Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Double Stops, not Double Trouble

You know, the essence of double stop playing is merely the singing two lines simultaneously. It’s really that simple.

‘Yea, easy to say,’ you might be thinking. ‘Not so easy to do.’

And you’d have a point.

Double stop playing requires patience and discipline, perhaps even a willingness to endure a little discomfort, for the mildly arthritic. Yet the rewards for staying the course are wonderful, and almost unique in the world of music.

After all, how many instruments have the capability to play two lines simultaneously. And amongst those, how many can make micro-adjustments to the tuning of the pitches ‘on the fly’ so that they are truly in tune acoustically – the piano cannot.

Well, if you know of one, let me know. All right, guitar strings can be pulled to effectively adjust the pitch.

Now, the challenge is to really get the control of your hands and ear necessary to do them beautifully and easily. It has been such a challenge, in fact, that many a pedagogue and performer have written volumes of etudes on the subject.

Interestingly, Rudolphe Kreutzer dedicated only 12 of his 42 Etudes/Caprices to double stops. Yet each is a little gem, with a very important lesson to teach.

So much so that I dedicate 2 DVDs to teaching the ins and outs of playing them beautifully and with the appearance of great ease.

Volume 4 of Kreutzer for Violin Mastery tain’t for everyone, mind you. No, if you haven’t had any REAL experience with double stop playing, or your hands are yet very stiff and tight, my Allegro Players program is your ticket. In its monthly sets of lessons you’ll be brought along gently yet determinedly to the skill.

The important thing, however, is to understand how to play double stops Effectively at the earliest possible point in one’s development.

Now here’s a little tip or two on the subject. Number one, don’t over press with your fingers; play with the minimum of pressure possible. I don’t even push the strings down to the fingerboard unless I’m required to play fortissimo.

And remember, listen and sing BOTH notes. Most of us follow one pitch, allowing the second to come along for the ride; not good enough.

Now, go have a wonderful practice.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop

P.S. Almost forgot to mention this. I don’t wait for my ‘Allegro Players’ to introduce double stop playing. Even in my monthly program for beginners I have folks double stopping after just a few short months.


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