Don’t Fret!

Here at BluegrassDaddy, I endorse the "Don't Fret" sticker.  This finger position indicator was created by Phil Coonce, who is also a BluegrassDaddy.com subscriber. I highly recommend this sticker for beginners.  "Don't Fret" stickers come in a variety of sizes, so be sure to select the correct size for your fiddle.  Click here to purchase your own "Don't Fret" sticker.

From Phil Coonce:

Don't fret, the patented finger position indicator will help you solve these problems. Inexpensive, mathematically designed for accuracy, and made of clear, self-adhering vinyl, it applies easily to the fingerboard. Colored lines arranged in a scale pattern show the students exactly where to place their fingers. It gives you a resource for teaching finger positions, scales, keys, and intervals. Whatever your method, Don't fret, helps you communicate more effectively. So work hard, but

Don't fret

Here is a video with detailed instructions on how to apply the "Don't Fret" sticker:

Posted in Teaching Tagged with:

Best Online Fiddle Lessons Forums Don’t Fret!

This topic contains 24 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  John Cockman 8 months ago.

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 25 total)
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  • #15044

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Here at BluegrassDaddy, I endorse the “Don’t Fret” sticker.  This finger position indicator was created by Phil Coonce, who is also a BluegrassDaddy.c
    [See the full post at: Don’t Fret!]

    #15143
    Rock
    Rock
    Participant

    Hey John, will these be available in your store?

    #15156

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Yes! I’m working on it 🙂

    #15160
    Rock
    Rock
    Participant

    Hee! Hee! Goody! Goody!

    #45455
    scadywhite
    scadywhite
    Participant

    I’m an adult who’s been playing for 3 years and still struggling with finger placement. But putting something like Don’t Fret on my fiddle feels like going backward. How long do beginners usually use an aid like Don’t Fret?

    #45456
    rodger
    rodger
    Participant

    Great question for those starting out to play fiddle.  With beginners, we never used to have the don’t fret stickers, so tradition has been to put several thin tapes across the neck. So that on the A string, the tapes would be at the B, C#, D, and E marks.  Beginning tunes are in A, D, G major, so the tapes would cover F# on the D string and all the other notes of those scales on the other strings.  In G, the C natural would not be on a tape, but would start the student learning to play notes off the tapes.  The tapes or stickers are a great learning tool to get started and encourage the student.  They  don’t provide ‘exact’ placement for perfect intonation, and the student has to realize that from the beginning, and learn to adjust, slightly rolling the finger to sound out a perfect note.  The brain has this incredible ability some call muscle memory, so that after playing a while you don’t have to think of exactly where to go for that note, but you do it naturally.  The sooner you work on just depending on ear, going by sound, and not so much consciously thinking of finger placement, the faster this skill will develop.  But that statement is over simplified and misleading, in that there is still a place for the sticker aids well into several years of playing.  I think the trick is to realize that and learn not to depend of the aids for normal, easy, notes, but know how to use them in the situations where they are an asset.  Especially in lots of double stops, etc.

    So, in summary, if you are a serious student on a strict regime of everyday playing scales, arpeggios, and various exercises, all in different positions, etc.  then you wouldn’t be using a sticker for very long.  But for a student that plays occasionally, off & on in your practice discipline, the sticker will be an asset for several years.

    Now, this is just my view, and if anyone has something different please don’t hesitate to disagree, because the object is to help & not hinder folks wanting to learn.  People are incredibly versatile, and find new ways to utilize things like this.

    When you say, you are still having trouble with finger placement…could you be a little more specific?  I’m wondering if you’ve been overthinking instead of learning to go by your ear and learning to trust your instinct?  John has seen the don’t fret sticker to be a great asset, so I’ll let him, and others with experience with it, coach you on that.  A lot of what I’ve said is general advice that might help others as well.

    edit: Let me give a practical example.  So, you’re learning a tune and just starting out.  The first thing is to get the tune in your head.  Don’t even think about making notes on the fiddle until you have the sound of what you are trying to play in your head. Then pick up your fiddle and just play a measure, or couple of bars, and you will probably have to think…OK that note is an open string, and the next note is my first finger on that line on the sticker, and so on….but the object that you’re working toward is after you repeat doing that over & over…is to do the bar or couple of bars by feel & ear without thinking  all that I just said.  Force yourself to do it just by ear…if you miss the note, move your finger by ear to the right spot, until eventually you’ll find you can hit it first try.  So, use the sticker aids for step one, then move on to step two.  Eventually, you may not really need the sticker for step one on easy stuff, but will find it handy for something hard in other positions, double stops, etc.

    With the kids, we don’t explain any of this because we don’t want them ‘thinking’ about it.  We make sure they have the tune, or bar in their head, then just play it for them, and then they play it…we might say something like…’that note is on such & such a line on the sticker, etc.’ if they really miss it, but we don’t want them playing by thinking out every note as to string & line.  They naturally go by ear, and the aid simply fills in where needed.

    #45462

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    That’s a good assessment, Rodger. At my camp I love the stickers or tape strips for beginners because they get a big boost of confidence when they can immediately play recognizeable melodies “by number” and can stay in tune as a group. A lot of second-year campers continue to use them. Most of my third-year fiddlers take them off because they don’t want to look like novices,  and because the lines aren’t exactly where they should be (as Rodger mentioned).

    #45463
    Great Scott
    Great Scott
    Moderator

    Hi Scadywhite.  To answer your question: usually a few months until your muscle memory develops…(for some people =less time.  For other folks=longer time).  There are also fret stickers that actually have the name of the notes that you are playing printed on them; that way you are learning the name of the notes combined with correct finger placement.   Teachers advise to not rely on fret stickers for too long though, as this dependency will inhibit your advancement.

