What, precisely, are double stops?

November 28, 2015 at 09:30 PM · I play double-stops a lot in my music. In other words, I finger two adjacent strings with one or more fingers while bowing those strings together. I thought that was the one and only meaning of 'double-stops'.

However, I'm starting to come across more and more instances of people who think that the phrase just means 'bowing two strings together' (regardless of the fingering - even including bowing two open strings together).

It confuses learners too.

What say you all?

Replies (24)

November 29, 2015 at 01:25 AM ·

With organ terminology, you stop the flow of air to a set of pipes with a stop knob or turn the air on with the stop knob . A double stop would mean 2 voices, or 2 stop knobs in the "on" position giving you two sets of pipes.

With the violin you can play 4th finger on D in 1st position and the open A string and this will give you two voices of the same pitch, a double stop.

Basically it doesn't make any sense, because they are using the mechanical language of one instrument and applying it to a completely different instrument.

For instance, play a bar chord or a power chord on the violin.

November 29, 2015 at 09:49 AM · I think the different definitions comes from the way people interpret the phrase. Some think of the phrase "double stop" purely from a bowing perspective. In other words, you bow two strings together, regardless of what your left hand is doing (so this would include two open strings).

To me, a 'stopping' is essentially a left-hand thing. With your finger, you 'stop' the string vibrating between your finger and the nut. If you finger E+B (or any two notes together, you 'form' a double stop by fingering notes E+B together, with your first finger. That's your double stop. You don't even need to bow those two strings. But if you do, and play the strings together, you are now *playing* a double stop.

I find all the different views and perceptions quite interesting.

November 29, 2015 at 10:50 AM · Yes, "stopping" the string is just the technical term for puttin one's finger on it!

November 29, 2015 at 01:29 PM ·

But, you can play to open strings and this will be considered a double stop.

November 29, 2015 at 06:16 PM · Definition #13 of "stop" in Webster's New International Dictionary (Second Edition):

"Music. To regulate the pitch of, as a violin string, by pressing it with the finger, or a wind instrument tube, by closing one or more finger holes or by thrusting the hand into its bell, in order to alter the vibrating length."

November 29, 2015 at 06:41 PM · A double stop means using two fingers on adjacent strings.

If one of the strings is open, it's not technically a double-stop. Instead, one string is just acting as a drone.

November 29, 2015 at 08:58 PM · I feel like you guys might be looking at it wrongly. FIngering is generally up to the musician, and doesn't have as much to do with the way music is written. For any double, triple, or quadruple stop one could finger it so that both strings are pressed down--with the exception of the low G on violin and low C on viola, of course. If you choose to use an open string that is your choice as a musician but conceivably you could do it either way. So this is to say that double/triple/quadruple stops are conceptual names for something that exists BEFORE you even get to choose how to finger them as a musician.

But also, beyond that, just because you don't push a finger down doesn't mean you're not still using your fingers. In other words, it's not that you are NOT using your fingers; it is that you are USING zero fingers. Think of it this way: sometimes while driving you have your foot off the gas but that doesn't mean you're not driving (probably not the best analogy but you get what I mean).

...just my two cents.

November 29, 2015 at 09:11 PM · Historical and common usage wins over logic!

Even American and British English have some charming discrepancies.

November 30, 2015 at 03:04 AM · I agree with Scott Cole, but the distinction between two fingered notes and situations where one of the pitches is sounded on an open string is not commonly enforced. The same intonation issues apply, etc. You find both kinds in books of double-stop studies.

November 30, 2015 at 09:31 AM · A dyad consists of two notes sounding together. and is written as such. A double stop is the positioning of the fingers of the fingers on the fingerboard and strings to produce the dyad when it is played. These are two quite different things.

There is often more than one double stop available for a dyad, for example the dyad comprising the second E above middle C and the B a fourth below may be played with at least any of these fingerings (stops): 0-1, 1-3, 2-4, depending on the musical context and the pair of strings selected (E/A, A/D, D/G).

