How to get a 3 year old to look at the fingerboard?


Irene said: Oct 13, 2011
Irene Yeong160 posts

My daughter has been learning violin for a year, main problem is she will look everywhere when playing violin except at her fingerboards. She did not press the strings correctly and doesn’t like it when I remind her. I have to keep reminding her gently. Yesterday, I found that she will look at the finger board and place her fingers correctly when I sit facing scroll of the violin. Any tips on how to guide a young child to concentrate and look at her fingerboard when playing?


Sue Hunt said: Oct 14, 2011
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

Please remember that it is very hard to see exactly where your fingers are when you are actually playing. I can think of 2 ways to help:

  1. Pretend to be Mrs Messy (who always thinks she’s right but always gets it wrong) and shift your daughter’s finger further away from the tape. Most children will resist and shift the finger back to the correct spot. Mrs Messy features in 40 Great Games to Teach Straight Bowing

  2. Make a game of it with tiny rewards each time she puts her finger in the right spot before you have to remind her. Do one finger at a time, then when she is secure, add more.

Hope this helps

Music in Practice

Ashley said: Oct 14, 2011
Austin, TX
1 posts

Maybe try to make it fun for her and apply it to something totally unrelated. For example, you could tell her the fingerboard is a stage where her fingers need to tap on it like a tap dancer (watch for weight on the fingerboard). Have her practice “tap dancing” / “tapping” with one finger at a time to get used to giving proper weight to each finger.

Paula Bird said: Oct 14, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

How about a toy or a puppet? You could make simple puppets with popsicle sticks and paper plates. Draw several funny faces on different small paper plates, glue them to popsicle sticks, and then surprise your daughter by sneaking in a different puppet above the scroll. You could also balance a tiny toy in the scroll’s peg box or clip it to one of the pegs.

As for not holding the fingers down strong enough to produce a good sound, you might try having her be the teacher. You would play the same song, and not put your fingers down strong enough to make a good sound. Ask her, the teacher, to help you make a good sound. You can guide her into telling you what to do better with your fingers.

I just did this today with a four-year-old student. We were working on Monkey Song on the A string, and my student had trouble holding her fingers down strong enough to produce a good sound. I put a little pressure on the finger and asked her if she felt the string tickle her finger. This particular student did not have a strong kinesthetic sense, and she had difficulty feeling the string on her finger. I tried using different words to describe the same feeling. Eventually she responded to the word buzz. I would ask her if she felt the string buzzing her finger, and then she would push her finger down with enough strength to create that same feeling and to play with a good tone.

Then we switched roles, and I became the student. I purposefully did not press my fingers down strong at all, and I noted to her that it didn’t sound very good. At first she tried to fix my bow and put it on the highway, but I steered her in the direction of my fingers being the problem. Then she looked at me and asked, “Do you feel the string buzzing your finger?” Bingo! Lesson learned.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio (blog) (podcast)

Laurel said: Oct 15, 2011
Laurel MacCulloch
Suzuki Association Member
Langley, BC
120 posts

I think you’ve found a solution on your own! Sit facing the scroll of the violin at each practise, and see if she keeps looking/placing fingers correctly.


Irene said: Oct 16, 2011
Irene Yeong160 posts

Wow,, thanks to all your replies. Will try out these methods and see which one works for her. thanks.

Elizabeth said: Jan 9, 2012
Elizabeth K20 posts

Hi Irene,

One way I help kids focus on their own fingerboard is to look and correct mine. It’s a little similar game to Sue’s game of Mrs Messy. Here’s how it goes:

From what you’ve said on your blog, you’re learning to play the violin too. Pick out a simple song that she knows very well. This can be an old piece or the one she’s learning to play right now if you know how to play it too. Tell her you’re going to pretend to be the student and she will pretend to be the teacher. But only you are playing your violin during this game.

Tell her that when she hears you playing the wrong note, she has to stop you in the middle of the song (she’ll probably laugh and say NO!!! That’s wrong!!!). Then tell her, since she’s the teacher, she has to move your finger to the right place of the fingerboard. She’ll love telling you what to do and you’ll laugh together when you play the incorrect notes!

To help her realize how important it is to look at the fingerboard while she plays: while you’re playing those wrong notes, turn your head too. Look everywhere in the room she usually looks at: across the room, the wall, the ceiling, and out the window. This way you’re helping her see something she does that hurts her playing. And you’re making practice fun without feeling like you have to remind her to look at the fingerboard 100 times a day!

Hope this helps!

Practice for Parents Helping You Help Them

Irene said: Jan 14, 2012
Irene Yeong160 posts

Thanks Elizabeth. will try that out. :)

Irene said: Jan 19, 2012
Irene Yeong160 posts

Elizabeth, tried out your method and it was fun that I calling her sensei and she correcting me with the posture and fingerboard. We enjoyed it so much. Thanks.

Only problem is , she is one teacher that is “promising” students with many, many sweets after lesson.. :)

Elizabeth said: Jan 23, 2012
Elizabeth K20 posts

I’m so glad you both had fun! :)

Practice for Parents Helping You Help Them

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