    #45468

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Someone once said, “Never put your ears on your fingerboard.” I’m paraphrasing, but I think they meant that you should always rely on your ear and never on stripes. But, I believe the stripes are great for getting beginners over the hump. As Great Scott says, it is different for different people. The stickers are especially recommended for those who are young, who don’t already have a developed ear, or who get quickly frustrated with their own sour notes.

    #45494
    scadywhite
    scadywhite
    Participant

    Thanks, all! When I began, I had the 3 standard tapes but yanked them all off one day, less than one year in. I struggle most with 1st & low 2nd fingering, especially on the A string. That C natural is almost always sharp. The F#/G and E/F are a struggle too. It appears to be a function of hand mechanics for me; my 2nd finger wants to follow my 3rd. I’ve been told by my teachers that I have a good ear and I just learned 2 new songs by listening to them, so I’ll skip adding any visual aids for now and just keep playing.

    #45498
    rodger
    rodger
    Participant

    Yes, the tape will tell you where to aim for but it won’t give you that perfect intonation.  It takes a lot of daily, repetitive exercises to develop that perfect intonation, and to keep it.  I use a tuner to keep me honest in those exercises and it is a great aid.  Have your teachers played your violin to see how it sounds on those notes?  My fiddle has harmonics that are such that that C# on the A string sounds really bad even when it’s played in tune.  Drives me crazy.  Like the second note on Ashokan Farewell, which is a really important note in that it’s the second note people hear and all the theory stuff about it being a half step on to the next note etc., and it really sounds bad even when played in tune.  So it really could be that, since you have a good ear, it is being confused by the peculiar harmonics of your fiddle.  If you’ve been playing it from day one, another fiddle will sound strange also until you get used to it.

    #45505
    scadywhite
    scadywhite
    Participant

    I’ve used a tuner to help me see that my second finger simply wants to stay attached to my 3rd, it may be something I just have to compensate for over time. I’m at the age where we learn to make adjustment and allowances for our physical aches, pains and limitations. I have 2 fiddles: a wood one and a carbon fiber one and while they have different sounds, there is nothing inherent with either one that makes a note sound “off”, they both have great sound. One of the main reasons for getting rid of my first fiddle was related to the G string. Even when I changed the string, I never liked the way it sounded.

    #45507
    rodger
    rodger
    Participant

    Then I’m sure it’s just a matter of working through it…practice makes perfect, or at least pretty good….carbon fiber fiddle..sounds interesting!

    #45529

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    I have a bit of the same issue with the second and third fingers wanting to stay close together… It’s only natural!

    Oh, that terrible G-string…

    #45531
    scadywhite
    scadywhite
    Participant

    That’s hilarious, John, thanks for the laugh.  Any tips on keeping 2nd and 3rd working independently? And Rodger, my carbon fiber fiddle is just about indestructible and quite loud, so it’s perfect for crowded jam sessions. It’s also very easy to play; the scale of it is perfect for me.

    #45540

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Place your fingertips on a tabletop, stretch and exercise by lifting one finger at a time. Do this also on the underside of the table. Also exercise by repeatedly making the Vulcan “V” with your left hand. This helps!

    #45551
    scadywhite
    scadywhite
    Participant

    Many thanks, John. I can do the V no problem, but the 3rd finger is not a fan of the table exercise, so that could be the key!

    #45586
    Great Scott
    Great Scott
    Moderator

    ROFL!!!!!!  I have been on the edge of my seat in anticipation of this video surfacing again!    🙂

    #45599

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Hahaha Great Scott — the original client in this now-famous case! I hope your G-string is bright and springy these days. 🙂

    #45620
    Great Scott
    Great Scott
    Moderator

    John, unfortunately my G string never improved.  Dull and woody sound must have been the makers priority, knowing that Great Scott would be buying it.  I think they were out to get me.  Sadly, even my little German boy has the same problem.  O how I dream of a sweet sounding G string.  One of these days, Alice!  One of these days…!   🙂

    #45621

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Sorry to hear about that, GS. Dull and woody does not sound promising! Maybe you could thin your bridge a bit under the G string.

     

    #46103
    ruckydoo
    ruckydoo
    Participant

    Been messing with the fiddle a while now and have just gotten the courage to pull off the A tape and haven’t missed it …too much.   Catch myself gazing down the strings occasionally and hope to rip another tape off soon.   Have often wished that I’d have gotten a “Don’t fret” sticker though.   Good tool for neophytes  and I still consider myself to be firmly embedded within that group.   Am finding that increasing my daily practice time has had obvious merit and am trying to get at least an hour in daily.  At my age, memory isn’t always too great but…whatta splendid pastime!    FUN!

    #46104

    I would put a tuner on the scroll and then find you main notes in first position then play them so your hearing them, seeing them on the tuner and feeling them in the fingers and soul. That way you hear the Notes as well as seeing them on the tuner and seeing/feeling your finger placement for intonation. Practice basic Major and Minor scales this way and Triads for Chord. Then just turn off the tuner and bow through a note then turn it on to see if you hit the note in the right pitch. It will help improve confidence greatly. An before you know it, you will be able to hit the notes easily and Intonation will vastly improve.

    #46112
    Great Scott
    Great Scott
    Moderator

    Thanks Michael.  Your excellent suggestions really work!

    #46194

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Ralph, congrats on taking the tape off. That’s a bold step!

    Michael, playing with a tuner is a great way to hone your intonation. I never even thought of that until some of the guys here mentioned it. Very helpful!

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