Violin Double Stops

Violin Double Stops

Hi Guys and well done on making it to a stage where you’re ready to begin violin double stops!

Although double stops do involve playing on two strings at the same time, the word ‘stops’ is a bit misleading as we don’t necessarily want our double notes to stop on the string; in many cases, we would actually rather they were as smooth and ‘un-stopped’ as possible.

I clearly remember the day that my teacher introduced me to double stops. I was about 6 or 7 years old and we were learning a piece called ‘Beautiful Bluebird’. I can’t remember who the composer of this piece was but do remember being super excited to be making two sounds at the same time. Double stopping can be a lot of fun, so do take time and effort to develop the necessary skills correctly.

Where We Go Wrong

Often, when a students struggle with double stops, it’s because they’re raising their left elbow and pushing the bow down harder onto the strings. Although this will, in most cases result in two strings being played at once, the quality of the sound produced is really quite poor and this is certainly not conducive of comfortable and correct technique.

Whether you’re just starting out with your violin double stops or if you’re looking to improve because you know they just aren’t right, then you’d do well to stand in front of a mirror and see what’s going on.

Before You Begin:

Start by playing some open A or D string notes on their own. By this stage, your right arm should be comfortably correct and your bow hold should be well established; if not, you’re not ready to begin double stops.

Now try playing the open D and A strings together and pay particular attention to your right arm, hand and wrist.

Take a look at the picture of Olivia above and you’ll see that the position of her right elbow looks unnatural and forced. What you may not be able to see is that this arm position is forcing the bending of Olivia’s right wrist which in turn, causes her bow hold to suffer.

Playing with your right arm in this position is certainly not going to create a good quality of sound and you’re going to experience tension and even pain in your right arm, hand and wrist.

Let’s look at how we can begin to play double stops comfortably and correctly.

Finding The ‘Middle’ Strings

When my students start playing violin double stops, I get them to imagine that there is another string, in between the two strings that they want to play together. This ‘middle string’ is where we want to aim the bow and the elbow and right arm position must be at the level that would be correct for playing on this ‘middle string’.

Take a look at the following slides; this is Olivia again and she’s playing some double stops. Take a look at the position of Olivia’s right arm and hand as she plays on each pair of strings.

Try finding your own ‘middle strings’ in front of the mirror and pay attention to the position of your right arm and hand. Also take note of the feel; there should be no tension in the hand, arm or wrist and your correct bow hold should be maintained.

Middle A and D String
Middle A and E String
Middle D and G String
Previous
Next

Playing on two strings

Now that we’ve established where the bowing arm should sit, you can begin following my video below. Place the middle of your bow on the A and D strings and try playing the two strings together. Start very small and always play softly; don’t go further than a couple of centimeters in each direction and listen for the consistent double sound. Keeping your bows small, now turn your attention to how your bowing arm, hand and wrist feel.

  • Are they loose and relaxed?
  • Are you still holding your bow correctly and comfortably?
  • Is the position of your elbow comfortable and at an appropriate height?

Extend the bows slightly and check your technique at this new length. Increase again, check again and continue doing this until you are able to play whole, slow, steady bows on the A and D strings.

Never move your bow more than what good technique and a high quality of sound will allow. Once your bow starts to wobble onto just one string, the quality of your sound decreases or your right hand and arm technique begin to suffer, stop. This is the limit for you at this stage; practice up to this point until you are able to increase your bow length again following a few days or even a week of practice.

Developing Control

Once you are able to confidently and comfortably produce a beautiful double note sound for the entire length of your bow, you want to start developing further control with your violin double stops.

As shown in the video, start on the open D string and then, in the middle of your bow, change to playing the A and D strings together. A sticker in the middle of your bow may help with this.

Be super careful not to raise your elbow as you move to the double stop and listen that your transition is smooth and controlled.

Add a minim double for each up bow and you’ve now developed a really strong double stopping technique.

Let’s Introduce Double Stops

This exercise is from the AMEB preliminary syllabus and is really good for developing your double stopping technique. Even if you’re not doing AMEB exams, the AMEB technical workbook is certainly a good investment and something that you will make much use of over the years. Using the skills we have discussed above, now you just need to add the fingers.

Learn one line at a time, always listening for a beautiful quality of sound and watching out for the maintenance of correct technique.

Check out my post on violin finger placement for more help with using your left fingers on the strings. Standing your left fingers up correctly and maintaining good left hand and wrist technique is especially important for double stops; you don’t want your fingers pressing on more than one string here!

Congratulations!

If you’ve made it this far, you’re well on the way to playing beautiful violin double stops. Remember that although we want to hear double strings, for the exercises here we don’t want any ‘stopping’ at all; we want a very smooth and continuous sound.

Whether you’re here as a beginner double stopper or if you’re struggling to make a nice double stopping sound as a more advanced player, please do practice these exercises daily so that your quality of sound and technique develops well.

Don’t forget that if you need a hand with double stopping or anything else violin related,  just reach out either through one of my social media accounts or in the comment section below and I’ll certainly get back to you as soon as I can.

Best of luck with your double stops!

Marketa 😉

 

 

 

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Hi Marketa

    You’ve provided some really great strategies for folks to play “double stops” on the violin. Your content is exceptionally easy to follow and well presented.
    I’m starting to get some good sounds with my violin now but i’m not quite up to double stops Love that you’ve finnaly added some pictures outlining what you are explaining, it really helps to display what you are referencing.

