A Quick Double Stop Question

November 12, 2005 at 06:56 AM · Tell me, is more bow weight needed for double stops or not? Please give me a good reason to support your answer.

Here's my reason for asking, if you're interested: my octaves got in an argument and are no longer on speaking terms. One says it's sounding point, the other says it's weight.

Replies (30)

November 12, 2005 at 07:31 AM · Here's a brain teaser. What do you read if you stand on two scales simultaneously, one foot on each?

P.S. That might or might not have anything to do with your question. I'd try to answer that by just listening, myself.

November 12, 2005 at 07:51 AM · diagram here

I'm not sure how the forces work on this, I'm sure I could figure it out, but I'm too lazy to think about it. I believe it has something to do with forces, torque, and pressure. If someone is more clever than I am, they're free to figure it out. Maybe if I feel better tomorrow I'll figure it out, I'm sure it's quite simple, I'm just also sure I'm quite tired...

What I DO know, however, is that my teacher told me not to consciously apply extra pressure for double stops because it creates a choked sound and that faster bow speed is the better thing to incorporate. This has been repeated to me by many many musicians, teachers, and peers and is enforced by my personal experience, so if more pressure IS necessary for double stops, it isn't enough that you should double the pressure. ^^

November 12, 2005 at 08:07 AM · Ha, Jim, I'm not going to tell you how much I weigh!

Joseph, nice diagram. Did you draw it?

I'm currently experimenting, listening, and forming my own opinions, but I'm going to wait to see if other people post something first.

November 12, 2005 at 08:51 AM · ah, from a physics point of view, the point of the diagram (yes a drew it) is if you apply a ten newton force on that bar which is resting on two objects, both objects should also experience a ten newton force, not five. I'm pretty sure that's how it works, I have consensus from some friends. I'll triple check later ^^ (doesn't quite trust himself).

November 12, 2005 at 09:47 AM · Imagine moving the objects closer together until they touch and become a single object. At what point does the force on each change? It doesn't. Therefore each sees the total force.

But when you have one object and then add a second with the same properties, each will deflect half as much as the single one did. Scales measure deflection. So the scales will read half.

(wow, this thread got hijacked immediately).

November 12, 2005 at 09:51 AM · Excellent!

November 12, 2005 at 09:58 AM · Therefore when they hang me, I want it to be from a thin limb.

November 12, 2005 at 10:30 AM · Are there any states that still allow hanging?

When I picture the scale illustration, I keep seeing a pyramid of waterskiiers.

November 12, 2005 at 10:35 AM · Heifetz didn't know this stuff. If you told him to split an atom he'd be totally clueless.

November 12, 2005 at 05:34 PM · I hate to get psychological here (ahem), but...

It seems to me that one of the unique things about the Heifetz octaves that was different from literally everyone else, was they they always sounded like two complete, separate, unique voices. I have no idea how you do that. But maybe part of it is to listen to what you are playing and hear (in your mind's "ear") two separate voices, equal in strength, and then maybe your physiology will try to reproduce what you are hearing.

It can't hurt to try.

November 12, 2005 at 05:47 PM · You need a pretty advanced finger vibrato. You vibrate one note one way, and the other note the other way. Or you could just play them out of tune. OR , the only sane option, you could sell your soul to santa.

November 12, 2005 at 06:58 PM · Santa's not getting my soul this year, not unless he brings me a pretty nice violin.

About octaves not speaking: Two things are happening. When the notes match on an octave, the vibrations smooth out in my left hand fingers, which I think causes an illusion of them not speaking. It doesn't happen this way for thirds and sixths. Even in fourths and fifths, it is easy to hear both notes, although the vibrations are pretty smooth. I listened more carefully and decided that the upper note does get a little lost in the overtones of the lower note. Or something like that. I suppose I hadn't noticed this as much before because I was usually out of tune. The upper note asks for more weight to compensate.

If double stops require more weight, the question now is this: exactly how much more and why?

