Fingerboard tape is what beginner violinists use to learn where to put their fingers. It marks first position on the violin and helps students learn fundamental scales. Typically, your teacher will do this for you and many string shops will also place them if they know you’re just beginning. But, if you are learning virtually or just want to get this step out of the way before your first lesson, here’s a quick guide!
What you’ll need - Your violin - Thin tape or stickers (any tape cut smaller than ¼ inch works, but if you want to deep dive into tapes, scroll to the “WHAT KIND OF TAPE?” section) - Scissors to cut the tape - A ruler - A pencil
DISCLAIMER: Fingerboard tape is always a guide, never the rule! Because violinists have no frets and use flexible intonation there will never be an ABSOLUTE place where the note is and always is. The rule is your ear, or your teachers ear!
Placing the Tapes
To place the tapes you’ll need to know what size violin you have and use the guide below. Measure from the nut (little ledge at the top) down.
Note: At first, you’ll only need 3 tapes and the 4th tape can be placed later when you learn 4th finger.
Violin Finger tapes
Full Size Violin (4/4)
Tape 1 = 35mm or 1 3/8 inches
Tape 2 = 66mm or 2 5/8 inches
Tape 3 = 80mm or 3 1/8 inches
Tape 4 = 106mm or 4 1/8 inches
Tape 1 = 32mm or 1 1/4 inches
Tape 2 = 61mm or 2 3/8 inches
Tape 3 = 75 mm or 2 7/8 inches
Tape 4 = 100 mm or 3 7/8 inches
Tape 1 = 28mm or 1 1/8 inches
Tape 2 = 54mm or 2 1/8 inches
Tape 3 = 68mm or 2 5/8 inches
Tape 4 = 91mm or 3 5/8 inches
Tape 1 = 25mm or 1 inch
Tape 2 = 48mm or 1 7/8 inches
Tape 3 = 60mm or 2 3/8 inches
Tape 4 = 79mm or 3 1/8 inches
Measure from the nut down and then for each tape add a pencil mark and then a strip of tape across the finger board. Your tape should be smaller than a ¼ inch wide and wrap across the entire finger board. If you’re using a sticker you’ll want to place it behind the A string.
Tip: thread the tape under the strings at the gap between the finger board and bridge and then slide it up between the finger board and strings. This saves a lot of trouble and is much quicker than trying to thread it through!
Lastly, Check Intonation.
Use a chromatic tuner to tune each open string. Then check the intonation of each finger tape on a single string. Here is a finger board map to help you check the notes, and a link to a Free Online Chromatic Tuner
WHAT KIND OF TAPE?
There is a industry standard best type of tape for fingerboard marking. But before i tell you that I need you to know that I learned the violin with some smiley face stickers, a gold star, and some red electrical tape. And, I know dozens of violinists who recall learning with some other mish mash of tape, stickers, white out, and what have you while learning the violin. So if we all somehow made it without a glossy set of finger markings, you’ll probably be ok as well. So use whatever you have on hand! But if you must know….
Automotive Pinstripe tape! - ⅛ inch, The perfect size and a variety of colors although I don’t recommend black!
Fingerboard tape - this is usually re-marketed pin stripe tape
Felt fingerboard tape - great!
Painters tape - great