Double stop etudes for Bach

March 5, 2020, 7:46 AM · Is there a best set of double-stopping etudes for assisting with Bach or will any do? I'm guessing Trott is probably not quite there and a lot of people will say Kreutzer?

Replies (23)

Edited: March 5, 2020, 8:07 AM · There are definitely studies for this but I think technical drills will be more useful to you.
There is a set of double stop exercises written by Siergiej Korgujew that I use every day as warm-up material which really helps. I doubt you can find any of his material online but it's essentially just transposing one repeating pattern into every key but starting in the same physical spot on the violin. You could even come up with your own, unless someone else knows of something similar that's less obscure.
March 5, 2020, 8:10 AM · Double stop scales come to mind.
But then again, nothing can really prepare you for some of the stuff Bach dishes out:
It may sound like double stops and chords, but they may involve clever bowing and precise and super fast fingerings to get the job done. Some of the stuff you can only practice by practicing the piece yourself.
March 5, 2020, 9:23 AM · There is Fiorillo, caprice no. 4, which seems designed for the purpose of preparing for Solo Bach. Another, musically more satisfying option would be to work on a violin transcription of Bach's suites for cello. Starting with number 4 you'll get quite a bit of double stopping.

As has been said, none of these exercises or preparatory pieces will feature the difficulties you'll find in the "real" Sonatas and Partitas.

March 5, 2020, 10:11 AM · If you really want to take your Double Stops to the next level, get the book by Mr. Vamos, Exercises for the Violin in Various Combinations of Double-Stops. Just be careful with it, because you can easily injure yourself doing too much or having tension while practicing it. It literally goes through every possible double stop option. Warning: NOT EASY!
March 5, 2020, 2:57 PM · Kreutzer indeed has a large selection of double-stop etudes. I worked on them quite a lot in the past but I must agree with was said above, that scales in double-stopped thirds, etc prepare you equally well, because in the end what needs to be there is your basic technique; the Bach has so many unique musical patterns that have to be learned ad-hoc anyway. Then there is Kreutzer etude 42 which is a Bach-like fugue. I guess the idea there is that it is better to work on (and butcher) a Kreutzer etude than to butcher the real thing :-)
Edited: March 5, 2020, 3:09 PM · what about some of the Carl Flesch scales? Realizing they aren't quite Bach like but could perhaps be a good in between with Trott and Kreutzer?
March 5, 2020, 3:55 PM · Best preparation for Bach is pretty much Bach. Do the easier movements first.
March 5, 2020, 6:01 PM · D Minor Sarabande could be good starting point.

Slow scales in thirds is very very good for you. My teacher showed me a good way to practice them. It has really helped me a lot.

Edited: March 6, 2020, 1:43 AM · Thanks, everyone. I bought Simon Fischer's Scales a week ago, but as soon as I opened it, I wondered why I bothered. I'll look especially at the parallel scales.
March 6, 2020, 4:04 AM · @Lydia - I second that 100%
March 6, 2020, 4:50 AM · I have actually found the earlier Dont studies very helpful for my Bach. There are some chord studies which are great for the *right* arm as much as the left. And the his overall approach of taking you through difficult finger patterns, with an emphasis on finger preparation and awareness of your left elbow and hand position - that actually really helps. Dont's studies often seem fairly un-violinistic with very arbitrary intervals... again, that helps prepare you for Bach where the complexity of the chords means you end up making some very unfamiliar intervals.

Practicing scales in thirds only gets you so far when you're mixing up fourths, fifths and sixths.

Otherwise, I agree with Lydia. Bach -> Bach -> Bach. ;)

March 6, 2020, 7:08 AM · You can check this out on IMSLP:

30 Estudios para violĂ­n en dobles cuerdas (Polo, Enrico)

Also you can take a song - maybe a show tune that you know from memory - and practice playing it with double stops.

March 6, 2020, 8:31 AM · Thanks, Raymond. Here's an easy link to it, if anyone wants it.
March 6, 2020, 10:48 AM · Gordon - I feel the same way about that book.
March 6, 2020, 4:43 PM · I second Chris' suggestion of Dont op 37. That, Kreutzer and Rode will all benefit your playing greatly. Of course, you can put off repertoire forever by just sticking to etudes, so at some point you gotta just dive in. My thinking is that somewhere in the latter half of Kreutzer would be a good place to start with Bach, but maybe earlier.
Edited: March 6, 2020, 7:32 PM · "Best preparation for Bach is pretty much Bach."

