Practice strategies for making double stops easier
Through my own experience and working with my violin and viola students, I've discovered a few ways to make double stops easier. Try these strategies!
System for Learning Double Stops (always follow the fingerings, regardless of which step you’re on! Stay on the earlier steps until they’re mastered, then add more. You can work simultaneously on steps 1 and 2, and on steps 3 and 4)
Bottom note alone
Top note alone
"Ghost finger" on the top note (place the fingers on both notes, but only play the bow on the lower string, so you only hear the bottom note but get the feeling of playing the fingers for both notes. Even after you know the passage well, this is a good way to check the intonation of the bottom note)
"Ghost finger" on the bottom note (place the fingers on both notes, but only play the bow on the upper string. Even after you know the passage well, this is a good way to check the intonation of the top note)
Play both notes together
Melt the notes together: Play both notes with the fingers. Begin by playing the bow on the bottom note. When you’re happy with it, rock the bow down to add the upper string. This is helpful for adjusting your intonation!
Overlap bowing: Slur each double stop to the double stop before and after it. This helps train smooth movement of the fingers between double stops and avoid building in large breaks or unintentional lifts with the bow.
Jello hand: If you're struggling with tension in your hand while playing double stops, try placing your fingers lightly on the strings, as though playing harmonics. This will help you practice your finger placement while training relaxation in your hand.
Guitar position: Take your violin down to guitar position, and place the fingers in position without the bow. You can pluck the strings to test your notes if needed. This is helpful for measuring the distance between the fingers and mapping out how you plan to move between the double stops.
Test your anchor finger: Sometimes the successful intonation of a double stop can be determined by which finger you aim for, or which one you think about placing first. If your method isn't working, experiment with aiming for the other finger and see what happens!
Have you found other double stop practice strategies that work for you? Share your ideas in the comments below!