What is a good way to practice double stops?

July 3, 2012 at 11:26 PM · What is a good way to practice double stops that will be easy and that will guarantee the progression of double stops?

Replies (25)

July 4, 2012 at 04:20 AM · Sevcik.

July 4, 2012 at 06:13 AM · Practice slow, practice in small groups. Key ingredient - patience.

July 4, 2012 at 06:17 AM · Greetings,

Probably One of the most useful ways to practice them is to play one line at a time while fingering the other.



July 4, 2012 at 03:04 PM · Buri's suggestion is a tried-and-true practice technique for double-stops. For a sequence of double stops, another way is to play the first double-stop -- then pause, finger the next one -- and then play it -- without any sliding around to adjust. Then you listen and analyze what needed adjusting, and try again. After several tries the sequence should be in good tune and then you can work on sewing up the gap (eliminating the pause gradually). Then you add the next one in the sequence, but if there are a great many in a sequence don't always start at the beginning, but work along in groups of three or four.

July 4, 2012 at 04:06 PM · I guess never tought of that good sugestion! That is probably what Im going to do. Thanks Paul and Buri!

July 5, 2012 at 11:59 AM · Another idea that I like is to practice the transition from one double-stop to another in single notes in different groupings. For example if you are practicing going from one to another playing: lower note of first double stop, upper note of first double stop, upper note of second double stop, lower note of second double stop and so on through a part of the passage and then every other permutation of that (U1L1L2U2, U1L1U2L1, L1U1L2U2)

July 5, 2012 at 11:22 PM · There's a good book by Whistler.

July 5, 2012 at 11:42 PM · Take it very slowly -- one double stop at a time -- initially leaving a space between them. There are several issues to address:

1. intonation (of course)

2. tone quality -- both strings sounding consistently with a pure tone quality - like when you tune.

3. making sure that no finger is touching an unwanted string causing an impurity in the tone. Sometimes when a finger is close to the next string, it will cause a nasty buzz when we play and that string starts to vibrate.

The next step is to connect the double stops -- cleanly with no extraneous sounds. We practice in a chain. connecting the first double stop to the second. Back and forth. Then the second to the third. etc. etc.

July 6, 2012 at 12:08 AM · Hi,

My own two cents... As an exercise book, Sevick Opus 9 is a great tool.

In my experience, a lot of the issues with double-stops have to do with hand placement and setup of the left hand more than anything else. A couple of pointers:

1- the fingerboard rests on the base of the first finger

2- the thumb is bent naturally and is in line with the first finger (double-contact is a big help for double stops)

3- shift with the arm maintaining the above alignment (a trick from James Ehnes)

4- the elbow should be under the fingerboard, not pointing sideways, ideally hanging at the bottom of the pendulum for least tension

5- as you go above fourth position, move forward and up over the violin, not around the violin to maintain finger angle. Again, really helps with intonation.

Cheers, best of luck, and hope these suggestions might help a bit!

July 6, 2012 at 01:38 AM ·

this exercise was shown to me by zakhar born, it really works. very useful for fast passages in 3rds, such as for paganini 1st concerto, 1st caprice, 4th caprice, etc...

do it with every sequence of thirds, also do it when one note is open string (working the 1st and 3rd finger more in that situation).

you can also do it with 6ths and fingered octaves. unisons as well, if you're really masochistic

i recorded it quickly for you here, because its much easier than trying to explain it. sorry the playing is a bit sloppy, its late here :)

July 6, 2012 at 05:13 PM · Oh my god thanks Kurganov! That is so useful!! I'm a definitely going to use this in my daily practices :)

July 6, 2012 at 05:18 PM · yes there is many tricks like this that really organize practice and make it efficient in any situation

July 6, 2012 at 06:59 PM ·

July 6, 2012 at 07:48 PM · Oops!

July 6, 2012 at 07:51 PM · Excellent advice!

Can I add a few "basics", to avoid frustration?

(I have many young female students with small hands and strong personalities!)


Until the left hand is secure, "I like to "float" the bow on the two strings; then, when deepening the stroke, take care to adjust bow speed and pressure to the upper string (the lower one will take care of itself). Don't press twice as hard as usual!

Small hands:

When playing thirds, the 1st and 2nd fingers may have to curl more than usual, pulling the string a little to the right rather than holding it down. Teachers with longer fingers don't always appreciate this.


A slender finger may have to "sit" between two strings: the contact will be round the sides of the finger tip, rather than nearer the nail. (In chords, this finger can "roll" a little to catch the strings.) The finger has to be a little further up the string than usual to play in tune..

