How to Play Double Stops on the Lower String of the Violin

By Katharine Rapoport

Sometimes, composers write double stops where the finger needs to play on the lower string of the violin, while the upper note is an open string. These double stops may feel like taking your fingers to ballet or tap dancing classes.

When your finger is playing on the lower string, it has to land a little more steeply, on tiptoe, as it were, to keep the upper string open and clear-sounding. Try this out with the exercise below.

Follow these steps:

  1. Bow evenly on the D and A strings together.

    Playing on the open strings a few times before you start adding fingers makes sure your sound is clear.

  2. Drop your first fingertip onto the D string, making sure it doesn’t touch the A string at all, after the second half note, which happens on an up-bow.

    Violinists with bigger or thicker fingers may need to aim their fingertips a little toward the G string, where their fingers won’t be in the way of the sound.

  3. Follow the process described in Step 2, but using different fingers, when the time comes to add fingers 2, 3, and 4.

    You don’t need to lift any finger off as you climb up in this exercise, because old fingers aren’t in the way of the new notes— and they’ll be waiting for you as you climb back down.

Your 4th finger may not be ready to cooperate in this step, so you can play this exercise just as far as finger 3 and then back again. You can return later to add finger 4 on the D string to sound with the open A.

You can, of course, try the “ballet dancing” on any pair of strings.

At ballet class with your fingers.
At ballet class with your fingers.