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Which ones of the following intervals are the easiest and the hardest for a violinist to play as a double stop?

  • the third interval (including all its variations)

  • the fourth interval (including all its variations)

  • the fifth interval (including all its variations)

Just in case: I mean specifically intervals played by double stop, that is, two strings sounding at the same time.

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    It might be nice to edit: bowed string players often refer to the technique of playing two strings at once as "double stops," while "harmonic" often refers to string harmonics, the phenomenon known in a lot of other languages as "flageolet" or similar. You can of course also play double stops using harmonics, which is what I thought at first glance this question was about. That gets very hard, especially when both pitches are "artificial harmonics," created using two fingers on on string. Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 13:47
  • @AndyBonner - Thank you. I am going to edit my question now.
    – brilliant
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 15:06
  • What do you mean by "all its variations?" If you mean alternate string/neck positions for the same pitches, then you're just dancing around the real issue, specific fingering changes are the potential source of difficulty, not just a single interval. Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 19:57
  • Are you trying to figure out how to write playable violin parts? I feel like the real question is hidden behind your wording. Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 20:21
  • @MichaelCurtis - "What do you mean by "all its variations?"" - I mean like the fifth interval would have the following three variations: perfect fifth (7 semitones), diminished fifth (6 semitones), and augmented fifth (8 semitones): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fifth_intervals
    – brilliant
    Commented Feb 25, 2023 at 1:17

1 Answer 1

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Neither of these intervals is hard to play. Third and fourth have the small disadvantage that you occasionally need to play in a higher positions to get both notes on one string (e.g. when playing the third B-D we cannot play B-D as 1-3 on the A string, so instead we need to to play it as 5-3 on D and A string, which thus requires at least second position. This is something any non beginner violinist would be very used to.

The fifth does not have this problem, but usually string players do not like to play fifths as it is awkward to play: Fifths require you to stop two strings at the same position, which either requires you to bridge strings with one finger or to place one finger out of position. It is not particularly hard, but a bit awkward and string players tends not to like to do that very much.

So I’d say probably the fifth would be the "hardest". Regarding what’s "easy": It is hard to say. Both 3rd and 4th are quite easy to play. 4th as less cases where shifting to higher positions would be required, but then really what makes these intervals "hard" or "easy" is the how they need to be approached from the surrounding notes. A 3rds can be easier to shift by a step, as it leaves the fingers free required for the next one. On the other hand shifting a third by a third is more awkward.

So I think it is not really possible to generally classify one of these intervals as the most easy one to play.

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  • Thank you very much for this input, but... l need to make sure: are speaking about melodic intervals or harmonic ones? My question was specifically on harmonic ones, that is, on producing two sounds by playing two strings at the same time.
    – brilliant
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 11:31
  • @brilliant Yes, Lazy is clearly talking about playing two strings at once. The line "... you occasionally need to play in higher positions to get both notes on one string" means "to get each note on a different string." Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 13:44
  • @AndyBonner - I see. Thank you, Andy. That was actually the line I was puzzled by.
    – brilliant
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 15:04
  • As a cellist, I happily disagree -- barre 2 strings for a 5th is easy or hard depending on the hand position. If it involves the first or 4th finger, much easier than second or third finger. Thumb position is pretty common as well (and easy) Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 16:55

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