Should you use fingerboard markers for your young violin beginners?
FINGERBOARD MARKERS. To use or not to use.
One main reason why using fingerboard markers is more helpful than harmful.
I have read in different forums harsh words such as "finger markers are an abomination," or "students should play with their ears, not their eyes," or even "you should teach music not finger calisthenics."
Of course, there are many opinions regarding the use of fingerboard markers, but what will be true for you as a teacher, will have to be that which works best for your students.
I will tell you my personal experience. After 20 years of teaching, I would say that I have never started a violin beginner without placing finger markers on the fingerboard.
The age doesn't matter! Be it a 3 year old beginner or a 12 year old beginner. Even an adult beginner benefits from the use of these visual aids.
What does matter is how long the fingerboard markers should stay on the violin.
And this will absolutely depend on the student, with no set rule for a length of time. Some students will need to have them on for longer than others. And some students can start with all 4 finger markers placed on the fingerboard, whereas some students can have 3 or even 2 stickers instead of all 4.
For the young violin beginners you can place all 4 stickers on the fingerboard, and then as the student progresses, only leave the markers for the first and third fingers. Eventually, when the student is ready, all markers should be taken off.
When beginner students see other more advanced students playing without fingerboard markers they'll ask when they can take theirs off. You can use this opportunity to tell them that when the finger markers start to come off on their own, it means that the student is ready to stop using them or that only a few are needed instead of all 4.
THE MAIN REASON FOR SUPPORTING THE USE OF FINGERBOARD MARKERS.
They allow for multisensory learning
I am all for teaching one concept in many different ways. Learning intonation, which involves learning where the fingers go on the fingerboard, is no different that learning any other skill on the violin.
It's well known that not all children learn in the same ways. Some are better at auditory learning, others are visual learners, and yet others need to add movement in order to learn. Why would learning intonation be any different?
Of course, playing violin requires a high level of listening skills, but it also requires high degrees of fine motor control, visual recognition of symbols, visual placements of the hands, and the discovery of the correct feelings and motions to accomplish the desired techniques.
LET´S BEGIN WITH THE VISUAL LEARNER:
By placing a finger marker or a finger sticker on the fingerboard, the visual learner has a visual aid that allows her/ him to see where the finger needs to go. Once the finger is placed and the note is played, the visual learner creates that necessary connection between eyes, finger, and sound, and the brain links the place where the finger goes with the sound it will produce.
LET´S LOOK AT THE AUDITORY LEARNER:
The auditory learner's ability to hear correct intonation might be very acute. And the student will most likely be able to find the notes in tune. However, the ear guides the fingers to go down in the correct places ONLY if the left hand is set up correctly. This doesn't account for the degree of fine motor control that the auditory learner might have or not have.
Then, the stickers can contribute to the set up of the correct hand frame and finger patterns, with the ear highly contributing to the correct finger placements. It's a bonus!
LET´S LOOK AT THE KINESTHETIC/ TACTILE LEARNER:
The kinesthetic learner must feel where the hand goes and where each finger must be placed to fall in tune. The finger markers provide a surface that functions like a fret. The kinesthetic/tactile learner will be able to feel where the finger must be placed, and when the sound is produced, will create the necessary brain connections that relates the feel of the finger placement with the sound it produces.
...SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER ONCE THE FINGERBOARD STICKERS HAVE BEEN PLACED ON THE BEGINNER STUDENT'S VIOLIN...
The fingerboard markers move around because of humidity and the sweat of the fingers. Teachers should check them periodically to make sure that they remain in the correct places.
WHERE CAN YOU GET THESE FINGERBOARD STICKERS?
The fingerboard stickers can be found in auto detailing stores since automotive pinstriping tape seems to work best. And when taken off, they don't leave a sticky residue. You can find these on Amazon as well.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT... The markers can help the teacher by allowing her/ him to tell the student, "It's the 2nd tape," or "Move your finger higher on the tape," and the like.
As a final point, whether you decide to use finger markers to help your young violin beginners place the left hand fingers in tune on the fingerboard, always do what's best for the child.
Set your beginner violin students up for success right from the start, and make sure that the left hand posture is always correct!
Now tell us, do you use finger markers? Have they been helpful to your students? To you as a teacher? Or do you think they're an "abomination?"
Write in the comments below and share your experiences with us.
We’d love to hear about your ideas!