Of all the instruments to learn, surely the violin is one of the most complex, learning the correct posture and how to hold it, along with the correct bowing action. Then there are the basic things, like just learning the names of the strings. Knowing which fingers to use where and knowing if you have hit the correct pitch.
Getting the Pitch Right
That might be the most difficult. Guitar players have it easy when they are learning, don’t they? Frets on the fingerboard tell them where everything is and make sure whatever note they play is perfectly in tune.
Not so on the fretless violin. But when you are learning, there is help at hand. Violin Fingerboard Tape Placement, and no, it isn’t cheating.
Placement is Everything
If you want to get the pitch exactly right, the tape has to be placed very precisely. And that will vary according to the size of the violin you are playing. I will take a good look at that, but first, let’s consider what you are doing and why.
Why Use Fingerboard Tape?
As I said, no frets, unlike the guitar, so it is harder to get the precise fingering positions correct. People learning the violin, at whatever age, should use fingerboard tape. Possibly even for the first 12 to 18 months.
The memory required in your fingers will need to be educated. And this will help that. Once your fingers know exactly where to go, you will do it without even thinking about it.
But also, it will get your “ear in.” By that, I mean you will learn to hear even the slightest loss of pitch after you have taken the tape off.
You may be advised to use some small round stickers on your violin fingerboard. These resemble the dots on the fingerboard on the guitar. Possibly to make the fingerboard resemble the dots on a guitar neck.
A reasonable idea, I suppose. But when you are learning the guitar, you do not line up your fingers with the dots. You look at the frets. That is why using tape that imitates frets on the violin will make the finger positions easier to see.
Get Yourself Ready
There are some things you will need to perform this simple exercise. It’s better to have them all to hand before you start.
- Fingerboard tape, I recommend the Best fingerboard position tape set, the Jumbo BLUE Color Violin Fingering Tape, or the very detailed Fantastic Finger Guide for Violins.
- Something to measure with, preferably a tape measure.
- A Pencil.
- A Digital Tuner.
If you don’t have any fingerboard tape, you can use masking tape that has been cut into thin strips. It is not the best option but will do if your budget won’t stretch to the $10 odd that proper violin tape costs. At least it can be removed easily when it’s time to get rid of it. It also shouldn’t damage the wood on your violin. So, let’s get started…
Making the First Measurement
Before we start measuring the violin fingerboard, there are two points I need to make.
Firstly, not all violins are the same size
As you are probably aware, they come in a range of sizes designed to suit the age or size of the player. A full-size Violin is known as a 4/4.
You will also get 3/4, 1/2, and 1/4 sizes. The measurements for applying the tape for each will be different. We can deal with them all individually later.
Secondly, the Nut
This is a white or cream piece of plastic or bone situated where the neck joins the headpiece. You will need to measure from the inside of the nut.
Full-size 4 /4 Violin, the first strip of tape
Measure down in a straight line 35mm or 1⅜ inches. Make a very gentle mark with the pencil. For the second strip, measure from the nut again, this time down 66mm or 2⅝ inches. For the third, down from the nut 80mm or 3⅛ inches, and the fourth strip of tape is down 106mm or 4⅛ inches.
Adding the First Tape
Get your first piece of tape and line it up carefully with the first pencil mark. This can be a little awkward, so I suggest you get it under all four strings at the bridge end and carefully slide it down. Make sure it is exactly on the mark and goes directly across the fingerboard and not at an angle.
Tune Your Violin
Let’s get the instrument in tune. Using your digital tuner get all the strings in tune first. If you haven’t got one, there are plenty that you can download for free. Or check out the excellent KLIQ UberTuner – Professional Clip-On Tuner for All Instruments or the incredibly affordable eno Professional Violin Viola Tuner.
Once the instrument is tuned, you need to check the pitch of the first tape position. Put your finger on the tape and pluck the string with your finger. Look at the read-out on your tuner. Do the same thing for all the strings with your finger on the first tape. The pitch shown on your tuner for all four strings with your finger on the tape should be:
- G string should show up as an A.
- D string should show up as an E.
- A string should show up as B.
- E string should show up as F#.
If, for any reason, the pitches are not exactly perfect on your tuner, then adjust the tape slightly. The exact pitch on your tuner is more important than the measurement.
