Violin - Can double stops be played when the strings are not next to each other?

Suppose I wanted to play a double stop on the violin. The double stop played the G string and the A string simultaneously. Is this possible? Can you play a double stop on two non-adjacent strings?

• Why this was downvoted? It seems an entirely reasonable and practical question.
– user48353
Mar 16, 2019 at 8:55
• Probably by someone who thought he was clever enough to know that it was impossible. Wrong! And not good enough to explain.
– Tim
Mar 16, 2019 at 9:20

Just to add to the other answers, there's this unusual technique where you loosen the hair of the bow and play with the stick of the bow under the violin, but the hair wrapping over it. This allows you to play three or four strings simultaneously.

To play only two non-adjacent strings, I guess you'd need to somehow mute the string(s) in between. I never played violin so I don't know how feasible that would be.

• Muting strings in between, like you might do on guitar, is not really possible with bowed strings. The muted string would produce a horrible scratching noise. Mar 17, 2019 at 12:24
• @leftaroundabout - I added my comment to Graham's answer before seeing yours here. You said it: I just tried it on both baroque and modern violins, and indeed it does not work. Mar 18, 2019 at 9:03
• abi- you are right about what you can do with a loosened bow, but that is not answering the question, which was if it's possible to play a double stop on the G and A strings. Mar 18, 2019 at 9:04

As Jomiddnz points out, there's pizzicato. You could also bow one string and pluck another at the same time.

But if you want both notes played with the bow, and don't want the bow to catch the strings in between, the only way is by playing on the top and bottom strings with the bow under the strings. Here's an example (OK, the only example I've found): the last few bars of Flausino Vale's variations on Franz Lehár's Paganini. (Note also the combination of an arco note and pizzicato open strings.)

If you don't want to use that extraordinary technique, then, no.

• Are there several bars of rest notated while the player changes bow positions..?
– Tim
Mar 16, 2019 at 8:20
• No, only that double-caesura sign in b.112. The piece is for solo violin so the player is at liberty to take their time over this awkward change. Mar 16, 2019 at 8:24
• Haha, Flausino Vale was definitely a show-off! :) Mar 16, 2019 at 9:03
• Yep, that is a very show-offy technique. I'm sure Paganini would have approved. Mar 18, 2019 at 9:27

Just to be pedantic, you could pretty easily bow the open G and A strings together by holding the D string depressed just above the bridge.

Absolutely, but it's harder on a modern instrument

As RedLitYogi says, the convex bridge (not the fingerboard!) affects your ability to play more than two adjacent strings. A tight bow means you can only normally hit two notes at once.

Historically this was not the case though. Baroque instruments had a shallower curve to the bridge, and they also used lower tension on the bow. As a result, they were perfectly capable of treble-stopping as an advanced technique.

Its still possible with a modern instrument and bow. You need to apply extreme pressure to the bow though, which makes it impossible for anything other than forte or fortissimo.

More normally, you'd simply pivot over the D string to hit the A in a single move, resulting in an arpeggiated chord. It's worth noting that even on instruments which can play true chords (e.g guitar or piano), arpeggiated chords are often used for expression, so this does not sound in any way unusual.

These techniques all assume playing three notes at once, of course. To avoid playing the "middle" string and only sound the outer two, damp the unwanted string by touching it lightly with the fleshy part of a finger.

• I'm not a string player so may be misunderstanding your answer, but it seems to me that you're answering a different question: whether it's possible to play treble-stops. Are you saying double stops were playable on these earlier instruments with non-adjacent strings, that is, without sounding an intervening string?
– user48353
Mar 18, 2019 at 0:41
• @replete Good point - I need to make that clearer. Mar 18, 2019 at 0:50
• I tried damping the middle string (the D) of a triple stop G-D-A on both a baroque and a modern violin, and I couldn't get it to work. The D string always sounds either a harmonic or a fuzzy but loud tone based on where you're touching it. Not surprising you can't damp it, because it has more pressure on it than on the G and A strings. Try it yourself. Mar 18, 2019 at 8:58

No. It is physically impossible unless you play it pizzicato.

You most likely know this, but just in case: the instruments of the string choir (violin, viola, cello, bass violin) all have convex fingerboards. This makes it much easier to bow a single string than it would be if the strings were all on one plane as they are in guitars and lutes, etc. That is why the answer given in 13 seems to be the best. (Paganini must really have been a show-off - this is akin to Hendrix playing behind his back, etc...)

• It not only makes it easier to bow a single string, it's what makes it possible at all. Mar 17, 2019 at 16:01
• very true. "makes it easier" is an understatement. Mar 18, 2019 at 3:47
• What is answer given in 13 supposed to refer to? Name of the poster or a link to the answer would provide better reference. Mar 26, 2021 at 13:05

If you used two bows you could achieve the result. It would be rather tricky to hold them both, and only short strokes would be viable without some extremely dexterous right-hand work (or perhaps a bowing action which moves the bow along the strings more than across them - which wouldn't sound great), but would be more versatile than the under-the-strings solution, more musical than the high-pressure solution. A specialised bowing device (perhaps like a couple of EBows) might be an option too, depending on how determined you are.

I just realized there is a way (and it works quite well, I tried it) to play double stops on the G and A strings, while still being able to finger them normally: unscrew the the bow completely, pass the frog (carefully!) down between the E and A strings and under the A, D, and G strings. Screw it back on. Play with the bow lifted, not pressed. You will get a lovely double stop of just the G and A strings.

Probably of limited practical use.