A Finger Position Guide for the Violin

by Taylor DiVico
Playing violin requires simultaneous finger and bow movement.

Playing violin requires simultaneous finger and bow movement.

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Learning the basic violin finger positions can make the difference between playing Mozart's symphonies on-key and squeaking your way through "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Understanding the first position finger placement on a violin fingerboard allows you to learn scales, chords and songs. You can build upon mastery of first position by applying similar skills to learning 15 preset violin positions.

Finger Numbers

The first step in learning finger positions on the violin is numbering your fingers in accordance to standard musical notations. The thumb does not count as a numbered finger, as it cradles the neck, providing stability for the fingerboard while you are playing. This means you have four numbered fingers. Your index finger is your first finger. Your middle finger is considered the second finger. Your ring finger is your third finger. The pinkie finger is considered your fourth finger. The fingers are noted as "1", "2", "3" and "4," respectively, above notes on music tablature to show which finger you should use to reach the specified note.

Open Strings

The violin has four strings: G, D, A and E. Placing the bow on these strings without placing a finger down is called playing the open string and is notated on violin music tablature as "0" to represent playing an open G, D, A or E without placing a finger down. The reason this distinction is made is because the same note can be played by placing the fourth finger down in first position on the string to the left of the open string, except in the case of the open G.


Violin notes are comprised of natural notes, flats and sharps. Fingers are placed a whole step apart from each other on the fingerboard to create naturals and fingers move a half step up or down between natural notes to make flats and sharps. The sharp of a first finger note is the flat of a second finger note. The same rule applies to all fingers. For example, to create F sharp -- designated as F# -- the first finger moves up a half step on the E string in first position between F and G and to make G flat -- Gb -- the second finger moves down a half step on the E string between F and G.

First Position Fingering

The basic guide to placing your fingers in first position begins with learning the placement of the strings and which notes your finger placement creates. The E string is highest in pitch and furthest from your thumb. Placing the first finger down on the E string creates an F, followed by the second finger that creates a G, third finger that makes an A and fourth finger that strikes a B note. The string to the left of the E string is called A. Fingers one through four placed in first position on the A string create the natural notes B, C, D, and E respectively. The D string is located to the left of the A string. The notes E, F, G and A are made by the standard finger position. The G string is the lowest of the strings, making the natural notes of A, B, C and D when applying first position fingering. The notes made by the E and A strings are considered high notes compared to their lower counterparts made on the D and G strings.

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