Finger placement

When learning how to play violin, a violin player needs to correctly land his/her fingers in the correct positions along the finger board. Learning how to correctly land your fingers in the right places can take a lot of practice.

Here are some beginner finger placement techniques.

Fingering Tape:
Many beginners who want to know how to play violin often use tape which is placed on the fingerboard of the violin. This allows them to be able to properly place their left hand fingers on the fingerboard. Once beginners know where to place their fingers, the tape is removed.

  • Use book binding or scrapbook tape (See Fingering Tape example, courtesey of Violin Online).
  • The tape is used to mark a regular 1st finger (such as the note B on the A-string), high 2nd finger (e.g. C# on the A-string), third finger (e.g. the note D on the A-string), and 4th finger (e.g. the note E on the A-string, which sounds the same as open E).
  • Rather than use precise measurements to place fingering tape, it’s best to place the tape by ear (after placing each piece of tape, press your finger down on the tape and listen carefully to determine whether or not the note sounds in tune). This is due to the fact that variations in the width and shape of each person’s finger may affect where each tape should be placed.

Over time (sooner than you expect), your ear will become accustomed to the correct sound each note emits. Fingeirng tape should be used as a temporary aid, not as a long term solution!

Fingerboard chart:

  • Fingering for notes played in the first position can be found to the right of the fingerboard (see Fingerboard Chart, courtesey of Violin Music).
  • Fingering for notes played in the 3rd position can be found to the left of the fingerboard. These notes require the violinist to “shift” the position of their hand to a higher position on the keyboard in order to play these notes. Shifting is a more advanced technique and will be discussed later on.
  • The fingerboard chart shows many instances of two musical letters being placed on the same space. This indicates those two notes are enharmonic, meaning, even though they are named or “spelled” differently, they sound the same pitch. For example, in the first position on the A-string, D# and E flat have the same sound (called enharmonic notes). The pitch would be the same.
  • All variations of notes and fingerings in higher positions are not labeled and shown in the image example above (the entire length of the fingerboard can be used to finger and play notes).

Finding the best violin teacher

When selecting a violin teacher, remember that teaching styles and personalities differ. Some teachers may work better one-on-one or in a group setting (group lessons are usually cheaper, anyway). An ideal teacher is one who will not only provide you with a solid foundation of violin technique, but also one who will teach you in a manner that motivates and inspires you as a musician.

Suggestions to find and select a violin teacher:

  • Seek violin teacher recommendations from friends, other violin students, music stores and local school music teachers
  • Attend school and community concerts and local recitals. Watch for good players and ask them with whom they study with.
  • If you have a university or college nearby, contact the music department. Many music professors run private studios or can give you a recommendation for good teachers in your area.If the professors are unavailble, ask if any of their advanced pupils give lessons. I was instructed by an Arizona State University graduate student about 10 years ago and I would say it was on-par to being taught by a claimed “professional” music professor.
  • Local chapters of professional musician unions often maintain a list of musicians you could contact for referrals. If your community has a professional symphony or chamber group, attend their concerts and ask the performers if they or their students have a teaching studio with room for new students.
  • Contact local music teacher organizations for referrals (e.g. in the United States, members of the Music Teachers National Association or the American String Teachers Association).
  • Numerous online music teacher directories are available on the Internet. For example, if you’re interested in a particular teaching approach such as the Suzuki method, use Internet search terms such as Suzuki Association of the Americas or International Suzuki Association.
  • Ask prospective violin teachers for references, and evaluate their credentials. Who did they study with? Do they ever perform on the violin? How long have they been teaching? What level or age of students do they generally teach? What approach to the study of the violin do they take? (e.g. is there a particular violin methodology they favor?) What are their expectations of students? (Reflect on your personal time commitment to learning and practicing will be. Some music teachers demand hours of practice time from their pupils.)

Once lessons begin, it’s important to ask yourself: are you motivated by this violin teacher? Are violin lessons a positive experience, or are they discouraging? Effective teaching is very personal experience, so if you feel uncomfortable with the personality and teaching style of the teacher, it is perfectly acceptable to find another violin teacher!