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Finger Placement Markers

Bergonzi's 1991 dissertation (see citation and abstract below) revealed that the use of Finger Placement Markers for beginning string students can have a positive effect on intonation accuracy. Many students use tapes for 1st, high 2nd, 3rd and 4th finger on violin and viola, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th finger on cello, and 1st, 2nd and 4th finger on bass, because these are the pitches the students play in the beginning weeks of instruction.


I prefer the use of "signal dots" (like the inlays on a guitar fretboard) between the two middle strings for the college students in my string techniques class. The dots give them just enough information about finger placement, but also requires them to use their ears and make adjustments.

Some teachers develop an elaborate system of colored tapes all over the fingerboard that seem to stay on the fingerboard for years. My personal belief is that since the ear is stronger than the eye for providing the brain with information about intonation, tapes are most useful for developing a correct hand frame and finger placement in the beginning weeks of instruction, and once hand frame is established the tapes should be removed. After all, the student can't look at their left hand once they start reading music, and even if they could, what information does the eye provide to the student about their intonation? Absolutely nothing. The data is all being provided by the ear. Music is an aural phenomenon, not a visual phenomenon. It makes sense that we must teach students to "hear" where the fingers should go, rather than "see" where the fingers should go. Early listening is very important.

* Bergonzi, L. S. (1991). The effects of finger placement markers and harmonic context on the development of intonation performance skills and other aspects of the musical achievement of sixth-grade beginning string students. University of Michigan). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 339-339 p. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/docview/303980199?accountid=14667. (303980199).


This study investigated the effects of finger placement markers (FPM) and harmonic context on the intonation performance skills, overall musical performance, sightreading, melodic ear-to-hand coordination, and left hand technique of sixth-grade beginning string students. Central to this study was how a tactile/visual reference and an aural reference operate separately and in combination within the process of string intonation performance. The study also sought to determine the relationship between intonation and imitation skills and to consider the effects of harmonic context as a testing condition. Subjects (N = 68) were assigned to research conditions in two-by-two factorial design (FPM by harmonic context). Within three schools, FPM were assigned on an individual random basis, stratified by instrument type; and harmonic context was assigned to intact classes. All students received ninety-minute, weekly, heterogeneous group instruction from the same teacher. FPM indicated the locations of pitches sounding a major second and a perfect fourth above the open string. Harmonic context consisted of diatonic harmonies in major tonality, and was implemented primarily via a researcher-developed audio cassette designed for group and individual practice. Preexperimental comparability among the research groups was established regarding musical aptitude and intonation discrimination ability. Significant differences revealed by two-way ANOVA indicated that: (1) FPM had a positive effect on intonation accuracy as demonstrated in melodic ear-to-hand coordination, sightreading, and song performance; (2) harmonic context had a positive effect on overall musical performance; and (3) FPM and harmonic context both separately and in combination neither assisted nor hindered the development of left hand technique, sightreating performance, or melodic pattern imitation ability. Other analyses indicated that melodic pattern imitation and intonation skills were significantly and positively related only for students who used FPM and/or harmonic context, and that there were no effects of harmonic context as a testing condition. There were no significant differences among groups after adjusting for either musical aptitude, intonation discrimination ability, or vocal accuracy. However, this does not diminish the implications of the results of the ANOVA given the strength of the theoretical and practical support for the use of these teaching techniques in beginning string instruction.







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