A very characteristic aspect of traditional fiddle playing is the use of double-stops, or playing two strings at once. Here, I’ll explain the 4 types of double stops, and show you how to incorporate them into a tune.  The four kinds of double-stop are:

  1. Double-stops where two open string notes are played together. (Notice in the written music that notes to be played together are vertically aligned).
  2. Double-stops where one open string note and one fingered note are played together.
  3. Double-stops when two fingered notes are held down by one finger.
  4. Double-stops when two fingered notes are held down by two fingers.

Double stops are really effective in folk music playing.  Generally, in many North American styles, they are used a great deal, but in Irish styles, a bit more sparingly.

Look at this passage involving a lot of string crossing:

Now try it with double stops:

If played exactly as written, it’ll sound quite heavy.  To give the music that lighter touch, let’s analyse it a bit more closely.

To play lightly with those double stops, notice that the F sharp notes will be played very regularly…

but the notes on the A string should be very short, or staccato, like this:

Put together, a more effective way of writing the music might look like this, the regular F sharp notes playing all through the bar, like a drone.  And, the A string notes just being dropped onto with the bow for a very short time:

This example applies to the “drone note” being lower than the higher staccato notes.  It works the other way round, too.

Here’s another typical section that could come from a reel or hornpipe:

Now with the double stops added:

And now broken down – the A note will be played continuously…

while the notes on the D string should be played staccato, to make the music less heavy:

And put together, this is what it looks like