I also have some theories about the similarities between Heifitz and Santa.

November 12, 2005 at 08:48 PM · I guess you'd emphasize whichever note you wanted to hear, same as you would in Bach, except that octaves are usually more of a violinistic effect, and you wouldn't have to be as concerned about voices. The ease of doing that and how much you need to probably gets into the differences between violins. One thing that might be happening is this; neither violins or the ear have a flat response. The notes in an octave are far enough apart that you could be picking up some differences in response. I don't know what the combined response looks like, but I'd imagine if you play a three (some people here call it four) octave scale, you're crossing a lot of peaks and troughs and something is compensating for that if it sounds the same loudness. Do all octaves all over the fingerboard have this "problem"?

November 12, 2005 at 09:44 PM · In what way were Heifetz and Santa alike?

They were both cold.

But seriously, on the micro-attention level you are talking about, the way the human mind works, you can pay full attention (100 percent) in detail only to one thing at a time. You do that in part by blocking out other stimuli. Now, what we do most of the time is to shift our attention so rapidly that we never notice that it is what we are doing -- it seems as if we are paying attention to two or more things at a time, when we are really shifting our attention from micro-second to micro-second. So at the micro-second that you are paying attention to one note (or one finger), you are at that same micro-second not paying attention to the octave (or the octave finger). At the level of detail you are talking about, you have to make sure you have complete control over what you are paying attention to at any moment.

November 12, 2005 at 10:46 PM · Emily, you must use more weight for double stops than for a single stopped note played at the same sound point. If you play an e in 1st position on the a string and then add the e an octave lower you will probably move the sound point away from the bridge to accommodate the lower e. You will then, probably but not certainly, use less weight to accommodate the changed soundpoint required by the lower e. The reverse is true if you start on the lower e.

It is a matter of always adjusting soundpoint, weight and speed to produce the tone you want. They are all related.

A problem is that the "ideal" soundpoint is different for each of the octave notes. You have to find a compromise.

November 12, 2005 at 11:20 PM · Bingo. That would also explain why she has the problem only with octaves.

November 13, 2005 at 12:11 AM · But what about seconds? If this is the sole explanation, the same should hold true with seconds. Does it? I'm going to try it out.

I focused on the sounding point. You can definitely get a better sounding octave when you pick a precise souding point that will give both notes the best tone.

Heifetz is cold because he's dead. Santa keeps his house pretty warm, so they're not alike in that respect. (I know this because I live next door to Santa.)

November 13, 2005 at 01:07 AM · Heifetz and Santa are both considered unique in their chosen field.

November 13, 2005 at 05:41 AM · From Sander Marcus

Posted on November 12, 2005 at 10:34 AM (MST)

I hate to get psychological here (ahem), but...

It seems to me that one of the unique things about the Heifetz octaves that was different from literally everyone else, was they they always sounded like two complete, separate, unique voices. I have no idea how you do that

I completely agree with you on that Sander. Heifetz wasn't one of those people that would just emphasize the bottom note when playing octaves. Oistrakh perhaps fell into the other category of playing more on the bottom note of the octave double stop. Just listen to his recording of the Chausson Poeme or the arrangement to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, or Mendelssohn Concerto for evidence then compare those recordings to Heifetz's. I think the simple answer which is the key to any good method especially playing octaves well is to practice those octave scales in all keys everyday without emphasizing one line more so than the other. It all comes down to hearing the sound in order to assess the correct amount of weight while playing double stops. I don't really think the pressure is really any more or less than playing a single note.

November 13, 2005 at 05:01 PM · Jim,

my apologies to all, but I must know:

which thin limb would you like them to hang you from?

November 13, 2005 at 05:33 PM · Talking about octaves, I listened to the Amazon trailer of Midori playing the A Minor caprice which starts with octaves, then lots of staccato passages. They were so well in tune they sounded like glass, quite unlike any other octaves I've heard.

