How exactly are you supposed to play double stops?

I’m trying to learn a fairly easy song at the moment that involves some double stops and while I was stumbling my way through what appears to be a simple double stop passage it struck me that I’ve never seen a discussion or lesson on the optimal way to pick two or three strings at once.

My current technique for playing double stops looks like a supinated extension/deviation motion with the tip of the pick slanted upwards as you would with a USX motion, but the pick is escaping on downstrokes since it’s an all downstroke motion. My arm gets tired really quickly with this and it can’t go very fast. It also sounds like I’m hitting the G string harder than the B string, so it sounds uneven.

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I tried alternate picking two strings at once too, though I don’t use this motion in actual playing. It looks like string-hopping to me, with wrist extension happening on both upstrokes and downstrokes. My arm gets just as tired using this motion as the first. It also has the problem of hitting one string harder than the other, just alternating between the G and B strings this time. It seems possible to me to alternate pick two strings at once with a more efficient crosspicking motion, can anyone do this? Molly Tuttle hits some double stops in ‘Girl In My Shoes’ but they’re mixed in with mostly single notes, rather than an all double stop passage.

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Neither of these motions are working very well for me which is what prompted me to make this thread in search of a better way (though it’s worth noting that my picking in general is pretty bad and I’ve had no luck fixing it so far). I’ve tried flattening both of these motions to get them working more efficiently and smoothly without much luck. I know some people play double stops by muting the rest of the strings and stumming as you would with a chord, but that’s a completely different motion with no anchor points other than the forearm.

So, is there a ‘proper’ or ‘optimum’ way to play double stops? What are you doing and how is it working for you?

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At what tempo do you need to play them? If it wasn’t much faster than in your first video I would probably go for some sort of rest stroke (DWPS, forearm/wrist motion), and then lift the hand to get back to the starting position. This way I make sure I strike both strings more or less with equal force.

Have you tried simply digging in to the strings a litte more? With proper left hand muting of unwanted strings I think it could work quite well, and be more like a strum.

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Being able to play 8th notes at ~200BPM without getting worn out would be enough.

By using rest strokes do you mean going through the G and B strings, resting on the E string, then lifting out and moving back to the starting position like so?

Rest Stroke

I have played around with it but it seems much more cumbersome than what I’m already doing. Moving the pick all the way to the E string adds that much more motion to every pickstroke

What I’m doing in the first video looks more like this to me.

DSX Stroke

Digging in more just exacerbates the problems with these already inefficient motions for me, they sound worse and wear out my arm faster. These motions seem to rely on there being some give in the pick grip to reduce the amount of force required to get through both strings, as well as get an even sound. It’s quite noticable in the first clip.

Bascally I use the same technique that I use for downstrokes only metal riffs.

Try to use more pickslanting, like very exaggerating, then just slide across strings. Once you get the feeling use your thumb to push your pick harder into strings without changing overall movement. That’s how I do it

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Yes, something like that. My standard technique is with a very slanted pick (like @ASTN perhaps?) making rest strokes. Of course, it is not very fast, about 160 bmp 8th notes perhaps. But it has the advantage of making the attack more even.

For higher speeds I go for alternate picking. It looks somewhat similar to your video but I use a more supinated setup with forearm motion, with wrist extension for the escape on the downstroke. For me this works very well. Of course, it does not have the “chug chug” sound of only downstrokes.

I’ve found that I probably also use a third “hybrid” technique where I let the tip of my index finger protrude and strike the second string at the same time as the pick hits the lower string. This has the advantage of making both strings sound at once and the motion does not have to be as large.

I don’t do actual rest strokes but it feels like I’m almost doing them. So, yes, I guess we have the same approach. If I don’t use that long motion (almost ‘reststroking’) strings would sound uneven (first one is louder than second).

Probably not the way your heading, but heres my approaches:

  1. Hybrid
    I pluck with my pick and middle finger

  2. Full fingerpicking
    This version makes use of middle and ring finger

  3. Pick
    The motion used depends on the required speeds. I just inspected my downstroke only approach, as I thought it was pretty much straight forward, which doesn’t seem to be the case for you. It’s supinated deviation with a wrist extension at the end.
    For faster tempos I use something similar to funk strumming: I flex my wrist a little and use more forearm rotation. I learned (about) this in the opening lick of the keep the faith solo, which involves coninuous 16th notes at 120 bpm b and e string together.

So you see it totally depends on what you need to play.
For the example you gave us I would prepare my option 2 (all finger) just for the sound.

BTW, Eddie would agree:



Here’s my halfmetal approach

So if you want to do it as I do (though I’m not an example of correct techinque)) ) you may find useful to workout your downstrokes.

Depending on how fast and tricky you’re trying to get, Scotty Anderson, who is the all time master at the technique, said that he uses the nail on his index finger and the pick at the same time. Imagine a duck bill, with the pick on one string, and your nail on the other. Using this technique, he routinely plays harmony lines 16th notes at 140bpm.

Scotty Anderson Double Stop


I wasn’t sure either, but I filmed it and it turns out I do actually land on the next string most of the time.

Oh, so I’m not alone after all! Very interesting! That’s the technique I described as my “hybrid”. It does have some advantages.