is better, more controlled. Well, that’s my idea ?
@bocaholly, you’re already learning third position, great progress ?
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@mookje I was excited like a little kid when my teacher said, "time for 3rd position". Turns out, it coincided with a bit of a plateau on other fronts. I should theoretically be mega frustrated but I gather that plateaus are part of the process so I'm trying to stay chill and observe how I work the current situation.
In any case, since this thread is about finger tapes, I think I'm going to hang on to at least the last one for a bit. Otherwise too many moving parts (re-examining body posture and accompanying use of chinrest and shoulder rest, bow stroke, relaxation... all the easy stuff 🙂
I originally never wanted strips on my violin. But, on trying to figure finger placement out without the strips was impossible, I put them on and will remove them once a year when I get my violin checked and have my neck cleaned of any marks. At least I have a general idea where the fingers go.
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