November 30, 2015 at 10:29 AM · A double stop is two strings played together. If you have a finger down then its stopped by your finger. If its open then its 'stopped' by the nut. Its still stopped! So I have no conflict.

But why don't we talk about 'triple' and 'quadruple' stops - or single stops for that matter!

Don't you love V.com that we could actually spend time talking about this?

November 30, 2015 at 12:54 PM · My several technical dictionaries often give more than one meaning for a technical term (depending on the field of study) which can make for hilarious, or even dangerous results when Google tries to translate stuff.

My Concise Oxford Dictionary will add various common everyday meanings; I also have an American dictionary..

Expecting one word to mean one thing is naïve.

Words mean what the listener thinks they mean, and more rarely, what we actually meant to say.

But I agree with Elise, there are many ways to skin a cat, sorry stop a string.

November 30, 2015 at 04:16 PM ·

I am not seeing a lot of agreement on anything here; maybe it's best to stick to shoulder rest or not issues.

Like seriously, how many conundrums do we have in the violin world.

November 30, 2015 at 07:20 PM · Greetings,

I always though `Dyad` was a movie by Bruce Willis. I think the point about drones is important (especially since they flout international law and kill innocent people) but I shall continue to teach double stops as two strings played together simply because it has never confused anyone that I am aware of. Making a plug for simplicity is a good idea although then shooting your self in the foot by talking about dyads may be a wrong turning into the world of Alice.



November 30, 2015 at 07:26 PM · Charles, I can think of one conundrum right now. How come the E string is an easy string to replace, even though for many players this may be only once a year or even more, whereas the A string is usually an awkward cuss sometimes needing the full surgical equipment of tweezers and fine-nosed pliers to persuade it into a hole in the peg in the darkest and most inaccessible part of the peg box?

Why not interchange the A and E strings on their pegs, as a folk fiddler friend who used to be a chartered engineer had no compunction about doing the interchange on his fiddle, doubtless having in mind the old engineering acronym of KISS. As long as no one else tries to tune it ...

However, it is only fair to mention that in the old days of gut E strings those strings needed to be replaced every few weeks, so it had to be an easy process.

November 30, 2015 at 09:45 PM · At the risk of labouring my previous point, if you were practicing a pizz exercise using notes E+B (which just happens to be a dyad), both fingered with 1st finger, you wouldn't be using the bow at all.

You might not even be plucking two notes together, but you have still *formed* a double-stop with your left hand, and can optionally sound that with your right hand, be it singly or dyad-ically with finger(s), or with bow.

That's one way to look at it.

December 3, 2015 at 08:28 AM · For once french is amazingly logic: double stops are named double strings as Rambo suggested

December 3, 2015 at 09:18 AM · In German, on the other hand, they are called "Doppelgriff" (Griff / greifen = fingering). The term has been in use at least since Leopold Mozart.

December 3, 2015 at 09:56 AM · Greetings,

if you are playing four strings at once I think it becomes a `dopple-ganger.`



December 5, 2015 at 10:04 AM · My COD has 13 different meanings for "stop", including "plug" (as in a stopped organ pipe), "pinch back" (a plant), "fasten" (a nautical cable) all of which have a bearing on stopping a string from moving at a precise place, with or without a finger..

December 5, 2015 at 10:25 AM · Seems a bit fishy to me...

December 5, 2015 at 04:55 PM · Forget about "double" for the moment. To me, it looks like the base of the disagreement is the meaning of "stop" a string. To some it means "finger", to others it means "bow".

I'd be interested to know the origin of "stop" in violin playing.

December 5, 2015 at 05:24 PM · It simply means stopping the string from vibrating from a particular point, e.g. behind the finger, or behind the nut.

Where's the problem?

December 5, 2015 at 08:29 PM ·

It's one of those sayings that are not specific enough, so therefore everyone has a different meaning of the term.

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