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How to Practice Double Stops (with the Bow)

Double stops can present a major challenge for double bassists just being introduced to them, specifically in the arena of intonation. Finger spacing, shifting, and dropping and lifting of multiple fingers are all areas that can trip someone up. Below, using a famous passage from Edouard Nanny’s Concerto attributed to Dragonetti, are a few ways to approach double stops which you may find helpful.

Here are a few bars of the original passage:

How to Practice Double Stops - Figure 1

Here are three ways to practice it.

1. Practice the individual lines together, using the fingering you will use when playing the double stops.

For example, if our ultimate fingering will be this:

How to Practice Double Stops - Figure 1b

We would first practice this:

How to Practice Double Stops - Figure 1c

Then this:

How to Practice Double Stops - Figure 1d

Then, of course, the double stops together, as originally written, with our chosen fingering.

2. Play them broken and together.

Here, you play the bottom note, slur to the top note and then play the double stop together. This method gives you a moment to clearly hear both notes before you play them together. Playing them together will either confirm or deny the accuracy of your ear as well.

Written out, it might look like this:

How to Practice Double Stops - Figure 2

3. Fermatas.

Place a fermata over every double stop (mentally). Play each double stop, using multiple bows on each double stop, until you believe you have achieved an in-tune interval. Then move on to the next double stop.

Written out, it might look like this:

How to Practice Double Stops - Figure 3

If you are just starting to delve into double stops, perhaps these strategies will help you as they have helped so many of us.