Using the fingerboard attachment in class

Feedback on the use of the fingerboard attachment in teaching situations has prompted us to set up a page for teachers. We summarise the topics, questions and experiences, comment on them and try to put everything in a useful order. This page will be updated and supplemented as the occasion arises. If you want to be informed: We are happy to do so with the ema-News.

Preface

Most of the feedback so far have in common that the fingerboard attachment looks "simple" in principle, but it is not a solution that can be quickly applied. It can be summarised that it offers a great added value if you, as a teacher and as a pupil, get involved in doing things differently than before.

Finger pressure/ How the fingers are placed

If you practise with the fingerboard attachment, the finger pressure regulates itself and finds an ideal balance between stability and flexibility. As a rule, this manifests itself in a lower finger pressure than before.

What to do with young beginners?

There are questions about what you can do with the very fresh and often very young beginners. There are reports of trying to simply place the fingers on the nodules or to grasp certain sequences of the fingers on them. The question was also raised whether it is harmful if the children do not learn the "correct" finger spacing through the nodules.

ema comment:

Basically, it is possible to simply place the fingers on the nodules. If you have a correct instrumental posture and simply swing your left arm back and forth a little (e.g. sideways), you can assume that effects will already occur and that the fingers that are on the nodules will be on the strings differently afterwards. This is easy to observe from the outside. If you ask the pupils about a before/after difference (important: let them describe it qualitatively!), you can at the same time encourage them to remember the feeling of playing so that they can recall it later. The following descriptions are often heard: it feels lighter; it is easier on the finger.

For young children, however, this is not very "attractive" - after all, it's no fun. That's why the idea of having children grasp certain finger sequences is a very good one. You can link this very well to a song that they are practising, for example, by having the children grasp the required finger sequence on the noduls. But then you should think of a solution, what you do instead of the open string (e.g. clapping with the right hand on the thigh, taking a step, saying something, etc.), because this kind of practicing can be very intensive and can be very well remembered (which is a great advantage!). If you want to use this effect positively, the open string should not simply be left out. By the way: This can also be supplemented in a next step with the right rhythm (of the song)... You can also talk, walk or the like. This appeals to many children because it has an immediate link to what they are practicing anyway. From the teacher's perspective, it is valuable because the children then take it for granted from the beginning that "practicing" is more than just "playing through".

Is it harmful not to use the correct finger spacing? No! In fact, it is a very great relief not to have to pay attention to finger spacing at all. Possible existing inhibitions, uncontrolled sliding of the fingers back and forth or the fear of grasping incorrectly disappear, while at the same time they are working on an exact, flexible and stable finger technique. This is probably one of the greatest gifts that the fingerboard attachment gives, because we teachers don't have to tell our students not to think about the "pink elephant" (figuratively speaking!).

ema recommendation:

In our experience, the "simple grasping" is not interesting enough for all children, although we have not yet experienced that someone did not want to do it. We would like to recommend combining the attachment with learning rhythm or with building up the coordination for left-hand technique. There are lots of exercises that are suitable for this purpose, and: you can hear something at the same time (this may be important for the children). The best exercises are those in which one or more anchor fingers are introduced at the same time.

First, the fingerings are made at about the height of the 4th position. What is needed is a:

  1. (suitable) rhythm (from a rhythm book, the rhythm of a piece/song ...),
  2. the already installed fingerboard attachment on the instrument

Example ]BASIC 1 [rhythm written on one rhythm line]:

  • Any finger by choice is placed on any nodule. This finger remains on the nodule throughout the sequence.
  • Another finger by choice (pupil chooses) plucks the rhythm on one string.
  • Optionally: pluck each string with all finger combinations (nodule/string).
  • Optionalyl: After that, two/three/four strings are plucked alternately.

Option: Instead of placing one finger on the nodule, you can also place three fingers on nodules and then let the remaining finger pluck. Both versions have their advantages.

Example BASIC 2 [with a rhythm from a piece/song]:

  • Any finger by choice is placed on any nodule. This finger remains on the nodule throughout the sequence.
  • Another finger by choice plucks the rhythm, but this time not only on one string (would also be possible) but on the original string
  • All finger combinations are practiced
  • (Next step without fingerboard attachment): Once each finger has been the anchor finger on a nodule: the finger that is grasping plucks the string on which it would grasp the song.

