Viola Double Stops

Viola double stops are the single most important aspect of technique to achieve a healthy, strong, authoritative and balanced left hand. Double stopping is the ability to play two notes together effortlessly, which offers the string player an opportunity to harmonise a melody.

If the student and teacher regularly use the viola fingering on page 169 (which will give the instruction to practice from the correct sections within each scale) then rapid progress will occur. Habit forming practices with scales should reduce the anxiety associated with performing viola double stops.

It is always gratifying to observe increased ability emerging as knowledge and confidence expands

Double stopping and tone production go hand in hand. To perfect viola double stops, it is advisable to play each line separately. This will involve ghosting the other line (left hand fingers moving normally together) with the bow only moving on one string. The objective is to make either the top or bottom lines sound as near perfectly, as if the single lines were played independently.

It is important to memorise the scale or passage work, so that the double stops may be performed with ease. This may be achieved by repetition of the above. To achieve the correct viola finger position it is important to:

Practice each line with repeated moving quavers whilst sustaining the other line.
Practice changing position sliding slowly into each new position.

Depending on the repertoire being studied, the teacher should suggest appropriate studies in double stopping. This will give variation and avoid too much repetition during practice.

Students who have to write their own cadenzas for their performances of a classical concerto should incorporate the use of the double stop. This will give technical gravitas and will better balance the composition.

It is worth remembering and thoroughly appreciating the fact that viola double stops must be practiced on a regular basis.

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