For those string players who are OK with/advocate using fingerboard tapes, where would you put them given that ET and JI demands slightly different positions? Would you put them at ET first, since much of Western music is written for that, and then adjust by ear if JI is desired?

IOW: since the tapes are just rough guides, it's ok to put them in ET, since eventually each pitch needs to be tuned be ear anyway. Is that right?

4 Answers 4


IOW: since the tapes are just rough guides, it's ok to put them in ET, since eventually each pitch needs to be tuned be ear anyway. Is that right?


I sure love a question with a straightforward answer.

  • "Straightforward answer easy; correct answer hard" Jun 5, 2020 at 14:38

Because nobody past a year or maybe two (for small kids) is going to use tape markers, and nobody with less than maybe 5 -10 years of playing is going to try to play in JI or any non-ET tuning, just put the tape on ET locations.

And as I commented -- playing in tune requires training the fingers & arm to position correctly. Ear training is there to tell you when you did it wrong.


Assume you want to play a D one octave higher than the D-string. That is the 3rd finger on the A-string. So you put a tape there. Now your student puts the 3rd finger down on the tape and play, then lift the finger, put it down again and play. But the second time the finger was off by one milimeter compared with the first time. Therefore the note will be different, but the student can argue that the finger was placed on the tape in both cases. Thus you can conclude that the tape is only a guideline you must use the ear and listen.

Now how do you place that tape for the 3rd finger? You place it so it fits a note exactly one octave above the D-string. Since violin players usually tune the D-string in an actually perfect fifth relative to A and the A is tuned to the A on the piano the D-string will be a tad lower than the D on the piano.

In case you tune all the open strings so they fit the notes on the piano you still need to place the 3rd finger mark on A so it fits the note exactly one octave above the D-string, but in this case the result will be ET.

Conclusion is that you must place the tape in order to get the best resonance with the open strings. How it sounds will depend on how you tune the violin.

Use your ear when placing the tape and use your ear when playing.


This is a rough guide, as you stated. Also, have you ever calculated the difference in location that would give a Just second or third relative to an ET second or third? On a violin the difference may be smaller than the width of the tape so trying to nail it is worthless. I recall my Bass teacher marking the half step (F) and maybe one other spot, like the fourth or fifth. And that was just for a short time while working through a beginner book. The idea is to get you in the neighborhood so you aren't fishing for too long. But to be honest, one should not be looking at their hands while playing! The ear and haptic response need to be developed as early as possible. I don't recall my violin teacher ever putting these tape pieces on. Bass teacher did, be ha also made me sight sign my concertos before playing them, and that was a much better practice.

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