How to properly execute triple stops without sounding squawky or whistling E.

Edited: September 11, 2018, 2:59 AM · My teacher has told me not to worry about triple stops yet, but I don't pay her to tell me what not to do! (I'm being sarcastic). Like the title says, I get awful squawks on the lower 3 strings, and my e string whistles for upper 3 strings... The thing is, I can execute triple stops fine with OPEN strings, when I add fingerings, in 3rd position specifically, the squawking starts. I feel like it's because I'm using too much pressure, but if I lighten the pressure, I only get 2 strings! And yes, I know what you're thinking "If his teacher tells him not to worry about it, he shouldn't attempt it yet!" But I will attempt it either way because I am very stubborn. :)

Replies (16)

September 11, 2018, 6:28 AM · It's possible that the whistling could be a result of a set-up issue on your instrument.
Edited: September 11, 2018, 7:05 AM · Try drawing the bow slightly crooked instead of straight (let your right hand pull back a little bit)
September 11, 2018, 8:48 AM · Your bridge arching may be too high. There is no "ideal bridge arching height" in fact. There are instruments that require more bow pressure (requiring also higher bridge arching) and those that respond better (and therefore require less pressure). Such instruments not only require less pressure, they cannot handle high pressure in fact. If your A and D strings are too high, scratching is the only possible result.

You can easily check the bridge angle and compare it with other violins. Just look at D and E strings in alighment and do the same with G and A strings. You will easily see how much the middle strings stick out. For good tripple stops result is better to have lower arching.

In any case, the more pressure you need to apply, the more bow speed you need to choose at the same time.
Edited: September 11, 2018, 12:23 PM · The whistling E-string has two causes. 1) Whatever finger you have down on the A string might be touching the open E. 2) passing to the open E on a down-bow slur might whistle, unless you give the E some extra force. A 3- or 4- note chord is mechanically a down-bow slur, and you can easily add an extra kick to the E. Or, if it make sense in the musical context, try an up-bow chord. Third position chord with an open E?-- the optimum point of bow contact for the stopped note will be very different than for the open E,- move closer to the bridge. I have never done those simultaneous triple stops- you have to apply so much force to lower the level of the middle string that it sounds awful. I know it is part of 19th cent. concerto style, and Paganini, but they were using all gut strings, which are more flexible, and the gut E does not whistle.
Edited: September 12, 2018, 4:41 AM · It's hard to say without looking at your bridge setup and knowing which kind of strings you use, but on general I would suggest a few things: use flatter hair (to avoif scraping the wood on the string), good initial contact with all 3 strings simultaneously, and quite a fast bow speed. The more downwards force you apply, the closer to the bridge you will need to be and the more bowspeed you will require. I personally have it a little easier since I use low tension gut strings (mix of plain and Eudoxa), but it's very possible to do on higher tension synthetic strings. Look at 01:30 of this clip to see what is possible :)

Also what Joel said is true, gut E does not whistle! You can also try some aluminium wound E strings which whistle much less than plain steel E's.

Edited: September 12, 2018, 7:58 AM · It could help to use the Russian string setup - steel E and A (which makes a bowing transition from the A to the E a little easier, and a whistling E less likely), and lower tension covered gut D and G, such as Eudoxas.

It can also be acceptable under some circumstances to arpeggiate the notes of the chord instead.

September 12, 2018, 8:52 AM · It sounds like you're attempting to execute what is actually a nontrivial technique without the assistance of your teacher -- indeed, against your teacher's advice. I suggest you have a frank discussion with your teacher, explaining that you're going to be working on it with or without their help, so could they please show you the basics.

Try executing the chord at the frog.

Edited: September 12, 2018, 10:21 PM · I also discovered what Mary Ellen suggested. If you draw at an angle there is less tendency toward whisling. In my hands it does not matter which way you go, in or out. There is a passage in Mozart 5 that ends in a chord G#-B-E, right before the return of the main theme, that was giving me fits until I started doing this. (There is a bar of rest afterward so I have a lot of freedom with my bow.) I also found that the Goldbrokat E whistles less than the E that came with my Evah Pirazzi set (even if new). I also agree with Joel. I found this chord whistles more if I try to decrease the pressure ("weight") applied as the bow reaches the E string. I was trying to avoid having an "annoying open E." But my teacher advised me to just let it rip.

Most importantly you cannot be touching the E string with the fingers you are using for the other stops, not even slightly. And if you are reaching it can be the flesh next to your base knuckle that is grazing the right side of the E string so be careful about that too.

"I don't pay her to tell me what not to do!" Yeah, you kind of do.

September 13, 2018, 12:03 AM · According to my teacher, whistling on the E is rather inevitable. I mean, even professionals have that problem occassiinally.
September 13, 2018, 1:39 AM · Well, I think I've fixed some of the issues, the biggest thing was I wasn't bowing fast enough and that was what was making the strings squawk. And also applying MORE pressure seemed to help as well... The biggest offender for some reason is C-E-E on D A E strings.
September 13, 2018, 8:41 AM · Forgive a beginner for asking a stupid question, but is triple-stopping something where you should loosen the bow tension?
September 13, 2018, 9:05 AM · Depends on what kind of sound you want. A loose bow will allow you to play the chord more quietly and with less force, but you'll still have to tug on that steel E.
September 13, 2018, 9:23 AM · Back in the Baroque and Early Music eras, when bows didn't have screw adjusters for the hair and strings were exclusively low tension gut, hair tension could be controlled by the player using his fingers to press (or not press) on the hair at the frog end. By controlling the tension in this way it presumably made it easier to play triple stopped chords. Today, a player might wish to swiftly de-tension the hair a little using the screw if, for example, the next movement in a Baroque sonata is a slow one with plenty of chords.

But note that we're talking about a specialised advanced technique that isn't applicable on all occasions. For that reason it is best to learn first the art of duple, then triple, stopped chords on modern strings with a modern bow under the guidance of a teacher.

September 17, 2018, 4:50 AM · Don't press on the E-string: stroke it nicely!

Also, I stopped the whistling with a tiny piece of thin black leather (from an old glove) in the groove of the nut. It makes the open E sound a bit like a fingered E. Bliss! (I'm really a violist..)

Edited: September 17, 2018, 10:52 AM · I wonder if you may be catching the e string without having enough weight into the string, kind of obliquely. The whistling string is the string's torsional mode, meaning the string is vibrating in twisting rather than side to side.

It's easy to come off the A string without fully letting your arm get to the level of the e string (And you won't be if you are trying to get the three notes all at once), but you may want to practice breaking the triple stop, stopping the bow before finding the e string, then finding the right plane and weight for the e string and continuing, and working your way up in speed until it feels more fluid and natural and you aren't whistling. Then, you can try without breaking the chord, trying to have enough weight in all three strings without crunching the sound.

Also, Paul makes a good point about making sure there is no contact with unwanted fingers - Sometimes, you don't even notice that your finger on the A string is ever-so-slightly touching the e string. And listen to Lydia about doing this at the frog.

September 22, 2018, 1:25 PM · Here are my triple stop pointers:
Put a lot of weight into the strings before you start playing (think bend bow hair) to pick up all 3 strings. When you play, you actually release that weight and finish out on 2 strings.
Flat hair, bend the knuckles on the bow so the top of the hand is pretty flat. Fingers should be like little shock absorbers, flexible. Angle straight or slightl back behind you with the bow direction and release completely into a "legato feeling" when you actually pull the bow. Think of squeeky e-strings as hydroplaning - the bow speed is usually too great doesn't engage the string. Either slow down the bow or add more weight, but usually slow the bow down a little does the trick. Good luck!

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