Notes on BASIC 1 and BASIC 2:

Due to the immediate coincidence of rhythm, finger pressure and "release" in the original instrumental posture, it can be useful not to insist on the correct "rhythm" at the beginning, but to pluck only crochets/quavers at first (BASIC 1) (without the necessity of reading at the same time) or quavers and crotchets alternately. Children also find it great when their teacher pluck a rhythm and they get to be the echo. [There is a recommendation: when playing echos, the teacher and the pupil should have the same equipment, i.e. they should also have their fingerboard attached]. Then, in the next step, the rhythm can usually be introduced directly.

This kind of plucking is one of the best "means" to prevent the fear of playing in register from arising in the first place. If the children can move freely over the fingerboard right from the beginning and pluck their "rhythms" there, it is no longer something unknown for them to be afraid of. That's why we recommend doing exercises like BASIC 1 and 2 in different positions right from the beginning. The fingerboard attachment can of course be moved for this, but often it is enough to simply choose a different nodule for the anchor finger. A systematic introduction to that can be found here:

>>Pizzicato-World violin and viola<<

Mobility

Movability basically plays an important role. But also the feeling of being mobile and being able to move your fingers as you would like.

Warm Up

Very advanced pupils (level: preparation for entrance examination for a Musikhochschule or Conservatory) report that they no longer have to warm up for so long since they regularly practise with the fingerboard attachment. Others warm up with the attachment (feedback from rather young people). Teachers report that they warm up at the beginning of the lesson with the  attachment. They notice that scales and double stops are much better afterwards and that the pupils improve very quickly themselves.

ema comment:

We would rather not dispense the warming up, because - if you use itin this way - it is a valuable contribution to the constant development of the technique. But it is conceivable that it could be done more quickly due to the use of the attachment. Great advantage!

Vibrato

We originally noticed that the fingerboard attachment has an effect when vibrating. That is why it is also known as the "vibrato helper".

Difficulties at the beginning

It has been reported that it is difficult to perform the vibrato movements with the attachment at the beginning. Based on some of this feedback, we have tried to find out exactly what this could be due to and have now prepared a "checklist" that hits the essential points from the feedback.

ema comment:

We can understand initial difficulties very well. After all, it is a new way of practicing anyway. Our experience is that everyone can vibrate with the fingerboard attachment, regardless of age. We have tried it with children from 6 years up to adults of 70 years.

ema check list:

  1. Is it clear what kind of vibrato is to be practised?
  2. Is it clear to the student what exactly the movement should look like?
  3. Is the beginning of the movement clear?
  4. Are the movements initially performed in slow motion?
  5. Is it clear what exactly the student is supposed to do?

1) This is often not clear to the students. For many, it is simply a "wobble" named vibrato.

2) Here you can get short impressions (videos on Vimeo) of how >>arm vibrato, >>wrist vibrato and <<finger vibrato can look like with the fingerboard attachment.

3) An important factor in vibrating is the beginning of the movement. Making it clear in which direction to start etc. often helps to develop a precise entry.

4) It takes a little time for relaxation to set in. For some it takes only a few seconds, for others it can be a minute or more. We recommend executing the movements excessively slowly (slow motion). Only when the movement is performed slowly and correctly should the tempo be increased.

5) Simply performing the vibrato movement can be difficult, because you have to do it "consciously" all at once. There are few concrete instructions. We recommend the booklet ">>Arm vibrato" with 39 practicing ideas for all performance levels, which was specially designed for this purpose. Many of the ideas can also be transferred to wrist vibrato.

General

Besides making it easier to develop a vibrato, build up left hand technique, trill, increase fluency, etc., there are a number of "side effects" that come from using it. In our experience, these are related to the fact that it becomes easier to let go or relax. There are also observations on this.

Reflective approach

There are observations that children and adolescents (refers to pupils who have been playing for some time) are much more reflective with the fingerboard attachment than younger ones, but the younger ones are partly more unbiased.

ema comment:

We share this observation. There seem to be neither advantages nor disadvantages. The moment reflective practice begins (which can vary greatly), the conscious use of the fingerboard attachment can also be learned. If the basic handling has been practised before, so much the better. We have even had the experience that the young people sometimes come up with ideas that we ourselves have not yet thought of. Those are the special moments when they come to class and simply demonstrate what they have tried out at home. A reflective approach is wonderful! As teachers, however, we also have the task of accompanying those who are not yet practicing independently and reflectively. Here, it can be advantageous to involve the parents and show them, how to attach the ResoundingFingerboard and what exactly the child should do at home.

