For a piece I am performing with a local school orchestra, a final open A is to undergo an "insane" crescendo to a Fortissississimo, which our conductor interprets as "as loud as possible."

A fellow cello player suggested I play a double note with the same A being simultaneously played on the A string(as open A) and with the first finger down on the D string in fourth position(or an equivalent fingering in another position, but this one saves a shift), but he is not sure that is proper for performance. Is it proper, and will I sacrifice assurance I won't impede the A string with my fingers if I stay in fourth position for this?

I hope I've given enough details for a suggestion/answer.

5 Answers 5


It is certainly acceptable to play notes in various ways - whether or not the conductor wants you to do that is up to him, but you should certainly be able to get higher volume by using two strings.

Not sure what you mean by 'sacrifice assurance' - if you are worried about your position, you should just look at where you are moving to after this not. If it works, that should be fine.


The opening of the Sarabande, Bach Cello Suite No.2 has a D written to be played on both the D and the G string simultaneously, so Bach seems to have thought it was OK - this is not for volume but colour. Some editions call for the D to be played using 1st finger, others 2nd finger, but it doesn't seem to diminish the quality of the open D string. It is worth noting that in this instance it is only a short note unlike what you are trying to play.

  • How does this answer the question?
    – Luke_0
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 2:23
  • 9
    It gives an example that the idea has been considered acceptable by a renowned musician. It also explains what you achieve with it. You not only get a bit more volume but also, because of the different physical properties of the strings and the millimetric inaccuracies of the position of the finger you get extra little harmonics when the two waves get added together. Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 0:54

I see several advantages to your fellow cellist's suggestion.

  • By starting from the A on the D string and then pivoting your bow to have both strings under your bow, you have more progression and more power under control to achieve the loudest tone possible at the end of the crescendo.

  • By bowing the two upper strings at the same time, you can apply more force without risking to touch other strings in the process, especially as you will be lowering your bow toward the bridge and moving your bow quickly to have more projection and loudness.

If you do that, remember that bowing two strings at the same time is like bowing a string placed between them. The right bowing angle and position is slightly different than the one for either of them and you should rehearse to find it on your instrument.

It depends on your technique and on your instrument, but have you tested what you get when you bow both strings while having a small vibrato on the II. string ?


As a cellist, I think it is safe for me to say that this is acceptable. I've played pieces in which this is actually necessary. Whether or not your conductor wants you to do that is another issue, but I'd recommend either asking him (if you are the principle cellists) or asking the principle cellist. That would be the type of decision they would make. But from what you've said, it seems to me that this suggestion is a good one, especially because of the crescendo. Be sure to move your bow near the bridge to make this an effective strategy.


Whether or not it's "acceptable," there certainly is nothing in the way of a "prohibition" against ANYTHING you can do on (or to) your instrument to make notes come out of it.

Whether it's musical and appropriate is up to you. Certainly double-stops (i.e. unison playing two strings) is a way to get a bit more volume. Whether you can control it is a question nobody here can answer!

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