When to begin certain skills?

Laura said: Aug 20, 2008
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Hello everyone,

I’m posing these questions for the sake of curiosity:

  1. When do you remove fingering and/or bow tapes? Why?
  2. When do you begin to teach vibrato? Why?

What I’m looking for is the largest variety of opinions, I’m not trying to ask what is the best or the most correct. I realize that there are many varied opnions and approaches in these two areas, so I’m curious to hear them all. So if you reply, please just state your answer, followed by any and all reasons from your point of view. The more responses the better—this is the time to be open-minded. :)

I really don’t want to spark any debate here, at least not in this thread. If you disagree with anyone, please feel free to open up a new posting. Thanks!

Gabriel Villasurda said: Aug 20, 2008
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts
  1. When to remove finger tapes: As soon as possible. Check third fingers with neighboring open strings to make a PERFECT octave. Next teach them to hear the sympathetic vibrations of open strings that occur when an octave is sounded. The player listens to this “shadow” sound (resonance) whenever any pitch with the names GDAE are played.

Playing in tune with the recording, the accompaniment, or another player is a further check. If the base of the index finger is contacting the neck of the instrument at the same spot, then the tip of the finger will probably land at the same spot time after time.

A temporary first finger tape can be put on whenever the student changes to a bigger size instrument, but in the end it’s the ring of the right pitch that the player relies on.

  1. Bow tapes: Staying within the limits of the tapes in the middle third of the bow is what you want beginners (Twinklers) to do. Playing within these limits does not require any changes in the basic bow arm.

As the stroke is lengthened, the wrist, elbow and fingers have to begin to do special things in order to maintain straightness. By GO TELL AUNT RHODY where the player changes frequently from eighth-notes to a half-note you can begin to lengthen the stroke outside the “fences” Certainly by LONG, LONG AGO some attention can be given to differentiating between short and longer stokes. Some teachers choose to a real “big, little, little” with a long quarter-note stroke and the eighth-notes strokes increasingly polarized towards the tip or frog.

How soon you allow the student to go outside the “fences” depends on several conditions: how well-formed and consistent the bow hold is, how nicely all the hinges of the arm are flexing (no tension), and how easily the student can carry off the wrist, finger and elbow adaptations needed to do a whole bow.

Of course, it also depends if we’re talking about a 3 year-old or a 10 year-old. Any question that begins with the words “WHEN SHOULD I…….” has to be answered with the answer “WHEN THE STUDENT IS READY.”

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 20, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

When the tape has either worn out on one side, or when the tape starts to “migrate”—I tell the student “you know, this tape is wrong, let’s take it off”

and then I say something to the effect of “here, let’s clean the sticky gunk off of your fingerboard” followed by “ok, play a little on that. Hm…. I think you might be ready to play without that tape. let’s try it for a week and see how it goes”.

The student should be able to self-correct based on their muscle memory and the sound (do the 3rd fingers ring?). Tapes are more for the parent than they are for the student, so if the parent is no longer directly involved in helping the child to place his or her fingers on the fingerboard, it’s probably time to move away from the tapes.

Another cue is when the student begins to self-correct at the “miniscule” level—that is, their fingers always look like they are near the tapes, but there are minor corrections in intonation anyways

I usually don’t have more than 3 tapes on the instrument at a time,—e.g., by the time the student is ready for a “new” note, say, fourth finger, usually the 2nd if not the first finger tapes are already off. I might put a “dot” for low first finger on one of the upper strings or a ‘dot’ for shifting or for finding the octave harmonic if necessary. I found cute little turtle stickers which I use for shifting dots to remind the students that, in the beginning, they are to shift slooooowly—like a turtle just plodding along, taking his time to get where he’s going….

Another thing is to keep the tapes as thin as possible. What does everyone use for tape? My favorite at the moment is plotting tape.

Connie Sunday said: Aug 21, 2008
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

>> What does everyone use for tape?

I used small strips of masking tape for like, 30 years, but started using this recently:


Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 31, 2008
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I’ve never used white-out, but I have heard that it eventually wears off—so it’s an “automatic” way to get the student to play without visual guides (i.e. it will only wear off if the student places the finger in the right spot a certain amount of times)

Laura said: Sep 1, 2008
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Thanks for all of the responses—please keep them coming!

I certainly appreciate that teachers don’t introduce these skills until they believe a student is ready. However, I also have found a great deal of discrepancy in terms of what a teacher considers to be “when a student is ready”. For example, I have heard of some teachers who categorically do NOT start vibrato until Book 4, no matter what, because they believe that no student can be “ready” until then. Whereas, on the other hand, some teachers beleive that their students can start vibrato earlier, depending on the individual student. I’ve also witnessed literal Tape Wars between institute teachers, private teachers, and parents (with the poor student stuck inbetween—no pun intended!).

Hence, it became apparent to me that there are many reasons and opinions out there. I am just interested in hearing what all of those reasons and opinions are. Thanks for humoring me in this endeavour… and I believe we can all be enlightened in the process!

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