November 13, 2005 at 06:06 PM · Is that no. 7?

November 13, 2005 at 06:57 PM · (wades through piles of unused music till he finds his Paganini Caprices)Er, yes, that's right!

I think the theory behind emphasising the lower note has to do with the need to play more towards the fingerboard as you go down the instrument, and the fact you can't do this in octaves. There again, the octaves in the 1st mvt Sibelius are split and need the emphasis on the upper note. You can't escape from the 4th finger vibrato here so it should make octaves in general more sonorous.

November 13, 2005 at 08:17 PM · The one in Hawaii, please, if at all possible.

I fold my physics claptrap and put my money on Schallock's results-driven hand. Then I put a side bet on noodle with it till it's what you want.

November 14, 2005 at 03:44 AM · I should have known hanging would still be legal in Hawaii, since they're still stuck back in their wild west cowboy glory days.

So, the natural inclination to emphasize the lower note comes from the need to equalize the sounding points, which can be made possible by increasing the volume of the lower over the higher. The sounding point of the low note would otherwise be further toward the fingerboard.

I want to bring out the top note. Someone change the laws of physics! Scotty!

November 13, 2005 at 10:00 PM · Well, the sounding point I think also has to do with other factors, such as the overall curve of the bridge. The bow won't necessarily be necessarily closer to the fingerboard if you are playing an octave double stop between the g and d-strings otherwise the bow won't be parallel with the bridge and it will make the sound rather throaty. It really comes down to listening in order to find that sweet spot on the string I think. If you hear a screech chances are the bow is too close to the bridge and if it sounds too fuzzy the bow is probably to close to the fingerboard. Also bow speed can slightly change the sounding point. I think it is admirable to play both notes of the octave with equal sound, not more on the bottom note.

November 14, 2005 at 01:25 AM · Clarification to all those reading:

Bow speed, bow weight, string, and the distance the note being played is from the bridge all affect sounding point.

The slower the bow, the closer to the bridge one may play.

The higher the string (E vs G for instance), the closer to the bridge one may play.

The heavier the bow stroke, the closer to the bridge one may play.

The higher the note is on the string, the closer to the bridge one may play.

When playing an octave, you are dealing with two strings. The higher string will want to be played slightly closer to the bridge. The higher note is also being played further up on the string, and therefore will want to be played closer to the bridge.

I can equalize the difference in sound point by increasing the weight on the lower string (bringing the sounding point closer to the bridge) or decreasing the weight on the upper string (moving the sounding point away from the bridge), which will give both notes a nice sounding point, but not balanced. It's one or the other. I'm trying out all sorts of things at this point, with all different results, and the best thing about it so far is that the sound is improving overall, simply because I'm aware of all these factors and listening to the effects. Yeah, the ear is the best judge.

In conclusion, Heifetz and Santa are similar in their ability to defy the laws of physics. I think they use the same magic. Wouldn't be surprised if Heifetz could fly, either.

November 13, 2005 at 11:52 PM · Nice observation... Emily, (just curious...) are you talking about the last octave from Gavotte (Bach, 3rd Partita), the refrain theme? My daughter is practicing it right now and every time hits it not the way she (and me also) wants. LOL

November 14, 2005 at 03:39 AM · By strange coincidence, that is exactly what is currently on my stand. That is not why I posted the question, though. I was just playing octaves of all sorts, in scales and Kreutzer etudes.

November 14, 2005 at 02:13 AM · Believe or not... I really "saw" this music on your stand while reading this discussion! Though... maybe because this tune sounded right behind me.

About octaves... Joseph's diagram reminded me that when I play octaves, they sound much better if I use more bow weight on lower string. Like if you stay on two scales (Jim's idea, not mine!) you push your weight partly on one side. It doesn't mean that you get fake octaves. Both notes sound really but without those unwanted overtones. Also my first finger touches the string slightly stronger than fourth (but if these are fingered octaves, higher fingers are more "strong").

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