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Some teachers use them and some don't. I've heard that they can become a crutch and cause delayed ear training development, but others say they are necessary at the beginning.

Can they really cause problems? Has this been studied in any kind of way? Has it been addressed by a respected author? Should they just be used because they make life easier?

Thanks,

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As everything teaching "device" (and there is a lot of academic literature studying this, across disciplines, this is not specific to bowed string instruments), fingerboard tapes or any kind of marks on or on the side of the fingerboard should not :

  1. be used systematically without observation phase

  2. be permanent

  3. be used alone without having an exit strategy (see point 2.)

  4. be used as a way not to address underlying difficulties and fears of the pupil

  5. be used as some parents use a pacifier (see also point 4.)

  6. given just to spend your time on what you like to teach instead of what needs to be done for the pupil (related to point 5.).

All these points are related, I will try to elaborate further later. Other less common devices posing the same problems include special bow guiding devices, simplified or heavily modified music notations.

  • 1
    What do you mean by "without observation phase"? – Babu Jun 30 '11 at 17:45
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My teacher used a pencil to lightly draw a line on the board.

That way I got the benefit of seeing where I should place my fingers, and learning to hear where I should put them without learning to be dependant on them.

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I personally never used fingerboard markers when I learned violin as a child. However I see that here in US, most beginners use them. I think they are helpful especially for the young child until they learn how to listen and hear the pitch, especially if they have not played piano before playing violin. I would however remove them when the student gets better at identifying the correct pitch.

1

As a tech, it makes it very hard to have a properly set up violin, especially as most cheaper violins come with higher tension and lower fingerboard clearance steel strings.

To set these up to work, I would be replacing or shimming the nut, replacing the bridge, and setting up the instrument above height to accommodate for these ridges that are now added.

Even the appliqués require an increase in spec height by the thickness of the appliqué on both the nut and bridge.

Then again, most of the time, it's someone who has applied 2 layers of tape, effectively making frets...

1

I use fingerboard tapes for beginning students, but only 4 of them. I would not recommend using those pre-fab stickers that have placement lines for all the whole steps and half steps in first position. This is overkill in my opinion and can create over-dependency, or actually be more confusing than necessary.

If you're teaching beginning children most likely they will need some finger guide to help train their ear. As soon as they can hear where the fingers go then take the tapes off (when they move up to a new size instrument is a good time to assess their new tape needs!)

If you're teaching beginning adults it will depend on the experience of the adult. If they have a good ear they may not need any tapes at all. If they have trouble finding where to place the hand, but then are fine after that perhaps use just a first finger tape. Using all 4 of the finger placement tapes in first position is also fine if they need it. Again, just keep on top of when they don't need the tapes anymore so they don't become to reliant on them as a crutch. We're always looking to use the tapes as a tool to train the ear, not as an excuse to not have them listen closely and adjust their fingers by what they hear.

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