Playing Two Strings at a Time

Oct 07, 2016

Hi…Welcome to The Vlog! Today I’m going to talk about droning or double stops. Double stops are when you play two strings at the same time on a violin or a fiddle. When you catch an open string along the other string that you’re playing, we call it droning…almost like a drone from a bagpipe. So there are different lingos out there, we’ll talk about both. But let’s just talk first about doing it.

It’s really hard to do at first. You know, when you’ve only been playing for a couple of years it can be very frustrating. You learn melodies and then it’s to try to catch other strings to add almost like an accompaniment to it. So the first thing you should try to do is just get a feel for the two strings going down with the down bow and up with an up bow.

So what I mean by that, what I’m going to do is I’m going to put my bow on the E and the A, no fingers at all, and I’m just going to go down bow and then up bow. I’m going to do that a couple of times…[1:05] you have to make sure your fiddle is right in tune…[1:10]…I’m going to add just a little bit of, maybe, a little bit of pressure with this first finger, just a little bit. I know you violinists out there don’t like that but that’s the way I put it so, so sorry, apologies… okay. So I’m going to do it again…[1:25]…So the bow is lighter here and heavier here. So as you go down, the bow gets a little lighter. So to keep the volume going, keep the same amount of pull on the strings, sometimes you have to add a little bit of weight as you’re going down. And the best thing to do is just use your ear, get a feel for it, it’s kind of like learning to ride a bike, you know. Then do the up bow, which is the opposite, it starts light and then it gets heavy. So you may have to add a little bit of pressure here at first…[2:00]…and then let up. It doesn’t always sound great, but practice that every day, that’s a great way to practice when you want to learn double stops…[2:10]… Alright, then rock and go to the D and the A because they’re a little different, they vibrate a little different and you want to get also used to that angle of keeping the bow on both strings evenly so…[2:27]… And then also the D and G because those are the strings used for seconding so…[2:40]…

This is a really simple exercise that you can do every day if you’re frustrated with trying to play two strings at the same time, it doesn’t sound right, it sounds crazy or whatever, or you can’t keep the bow on both strings, practice this. It’s boring but it will help you, I promise.

The next thing you can do too just to get used to doing quicker rhythms is you can do the shuffle rhythm on the open strings. So you can do, what I call the “I’m Happy, You’re Happy.” So you can go…[3:14]…alright, and switch to the D and A…[3:23]…and then the low G and E…[3:32]

What’s great about this it really teaches you how to get a good warm sound, it teaches you also how to figure out how those strings work together when you’re pulling them because the A and E are different, the D and A are different, and the D and G react a little differently. So you want to get a feel for it with just your right hand, don’t even worry about adding any fingers yet. And that’s a great exercise you can do every day.

The next one: I find one of the hard things about playing let’s say the A string and then trying to just get the E string to ring out open along with it is that you have to really make sure that your fingers are arched over the E string. If your finger barely touches the E string, when you’re on the A string, it will make a really bad sound. So that is the biggest battle, doing the chords, double stops, droning, and all that stuff.

This is a great exercise and it’s pretty simple. What you do is, start on the A string and I’m going to just get to play the first five notes of the major scale, so like this…[4:48]…and then I’m going to add my fourth…[4:55] and just come down…[4:57]…

Alright, so that’s pretty easy there…[5:04]…Now this is where it can get tricky. Now I’m going to catch the E, so I’m going to basically be bowing the E and the A the whole time…[5:23]…But I’m going to play those first five notes on the A string while I catch the E with it….and I’m going to try to always have a good tone on every chord…[5:36]…If I do catch myself making a weird sound, try to figure out what’s going on and chances are your finger might be just a little flat, needs to be really arched, to arch over that E string. But chances are your finger might be kind of hitting the E string and that’s what can give it that sound. So this exercise is awesome and practice it on all pairs of strings.

Now I’ll do it with the D and the A. So I’ll play the first five notes of the D scale with the open A as the drone…[6:15]…and then the low G and D, and there, your elbow kind of has to come out. This is also a great exercise because when you get into seconding, accompanying the accordion and other fiddles and vocals, you’re going to be doing a lot of chords on those two low strings. So you want to get used to being able to play those together so…[6:45]…

So, awesome exercise! You can do this all day long if you want and then you go to try to do some droning. The tune that I really like for droning, first droning, is Mon Vieux Wagon because the melody’s pretty simple…[7:18]…and it really it’s easier because you’re catching the string below the one you’re actually playing with your fingers as the drone string. So that’s a little easier…[7:32]…that’s a great one to start with as far as the first tunes to put droning to.

Thanks so much for joining me today, I hope this helps you. It can be very frustrating learning how to play the fiddle and so take one little step at a time, baby steps, one day at a time. You know, you can have your good days, your bad days, just stick with it, stay inspired. Definitely what helps is watching videos like this, hearing other players talk about how they learned and the struggles they went through. But if you have that passion for it, you’ll stick it out and stay with it. Definitely, you want to play every day, that’s the key. Play this thing every day, don’t miss a day, alright. Thanks so much for joining me, take care, good luck, stay inspired, keep on fiddling and I’ll see you out there soon somewhere. Thank you.

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