    Great work!

    Tracy

    1. Hi Tracy and thanks for your interest,
      I’m so glad you’ve found the lesson useful and I’m really sorry it took so long to get the photos up. With the whole COVID19 thing in full swing, I’ve been super busy with organising my kids and my violin students for their online lessons!
      It’s great you’re getting a good sound from your violin now. I remember a while ago you wrote to me about how it was quite scratchy and unpleasant! That’s a big step forward so well done for sticking with it and getting there in the end.
      When you do get up to double stops, please do send me a video! I’d love to hear
      marketa 🙂

  2. Thanks for helping with this. Nice job of explaining double stops and offering some great tips for playing them successfully! I can’t get the four and the low two together do you have a tip?. I really like that you have included a video that shows the technique. Makes the instructions much easier to follow!

    1. Hi Chris and thanks for your comment and question
      It’s actually very difficult to get the low second and fourth in first position; the spacing is quite large and often students end up having their fourth finger leaning onto the higher string.
      Try on the A and E first, it’s much easier! Then go to A and D and work down to G and D over the course of a few weeks or even months. Whatever you do, don’t rush.
      Also, you might like to work with high second and fourth for a start. The spacing is much nicer!
      I hope this helps
      marketa 🙂

  3. Marketa,
    This is an excellent tutorial for my son who’s struggling with double stops and online violin lessons at the moment. I appreciate the completeness of your explanations and the reasonings you provide for each step in the process. Your love for the craft shines through because from what I see you are an excellent teacher!

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Rob and thanks so much for your comment. I always feel super happy when people find my work helpful!
      Online lessons are tricky at first but do hang in there; they get easier and you’ll see that your son does actually benefit through keeping his music up. I’ve just finished writing an article about online violin lessons and will post it shortly (once I get my pictures sorted). Please do have a read and see if there are any tips that might be helpful for your son and you.
      Thanks for your kind words and best wishes during these trying times
      marketa 🙂

  4. Hey Marketa,

    This is a really insightful and informative article. My niece plays the violin and I don’t believe she has reached the double stop techniques or exercises yet.

    I have forwarded on your article to her and encouraged her to check out your videos, site and articles as a whole. You really are doing a great thing here and I think my niece’s violin playing will improve a lot faster.

    Thank you for sharing your talents and teaching others how to play the violin. We really do appreciate it.

    Keep up the amazing work. All the best,

    Tom

    1. Thanks so much, Tom!
      I am so glad that your niece will find this article helpful.
      Please do let her know to just send me a message if there’s a particular technique she’d like me to address or make a video about.
      Best wishes
      marketa

  5. Hey I did just comment but I think it glitched and you may have not got it.
    Anyhow… I loved your website, Article page, I play guitar and love harmonizing notes, Your website is laid out nicely and the information is easy to understand and follow.
    I am glad I read this article, I love music and this article ( even in A small way ) has broadend my knowledge in the music industry, Now I know what double stops are on the violin,
    Thank you and well done.

    1. Hi Luke!
      Thanks so much. I don’t think I did get your previous comment but in any case, I’m really flattered by your kind words!
      Please do let me know if there’s anything I can help you with. I don’t play the guitar but I do know an awful lot about harmonization and music writing.
      Have a great day and stay safe during these trying times!
      marketa 🙂

  6. Hello Marketa,
    I think your website is very informative and well written. I can tell that you are really passionate about the Violin and I can picture you sitting in an Orchestra on stage. I also think the video demonstration was a nice touch and will be very helpful to those who are visual learners. I say that because my daughter is a visual learner and so am I. She also started playing the Violin in Elementary School. Unfortunately, the course wasn’t offered in Middle or High School and I couldn’t afford to pay for Lessons so she had to quit an activity she really enjoyed. She is a graduating Senior in High School now and perhaps if I show her your Website, she may want to take it up again. Thank you for all of your time and effort in creating such a lovely Blog and I wish you great success.

    1. Hi Deatrice and thanks so much for reaching out,
      Please do tell your daughter about my website! I am making lots of videos and there are many things here, especially regarding beginner technique. If she wants to pick up her violin again, she’d definitely be able to learn quite a bit from my articles.
      Have a lovely end to the week and thanks again for your kind words
      marketa 🙂

  7. Hi Marketa,
    Your article is so informative and thorough. A great way to get further training, especially during this time of social distancing. I was wondering where the pictures and slides where but it seems they’re all there now.

    Your directions and explanations give me a step by step process to practice and master your instructions. And, what a good idea to see your form and finger placement by standing in front of a mirror. Interestingly enough I would not have thought about this.

    1. Hi Brian and thanks for your kind words,
      It really is a weird time at the moment. I actually wrote this article a couple of weeks ago, thinking I’d put the pictures up the next day. Then the whole COVID19 thing happened and I’ve been so busy organising online lessons etc that I forgot to add the pictures. So sorry about that!

  8. Hello Marketa – I cant see the pictures that you are referring to. could you please add them

    1. Hi Simon,
      Thanks for letting me know and I’m so sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you.
      This whole COVID19 thing has really thrown out my schedule and I’m only just getting on top of replying to everyone.
      The pictures should be there now and I hope you find them helpful
      Best wishes
      marketa

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