A student asked me during the May 2020 office hours session, “How to cleanly play double stops with fingering?” The same question was asked by Abee in the July office hours. She goes on to say:

I’m trying to learn stops while playing on two strings. I’m ok with playing D and A strings if the stops are on the A. Boy howdy, can’t say the same if the stops are on the D. Any advice on this? My fingers on the D are hitting the A and my ears hurt.”

  • A few technique things to remember:
    • The fingers come down on their tips.
    • When fingering D string, lean away from A string.
    • Or, place the finger between G and D strings.
    • Break double stops into separate notes (arpeggios)
      • D1A0 > D1-A0
      • Then alternate between the broken notes and the double stops:
        • D1-1-A0-0 | D1A0-D1A0-D1A0-D1A0
  • Practice string crossing and fingering exercises.
    • Hold down the fingers as you play open strings.
      • So when playing D1-A0, hold down D1 while you play A0.
      • This prepares you for playing the D1A0 double stop.
      • You might have to lean away from the open A.
      • You can also place the first finger in between G and D strings so that you completely clear the A string.
    • For single finger or “barre” chords, fingers come down more on the pad of the finger than the tip.
      • The most common example is D1A1. Flatten your first finger across the D and A strings.
      • This is challenging.
      • In order to play it in tune, rotate the left hand in towards the fiddle.
      • Practice this in these tunes: Swallowtail Jig and Drowsy Maggie.

Further learning


This micro-lesson is an excerpt from an office hours webinars I gave on May 12, 2020 and July 15, 2020.


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One response to “How to cleanly play double stops with fingering?

  1. Thanks for the follow up on this Jason. It’s finally coming together! That tip on practicing with the stop down and going back and forth between the strings has done it for me. It was almost instant, (but not quite.) I knew I could play cleanly while keeping fingers down on the D and switching strings to the A for a note or two. So why couldn’t I do it on two strings?

    It turned out I needed a much more fundamental practice in the beginning. When I took my fingers off the neck of my fiddle and played open strings for two weeks, I got to where I could find those strings at any angle and play two at one time. This is where my problem lay the most. I just didn’t realize it. Yet, even after I gained confidence in playing on two strings no matter what or where, when I started putting just one stop on the D, it was like every single thing I had ever learned about playing got thrown out the window and I was doing something weird and unnatural.
    Now I’m playing scales droning the D and A, with all my stops on the D string, but I bounce back and forth to the open strings (both G and A) in between every note. I can see what I’m doing, I know exactly where to practice and the sound is so much better. I struggle with that third finger too. It will come. In the meantime, I’ve started trying to work in just a simple drone here or there on songs I can play fairly well.
    Newest breakthrough. I can play the 4th finger E and open E notes in the beginning of Elzic’s Farewell. I can’t slide into them yet.. but I can danged sure hit those notes on a pretty consistent basis now. It’s HUGE for me.

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