Learning double stops systematically
Up to now when I stumbled over one of the rare double stops in my repertoire, I learned that specific one, for "single use" purpose so to speak. But slow by slow I'm reaching a point where this strategy just isn't very effective anymore, and I see that in the next months I will have to learn this systematically to be able to play the repertoire I'll be working on.
I started out on Preparatory Exercises in Double-Stopping, Sevcik Op. 9 yesterday and went through the first few pages for a first run. I'm sure it's good, since generations of violinists developed their skills on Sevcik, and I see how the systematic approach helps in understanding the intervals, finger spacing, building harmonies up from the bass etc.
But since I still have to work without a teacher since a year, for some reasons (not that I"d wish to...) I'm asking here for your thoughts and advice about the what and how to, as well as the how not to...
Thanks in advance!
A lot of students do Josephine Trott's "Melodious Double Stops" at the intermediate level.
There's a free pdf of Trott somewhere online. Isn't there a Whistler on double-stopping?
Place the lower
The Whistler book is called "Developing Double Stops."
I would recommend the Trott books over the Sevcik. And once you master Trott, you can do the Vamos double stop book, though that one is HARD.
"My kids started with double stops doing just the bottom note (but with the correct double stop fingering). Then they played (with three separate bows) the bottom note, the top note, and both notes together." Susan, that's exactly how I'm starting out. Dunno why, no philosophy behind it, guess I just wasn't able to find the right notes otherwise! But thanks, glad to know it's not complete nonsense... I'll have a look on the Trott. If Vamos is" really hard ", then I'm not sure I'll ever get there anyway.
"Lower note" vs "lower finger" - I'll just get it done both ways, just to be sure. And any kind of little variation helps in staying focused.
Gordon, do you remember the source? And, is it legal? (On ISMLP I see only the Studies in Shifting...) It doesn't have to be for free, I'd be willing to pay for a pdf version as long as I don't have to wait for delivery and then had to digitalize it by myself for iPad use...
The Sevcik double stops books was designed to weed out people. Or drive insane the serious ones.
If you want to study double stops (or indeed anything in violin technique) systematically then Sevcik is your man. However, as already mentioned, he will bore you to tears.
It depends on the student. You can certainly assign Sevcik, but a method, no matter how good, that the student doesn't want to practice isn't worth much.
Although I appreciate any shortcut (as I'd expect anyone to) this isn't what I'm after in the first line. I accept that there aren't any real shortcuts, and for developing real and stable competence it will be necessary "having played it all". And that's what systems are made for, I think.
Join an orchestra and do everything divisi.
nuuska was talking about sevcik op 9, it is a preparatory book, quite OK actually, the exercises are progressive and quite standard I would say. perhaps Scott was referring to opus 1.
My daughter is using Sevcik op 9. She did some of op 8 (the shifting one) before taking on op 9. Both books were very challenging at the beginning. Almost every measure was difficult. Nonetheless, things are getting better over time – that's the point of practice. I feel Sevcik has helped a lot, though we don't have a chance to compare it to other methods. Note that her teacher can quickly suggest how to adjust if a double stop is out of tune (e.g. which note is not in tune or if fingers are out of shape). You said you don't have a teacher right now and might not benefit from this feedback.
My daughter did Trott first and then moved to Vamos and the thirds in Flesch. I cannot tell which one she dislikes more. I don't think I've ever seen her struggle so much with intonation until she started doing scales in double stops across 3 octaves. Apparently, it is very difficult at least for her. She keeps on blaming her tiny hands but I am not so sure that's really the reason.
I like the Josephine Trott Books. The exercises are musical and pretty, and my students generally like playing them. She has a really cute solo piece -Puppet Show? (I think?) that is at the beginner-ish level.
I think it depends on the student but scales in thirds and sixths is a very efficient way to learn what is really happening. Of course thirds are just physically harder, so it's good to do sixths first. But when you do scales, especially if you mix up the key signatures a lot, then you really see what is happening when you transition from a major sixth to a minor sixth in terms of the spacing of the fingers for these intervals to be in tune. The method my teacher taught me (see above) starts with working on them one transition at a time. So at the start you'd play:
I'm not saying that scales aren't valuable- I'm just wondering which comes first, double stop scales or double stop studies?
My daughter's teacher did studies (Trott) then scales in 3rds.
My daughter's teacher (not the same as my son's as she is younger and not serious) doesn't do etudes at all. Which I find problematic, but that is another discussion. So the scales have become the etude much of the time. Doing them "bottom-top-together" makes them very manageable. My 10yo has no problem with them at all and she has been doing them for about a year.
Kiki, if you have small hands, thirds require that you slightly reposition your hand from where it is normally placed. It's effectively its own unique frame of the hand. Sixths use the normal octave frame of the hand. Thirds drive me nuts. (If I size down to a smaller violin, I do not have the same issues.)
Lydia, my daughter recently switched up to a 1/2 and that is when all the problems started. I feel bad now that I was so dismissive of her explanation. I'll pass your advice to her. Thank you. She'll probably feel better knowing that she wasn't imagining small hand problems.
My graded étude book (O'Leary) has a double-stop study by Sitt at grade 4 (and simpler things earlier than that). ABRSM begins very basic double-stopped scales at grade 6 (Bb 6ths).
Small hands? Or my medium hands on a viola...
"I'm just wondering which comes first, double stop scales or double stop studies?"
Intervals can be taxing for normal (non-violinist) hands. In addition to all the points above, pause from time to time with fingers in place and make sure your arm is loose. There will be some time (days or weeks) needed to stretch the ligaments and forearm muscles.
Stephen, that's thoughtful advice. Pausing now and then to make it more conscious what's happening makes control and adjustment a lot easier, not only in learning to play an instrument.
When starting on double stop scales, you can start by bowing the lower string, then the higher string, then the strings together. Do that for each note as you get comfortable, and then later you can drop that. The utmost relaxation is essential, especially for your shifts.
For a gentle introduction to double stop scales, I highly recommend Barbara Barber's "Scales for Young Violinists" (also available for viola). It starts with just the first position double stops, then adds a full octave, for the first several keys the "foundation keys" in the book she writes out a lot of the bottom note-top notes-notes together practice mentioned above. As a teacher, I like that students can pretty much just play what's on the page and will end up practicing reasonably effectively.
I'm doing the Trott book at the moment. I find double stops to be hard, but I think everything with the violin is insanely hard.
Before I took up violin I played bluegrass mandolin (I still do when our mandolin player can't come). I took some mandolin lessons when I started, and my teacher focused heavily on harmonized scales, in both sixths and thirds. I did a lot of exercises up and down the neck, on all pairs of adjacent strings. Harmonized scales, along with pentatonic scales, became my toolbox for all sorts of improvisation.