On my viola, and maybe for you on the violin, I occasionally use two different fingers for double-stopped fifths .


One note out of tune will make the other seem out of tune! Practicing arpeggios legato will help secure intonation across the strings.

I hope this will help to make messrs Kurganov's and Robinson's superb advice even more effective for a talented but delicate young lady as yourself!


July 6, 2012 at 08:02 PM · I'm with Nate on this one. Scales.

July 6, 2012 at 08:43 PM · Scales, of course! But as a teacher I am as interested in the "how" as well as the "what"!

July 7, 2012 at 04:04 AM · I would like to practice more double stop scales. I currently do 3 octave scales in broken thirds in C major only. My questions:

- is it helpful to have sheet music for all of them or do you just start on the tonic and then figure it out as you go?

- do you ever shift into higher positions in a 2 octave scale?

Thank you. Tom

July 7, 2012 at 04:35 AM · tom, i think you should absolutely memorize your scale routine, whether its galamian, flesch, hrimaly, your own, whatever. If you are looking at the notes and concentrating on playing whats in the music in front of you, that's concentration that won't be used listening to all of the technical aspects of playing a scale. So memorize it, it's not so hard :)

for 2 octave scale i would emphasize staying in first and third position at first, until it's really quite solid. with every year that goes by i realize more and more how important and neglected 1st position can become (our mind is crowded with the many positions we need to learn to play paganini, or major concertos, or X piece) but in the end I firmly believe 1st position is the most important. and i believe it is the most difficult. the closer our hand comes to our body, the more at east we feel, the less pressure our fingers need to exert on the strings, and the distances are of course all smaller. practically every beethoven and mozart sonata especially require a mastery of it.

That said, if you are really devoting enough time to scales/exercises, you can certainly have time for other patterns. I would suggest 1-2 octave scales on 1 string. especially 3-4-3-4-3-4... going all the way up and down - thats a good one. it's from hrimaly book, along with some other basic but very good and efficient exercises (this part is separate from the actual scales). if you can get your hands on it, ysaye wrote a great little book with scales and exercises that is particularly great. there are lot of little tricks like that that will speed up your progress with the right concentration.

also, if you play scales in multiple positions, record yourself. identify which octave is the most out of tune, or not cleanly played with the bow - isolate that octave. no point in wasting time playing the other octaves at that moment. in repertoire the same idea can be applied, isolating the problem areas. most people (even professionals) are in the habit of playing through too much without thinking...

to supplement your scales, i think it's also a good idea to go back to basic etudes of kreutzer, for example, to work on shifts (no.11), finger strength (no.9). for me, these little pieces of music are actually a preparation for playing a beautiful clean scale with vibrato, because of the clever way they isolate certain techniques. I also find some of the simpler Dont etudes very good. no.1 and 7 are great to start with, no.3 is a favorite to warm up intonation accuracy...

like i said there are many things that can be done for specific technical needs in a scale. i have several routines i have developed for my own purposes depending on the issues at hand (whether i just want to warm up, or whether i want to do a little bow stroke or intonation maintenance) there is so much great material out there, and people spend years just cycling through all these methods and etude books, and a lot of that time is a waste i think. The key is to nail your weaknesses and pick or invent exercises that remedy them quickest. then the next step is maintenance... it's a lot to talk about, depends on your needs. i would be happy to discuss it with you further if you would like.


July 7, 2012 at 04:55 AM · Sorry to add another post, but there is another exercise I just love. It is pulsing one note while sustaining the other.

You can find sustaining the upper note while pulsing the lower note in Flesch's "Problems in Tone Production" as well as in the A-minor solo Bach Sonata, but you can also sustain the lower note and pulse the upper note. This is great for sound and I think for the ear as well.

July 12, 2012 at 07:57 PM · My teacher has me working through "Melodious Double-Stops" by Josephine Trott (G. Schirmer Inc., distributed by Hal Leonard). It's full of perfectly fiendish exercises that are just getting trickier and trickier, and I'm not even halfway through the book yet.

Wohlfahrt op. 45 no. 28 is a good exercise too.

It's best to practise these when nobody is around...

July 12, 2012 at 09:38 PM · place both fingers but just play one string at the time. Upper and down voice. After a few times doing this, try as actual double stops. Results are amazing!

July 13, 2012 at 04:34 AM · Another vote here for "Malodorous Double Stops."

July 13, 2012 at 04:42 AM · Just practice bowing back and forth on open strings. It shouldn't take too long, double stops are easy!

July 13, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Not with my left hand...

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