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Fingerboard Markers

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Keala, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. Keala


    Apr 9, 2010
    How many of you have used markers on your fingerboard when first starting out on DB?

    Is this a good idea, or is it something that the learning student may get to reliant on?

    Would like to here your thoughts and views.
  2. ricca


    Dec 24, 2009
    Reggio Emilia ITALY
    For me it's ok to use markers in the beginning, but you should be able to play without them as soon as possible.
    You have to develop hear pitch and intuitive fingering without depending on the markers.
    Use them to learn correct position at first, then use them only for difficult passages, then remove them and trust in your hear.
  3. my 10 year old student has stickers on his bass that his orchestra teacher at school put on. in his lesson on tuesday i asked him to please refrain from looking at the board and instead find the notes by listening. his intonation improved 100x immediately. i want to take the damn stickers off his bass, but don't want to piss off his teacher. oh well.
  4. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    There are many previous threads on this topic. You'll find more than you probably want to know if you do a search. As long as we seem to be going around on this again, I'll add my $0.02. I think some sort of markers are fine right at the beginning. I'm talking weeks, not months. Then, IMO, off they should go! I've never looked at the fingerboard or my hands when I play. I don't know any accomplished players who do. Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, I'm talking about teaching beginning players. I'm NOT talking about accomplished, high-level players (e.g., Edgar Meyer) who may use dot inlays to aid them in positions well beyond the neck heel. AFAIC, the latter is a different discussion.

    Edit: Try searching the DB forum for "fingerboard dots" or "fingerboard markers".
  5. BBG


    Apr 22, 2010
    hey, I'm new to this forum, I have been playing bass for years, but double bass just a few years, and I started out with dots on the side of the fingerboard, in fact they are still there, don't need them but they are always a good quick reference point, but that is just me.
  6. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    My kids are in the Suzuki program, and they both started with numerous markers including stickers and tape on the fingerboard, bow, etc. All of this went away when they grew into the next size of instrument. Some kids develop impeccable intonation without the markers, and others have poor intonation with the markers.

    Second-hand instruments are often coated in goo from the various stuff that gets stuck to them. I learned the hard way that Goo-Gone cleans off tape goo, and also cleans the black paint off the fingerboard of a "Nagoya Suzuki" violin. :rollno:

    Now for my view about the tapes. I think they are OK for getting started, so you can make some coherent music while you learn the myriad of skills necessary to play, especially getting yourself on the right track with bowing.

    However, I think that intonation and technique are intimately related, and so the ultimate road towards intonation is to develop correct technique. The way that I work on intonation (a lifelong process for all of us) is to watch my left hand carefully and remember what I learned from my teachers. If I am playing notes consistently out of tune, it is typically caused by something wrong with my technique.
  7. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings
    I used to be a purist regarding the issue of markers, strongly against them but teaching beginners has softened me quite a bit. Playing in tune requires a good ear and disciplined physical approach in the fingering hand. Thinking that a thirteen year old kid has either of those things is sheer insanity. Beginners must take a written note and remember which string and fingering to use in playing it. Telling a student that a note was flat often got me nothing more than a blank stare and possibly a movement toward the nut :eyebrow:. When my students go home to (hopefully) practice, I want them to have the correct feeling in their left hand and hear better intonation in the process. I am not a fan of tape marks at all, but I have been using pencil marks at certain points to good effect. Pencil marks are temporary and force the player to look at the fingerboard and hand position. This allows another opportunity to reinforce the importance of a good physical approach. The pencil wears off in a week or two and then we move on.
    I admit to sometimes using them myself in working through difficulties. :D
  8. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings
    You have said it better than I tried to. My point is that beginners usually have no technique, ear, reading skills, or fingerboard knowledge. Fingerboard markers minimize the unknowns. They are more like training wheels than crutches.:D
  9. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    +1. This is exactly the analogy I was thinking about today. Eventually, training wheels come off and then you ride for real! :)
  10. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Whatever gets you through the night. Edgar Myer has position markers. he plays beautifully. Most other players don't use them. I don't really care how you do it. Play in tune, make a beautiful sound. The rest is negotiable.
  11. uprightangi


    Apr 23, 2010
    Its just a matter of personal preference. I have learned to hear the sound and know where to place my fingers over the course of playing. I did use markers though starting out.
  12. MIKMAN


    Mar 4, 2008
    Larisa, Greece
    I left the markers in my first bass and they are still there, hardly discernible. Rarely, when i am in TP i look at them, in order to boost my confidence. Usually i ignore them. I never took the time to place markers in my other basses.
  13. Andrew Hamilton

    Andrew Hamilton Guest

    Apr 18, 2010
    I started bass very early and don't remember if I ever used tapes or not, but I do have inlaid dots on my harmonic G, D, and G. I have to say that a visual aid can help quite a bit, and although the distinctions between an advanced player and a beginner are large I do enjoy being the only person in my section to hit a shift without adjusting.

    I would recommend tape for a young beginner, because with tape you can physically feel where the correct position is. After base position and reference point positions are learned I would switch to pencil on trouble notes (maybe C# at the reference point or F# in base position). The pencil will facilitate listening to pitch and the sound you're producing instead of running on autopilot by feel alone.
  14. adarrell


    Sep 23, 2009
    I started on electric bass which I'm sure made it easier for me to cross over. Slapping some tape over the ole' fretless could be a similar equivalent.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I played Bass Guitar for many years, then moved to an NS EUB which has dots on the neck. I found it unsatisfactory in that my intonation suffered and I was looking at the neck too much and not concentrating on playing. So people commented that it looked quite comical, when I was trying to look at both the music of a new piece and the dots on the fingerboard, at the same time! :p Kind of like spinning plates..?

    I then went on to get a real DB for the first time and didn't put any markers on it and found my intonation was better - for example, on phrases that were played in unison with piano, I could hear that it was better on the unmarked DB, then when I had played the same tunes on the EUB with dots! :)
  16. joshmickelson


    Nov 19, 2008
    Denver, CO
    I have a related question, so why start a new thread right? haha:

    I can see the old tape residue on the fret board from the previous owner of my DB. I notice that when I hit a "C" Im pressing down in a different spot from where the tape was. Is this pretty normal, or am I going to need to look into intonation?
  17. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    My $0.02. Clean off all remains of the tape from the fingerboard, forget about it, and use your ear (e.g., with a drone) to learn the proper placement of your fingers. Perhaps the setup of the bass has changed since the previous owner had it. You're likely to drive yourself crazy worrying about why, given proper intonation, your fingers don't land exactly where the old tape was.
  18. joshmickelson


    Nov 19, 2008
    Denver, CO
    Which is precisely what I love about the DB, it's always in tune! hahah ;)
  19. I've been playing for 20 some years and never did learn the correct finger placement without markers. I wish I had but that's how it goes.
    I would do every thing you can to learn to go without them but if you happen to have my bad luck or skillset, it is possible to function with them. You just have to put up with a few dirty looks or do like I do and avoid other bass players.

    Good luck,
  20. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    Using a pencil is probably the best way to go. By the time they wear away, the fingers generally know where to land.

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