Hi! Lots of players starting to play two strings think it takes playing ‘harder’ to get two strings. This is the first myth I would like to dispel for you as you start working on double-stops. (playing two strings) Since our first instinct is to play heavier, I ask my students to imagine playing the double-stop notes softly, quietly. Try to get a good sound on two strings without pressing the bow. In truth, it is a matter of correct bow angle, not bow weight, when trying to hit two strings at once.
If you have music that has double strings, remember the first step in tackling any challenge in your music is to separate the hands. So that means take away the fingering and play only the open strings. At first, just look at the bow as you try to play two strings. You are getting accustomed to the location of plaything them together. You have spent all this time trying NOT to hit two strings. Now you must break that rule. Sometimes this is the hard part at first. Once you get a feel for where your bow needs to be to hit two strings, play the open strings with the written bowing and rhythm. You may need to repeat many times to feel comfortable.
If you can easily locate two strings and play the open strings with the written bowing and rhythm, try adding fingers back now. Remember to play quietly while still maintaining a good tone.
Here are two more tips about playing multiple strings:
1. When you want to play triple-stops, depending on the era in which the music was written and the desired style, sometimes you will roll the bow to play each not individually. But when you are supposed to play a more chord like note, you will find it difficult to hit all three strings together. We are not expected to do that, although some of the more virtuoso pieces may seem to be played all strings at once because it’s going by so fast. So here is what you’re supposed to do. Play the bottom two notes, starting at the frog, using about 1/4 of your bow. Then play the top two notes using the rest of your bow. If you have repeated triple-stops, save your bow, you’re probably going to be playing them all DOWN bow. Remember ‘two and two’, meaning play the bottom two strings first, then the top two strings. So we split them up.
2. Sometimes, whether double- or triple-stops, it is hard to get the fingers on the string between switching notes on multi-strings. The trick is, you do not need to place the fingers down at the same time. In triple string notes, place fingers for the bottom two strings, then place the fingers for the top two strings as you play. For double stops, place fingers in succession. Try placing the bottom string finger first, then the top string finger. Try the reverse. Feel this action as one hand motion once you decide the order in which you will place the fingers. But remember, you don’t have to place them both at once. You can ‘roll’ / place fingers in almost an instant. This is helpful because both hands then, while playing double-stops can think of their tasks as one motion, one note being played, even while two notes are being played together. I hope that makes sense!
If you have more specific questions about the double-stops you are playing in your piece, feel free to ask about them!
There is a good intermediate to advanced set of music etude books called Melodious Double Stops by Josephine Trott, which focuses on playing two strings. Here’s an example of Book I.