This statement isn't strong enough. IMO Bach often teaches in his music, whether intentionally or otherwise, which would justify the notion of learning Bach to play Bach. It's also the most efficient way to learn that, as music, and the music itself makes the effort worthwhile.

But I'd add another thought, perhaps akin to the perspective of piano players, who are taught to learn the material one hand at a time - only right, then only left, then hands together. The thought in the violin context could be applied to the hands, but for Bach, it can also be applied to the musical lines. So you might start learning Bach double stops by not playing the double stops - just one line at a time, learning the music itself and developing its phrasing, then the other line, then all together. (Or maybe just play to a recording of one line and be done with it? Hmm...) And reapply for more than 2 lines.

To elaborate a bit more, each line even when by itself should be played as if the other line is to be played - e.g. by approaching the fingering that would be required for the other string(s). Otherwise that learning is less transferable (although it might still be worthwhile to learn the lines as music).

Edited: March 6, 2020, 9:37 PM · @Christian "Dont op 37"
Op 37 or Op 35 or both?

@J Ray and others. I've played fugues on the piano. I understand how Bach's polyphonic violin music works.

March 6, 2020, 10:18 PM · I'm with J Ray and Lydia. Though trained classically as a composer, on the violin I have been a fiddler my whole life (both West Irish and various American styles). A few years ago, I got a great violin and bow and dived into the Bach S&Ps, when I realized that my old gear had actually held me back. I am indeed using Bach to learn Bach, and it has been wonderful.

I had an interesting experience when I decided to branch out and try the Biber Gm Passacaglia, though. All throughout that piece is a triple stop--G on the D string, Bb on the A string, and G on the e string. I found it tricky, and then I noticed a bunch of players on YouTube NOT playing it, as one double stop and then the other or various other dodges. I had to screw around with it, but I found a way, and now I can play it up-bow or down, starting at the top or bottom. I wondered if anyone here has struggled with it.

OK, so I thought... I had played the Bach Gm Sonata, why hadn't I crashed into this before? Nope, Bach doesn't use it... anywhere. There is the Cm version (C on the G string, Eb on the D, and C on the A), but that is weirdly easier. Anyway, I don't know what to make of it but it's interesting, because we know that he must have messed with the Biber, and he must have thought--that triple-stop is too damned hard!

Edited: April 4, 2020, 3:31 AM · A lot has been written, already, but for my personal technical improvement, nothing had beaten the exercises for independency of three or four (respectively) fingers, by D.C.Dounis.
They strengthen the stability of the hand, and in my case, the result was that I could play everything with a much better left hand control, be it fast passages or double stops.
What's the problem with, say, a third? You have one note here, plus one note, there. Why is it still harder than playing just these single notes? In most cases, because the fingers aren't trained enough to function independently from each other.
Edited: April 4, 2020, 12:22 PM · Gordon, Dont op 35 is on a different level. Eventually, you want to play it, but I think you'd be getting ahead of yourself on something really difficult if you were playing Dont op 35 to prepare for your initial foray into Bach. Some of the harder Bach you may find yourself playing concurrently with Dont, but that's presuming you are running through a normal etude sequence of Dont 37 -> Kreutzer -> Rode -> Dont 35 (and some teachers omit Dont 37 or stick Gavinies between Rode and Dont 35).

My tendency for myself is to always want to build up more technically to feel ahead of my repertoire, as I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about what has been technical weaknesses, but at this point I'm playing Rode, and I really should be focusing some time on Bach, which my teacher assigned a while ago, and I have neglected it and put it on the Bach burner. You gotta just jump in and solve the problems at hand eventually.

April 4, 2020, 12:43 PM · Not etudes, but there are the Telemann Fantasias, the Bach Cello Suites transcribed for Violin, The Sonatas for Violin and keyboard, and the concertos.
April 4, 2020, 3:22 PM · As Christian mentioned, Dont Op 35 no1 is a prerequisite for Bach, as a chordal etude, but also for all the arpeggiated bowing work you can do. It's not so much about what but how you use double stop and chord exercises and etudes that will help prep for Bach.
April 4, 2020, 6:06 PM · Does anyone have any opinions about the Simon Fisher Double Stop book?

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