Side effect: fun of changing positions

There is the observation that children who find changing positions difficult develop fun in playing changing positions.

ema comment:

We have also made this observation and we are trying to find out exactly what the reason could be. So far, however, we can only say this: it is not clear! We suspect that there are different factors and currently see three main ones:

  1. the change of the finger pressure
  2. orientation skill
  3. Being allowed to do things differently

The latter will probably never be confirmed, because it cannot be measured and is highly subjective. We derive this factor from students' statements. The change in finger pressure (1) can be better observed, because very often the fear of changing positions is paired with a particularly firm grip and/or the insufficiently developed ability to let go. With regard to orientation ability (2), it must be added that this cannot really be measured either, but according to our observations it improves rapidly in those who combine the left-hand pizzicato as a practicing technique with the fingerboard attachment.

Side effect: Relaxed arms and shoulders

It is described that the shoulders in particular relax when using the fingerboard attachment. This is expressed in the fact that pupils who tend to play with their shoulders raised have their shoulders lowered during and immediately after playing. You also notice that the arms become looser.

ema comment:

We share these observations, but they are not limited to young people. It is also true for adults. However, we cannot yet explain with certainty why this is so, but we are very grateful for this effect because it helps us all a lot. In our experience, not all effects always coincide in one person, although this often happens. We often observe that the right side (arm, shoulder, finger) also relaxes.

Group composition

There are reports that already existing groups (we currently know of four examples) had to be separated because one suddenly developed faster (in three cases it was the "slower" pupil) and the other did not want to use the fingerboard attachment.

ema comment:

We do not know the individual children better and therefore cannot say anything specifically about their constellations. But it is very good to know that this can happen. We have not observed this ourselves yet. In the sense that each child should be supported in the best possible way, one can then also separate a group and perhaps also enable individual lessons. Whether one uses and supports such developments is up to each individual. However, we would say that one should not stop anyone just because others develop differently than expected. Solutions should always be found.

Teacher vs Parents

Sometimes we are told that there isn't the willingness of parents to buy their children a fingerboard attachment. This is also due to the high purchase costs, but also because they think that their children cannot handle it or would simply not use it.

ema comment:

This is understandable, especially when we consider how difficult the months of the pandemic were for many. And it is not  easy at all to explain why one needs such a "helper" all of a sudden (after all, it was possible without it until now). We think: It really is an enormous advantage, but you shouldn't force anyone or put too much pressure on them. Sometimes, however, grandparents help or it becomes a Christmas, Easter or birthday present. It is said that there have even been children who continue to use their old smartphone for a longer time and then get a fingerboard attachment for it.

But maybe there are ways to organise it anyway. We have compiled everything we know so far:

  • Some teachers have an extra attachment for their pupils in addition to their own. The pupils can then use this in class. Recommendation: Since the feeling of grasping with a fingerboard attachment lasts for a long time, it is advisable to use this opportunity to practise how to restore this feeling at any time. In our experience, this always works better if you practise it, and in the end this is the best way: you are on stage and can retrieve exactly this feeling when needed! CAUTION: Pay attention to the care/cleaning of the attachments.
  • There are teachers who initiate that parents get together and the children then take turns to take the attachment home. We hear this especially in group lessons. There are also reports of how the children then show each other in the next lesson exactly what they have done at home and they then make sure that the other one(s) do the same. Furthermore, it is reported in this context that it can also be of great advantage not to always have access to it (it remains something special).
  • Schools/music schools increasingly have "school sets" for their pupils. Teachers have access to them (on loan) and use them alternately. It has proven organisationally useful if the set has different colours.
Pupil refuses

It is reported that there are pupils who strictly refuse to use the attachment. This refers to both, those who have tried it and those who have not. Interestingly, there are no reasons given for this.

ema comment:

The most important thing is not to force anyone to use it. Why one refuses on principle without having tried it can only be known by the person himself. That is something we can simply respect. If someone has tried it and then refuses, we should also respect that. We also know this from rare examples, but rather from adults than from children or young people. We ourselves can say that sometimes there are days when it is easier for us to practise with the fingerboard attachment than on other days. And it can also be that it simply doesn't fit for one or the other.