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Karen Allendoerfer

Double stops

November 19, 2006 at 4:09 AM

I started working on Conte Serieux by Ludwig Mendelssohn. It's from "Solos for Young Violists," volume 1, and it's supposed to be pretty easy and straightforward.

It is in some ways, but . . . it has a lot of double stops. They're all open strings. The editorial notes call them "beginning double stops." Okay, good, gotta start somewhere. But when I play them it sounds more like an intonation exercise than an artistic piece.

I didn't, of course, get that impression from listening to the CD at all. The CD is played by Barbara Barber, whom someone on the viola list was kind enough to tell me is a well-known Suzuki teacher and violinist as well as violist. I think her sound is lovely. It's very rich, it's smooth, it's lush. I have her on my iPod immediately following the artist known as Pinky playing Brahms, and I really like her better. Oops, probably shouldn't admit that.

My violin teacher of 10 years ago told me that the sound out in the room and the sound under your ear aren't the same. And I'm back to that again. I need to know what the relationship is on viola (or, to be more precise, I guess, on *this* viola) between the sound under my ear and the sound "out there." Under my ear I hear the open string of the double stop way too loudly, or at least way too insistently, but I don't know how to correct that. Or if it's even really a problem for a listener a few feet away.

From Richard Hellinger
Posted on November 19, 2006 at 5:42 AM
Actually, I never found Double stops hard. What I did find hard was trills for some reason. But now I have gotten past that. Thank god :).
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on November 19, 2006 at 12:29 PM
Hard? Maybe not. The good news is that they sound pretty well in tune. I have often played notes slowly with an open string as a way to work on the intonation. But what I think I need to do this time around, especially on viola, is work more on tone. That was a neglected aspect of my former education on violin. I tended to want to play everything fast. When it was fast enough and reasonably well in tune, I considered it finished. This piece is not very hard technically, in that sense, but it seems like a good way to work on bow placement (that's going a little better, even with this bow. If I rosin it up really well beforehand, such that it makes a a lot of dust, it sounds better near the fingerboard) and phrasing, and balance between the two strings of the double stops.

Another problem that I've chronically had is kicking the ends of phrases where there is supposed to be a diminuendo. I'm doing that again and it's hard to stop. The double stops make it worse because I'm trying to make the note very precise and make sure I hear it correctly and before I know it, I've accented it inappropriately.

From Neil Cameron
Posted on November 19, 2006 at 12:52 PM
Karen, maybe it's time to start recording yourself so that you can play it back and hear what it sounds like "out in the room". Maybe that's a beginning point for answering your question.

Here's a link to a good computer recording program called Audacity.


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 19, 2006 at 11:25 PM
double stops with an open string can be tricky. Aside form the obvious problem that the open string is just a heck of a lot brighter, if you are playign an f sharp in third p@ositon and an open d string, then the diffenrece ins tring length is huge. That means that the very short string will only take a very little weight and you have to transfer thye weight to the longer stirng. That is an extreme but even an octave d is a problem. For thesame reason ther eis a nee dot find a compromise soundpoint that satisfies what you need from both strings. A useful way of helping balance out double stops is to do a bariolage exercise on whole bows. That is pay the lowe rand then upper stringalternately as rapidly as you can for whole bow.This will be
faster in the mifdlde than at the heel (probably)
You may find this exercise helpful,

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