How to dramatically increase your chances of playing double stops IN TUNE

I’m getting ready for a performance in mid-March of a really cool piece called Pendulum by Phillip Glass. Important NOTE: Almost the entire piece is double stops! Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about and practicing a LOT of double stops lately.

All my students work through Developing Double Stops by Whistler, because double stops are so key to building consistent intonation. When you play double stops, there’s horizontal intonation- moving from one double stop to the next – and vertical intonation – tuning the double stop itself. So which should we tune first? Horizontal first, then vertical.

How do you achieve horizontal intonation on double stops? Between any two double stops, there must be a BRIDGE note. The bridge note is the note in the double stop which creates the easiest connection between the two double stops. There are some basic rules for identifying bridges.

  1. Identify the distance between each note of the first double stop to each note of the second double stop. If one of them is closer than the other (a half step rather than a whole step), the closest note is the bridge.
  2. If the notes are equal distance, which one is the root? Use the root as bridge, if the notes are equal distance from each other.
  3. An open string cannot be a bridge, since it doesn’t have anything from which to build a relationship.
  4. If a finger is hopping from string to string between the chords (as in scale-wise sixths), you cannot use the hopping finger as a bridge.

Practice method for double stops:

  1. Identify the bridges.
  2. Play the bridge slightly ahead and then add the second note from the double stop. This makes the player focus on the connecting note first (horizontal intonation) before adding the second double stop note (vertical intonation). Practice placing the bridge note first to feel the connection to the last double stop.

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