The Same Process
Once you are satisfied that these pitches are perfect, do the same actions with the second tape. Measure down, mark with the pencil, apply the tape and check the tunings to the position of your finger on the tape.
Before you check the tunings for the second tape, just check the tuning of your Violin to make sure that it is perfect. Then check the pitches on the second tape.
With the finger on the tape, the notes on your tuner should read B, E, C#, and G#. Once you are satisfied, they are perfect; proceed to the third and the fourth tape markers. Each time ensuring your instrument is in tune before applying the tape check.
Aim For Perfection
On the third tape, the notes on your digital tuner should read C, F, D, and A. And on the fourth tape, the notes should be D, G, E, and B.
Go back and once again tune the Violin. Then check each tape mark for the pitches on all four strings. Aim to get it as perfect as you can. It is very important. Once you are satisfied, you are done. Leave the tape in position; it is going to be your guide for a while.
What Size Is Your Violin?
I have mentioned that you should rely on your digital tuner for the perfect pitch. But you need a starting point, and that is your tape measure. Most of the time, if you get the measurements right, the pitch will be fine.
But what we have talked about thus far is just the measurements for a full-size 4 /4 Violin. As we know, there are other sizes. And as the size changes, so do the measurements. If you have another sized Violin, these are the measurements from the nut you should use.
Not Sure What Size Violin You Have?
If you aren’t sure, don’t take a guess. To find out, you can measure the length of the body of the Violin, and that will tell you. Measurements of the length are quite standard but might not be exact. They will be close enough for you to be able to recognize what size it is.
The various sizes of violin body lengths are:
- Full size 4/4 – 35.6cm.
- 3/4 size – 33cm.
- 1/2 size – 31cm.
- 1/4 size – 27.9cm.
The measurements for violin fingerboard tape placement for each size are as follows. The 1,2, 3, and 4 refer to the individual tapes to be placed. Number one is always closest to the nut.
- 1 – 35mm or 1 3/8 inches.
- 2 – 66mm or 2 5/8 inches.
- 3 – 80mm or 3 1/8 inches.
- 4- 106mm or 4 1/8 inches.
- 1 – 32mm or 1 1/4 inches.
- 2 – 61mm or 2 3/8 inches.
- 3 – 75 mm or 2 7/8 inches.
- 4 – 100 mm or 3 7/8 inches.
- 1 – 28mm or 1 1/8 inches.
- 2 – 54mm or 2 1/8 inches.
- 3 – 68mm or 2 5/8 inches.
- 4 – 91mm or 3 5/8 inches.
- 1 – 25mm or 1 inch.
- 2 – 48mm or 1 7/8 inches.
- 3 – 60mm or 2 3/8 inches.
- 4 – 79mm or 3 1/8 inches.
A Great Way of Learning
As you can see, using fingerboard tape to learn the Violin is a great place to start. You can concentrate on all the other technical aspects without having to worry too much about finger placement. Furthermore, you can see exactly where they need to go, and you have your own pitch guide.
Just to reiterate the importance of constantly checking the tuning. And making sure the tape placement produces a perfect pitch.
If you are thinking about the Violin, here are some options to look at. A budget instrument but of decent quality for beginners is this Mendini by Cecilio Violin Instrument. A little bit further up the price range is this Yamaha Standard Model AV7 violin 4/4. And for the Intermediate player, there is this Yamaha AV10-44SG 4/4 Size Intermediate Violin Outfit.
Interested in All Things Violin?
Then we have you covered. Simply check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Student Violins, the Best Violin For Kids, the Best Cremona Violins, the Best Violin Rosins, the Best Violin Cases, the Best Violin Strings, and the Best Violin Bows you can buy in 2023.
You may also enjoy our handy articles on How Can I Learn to Play the Violin on My Own, Easy Violin Songs for Beginners to Play, How to Replace Your Violin Strings, Tips For Tuning Your Violin, and A Guide to Choosing the Right Violin Strings for more useful information.
Violin Fingerboard Tape Placement – Final Thoughts
Just make sure when you practice you have some fun as well. And when you are ready, take off your fingerboard tape. You will know when the time is right.
Until next time, let your music play.