Aug 03 2015
Double Stops For Guitar Pt. 1
By: Scott Gilliam
Posted in: Blues Guitar Lessons
One of the most versatile techniques available on the guitar is the double stop. A double stop is two notes that are played simultaneously. Because the guitar provides the ability to sound more than one note at a time, we in effect can create harmony. Double stops are used in all forms of music and in countless guitar riffs. The double stop is created with an interval of any quality. An interval is the distance or relationship between two notes. The most common in this context are 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, and 6ths – though I personally love the dissonance of 2nds.
Ex 1. features a harmonized G major scale in 3rds. The first step is knowing the notes derived from the G major scale, which are G,A,B,C,D,E,F#. To locate a 3rd, pick any note and skip over the next note, for example G&B. If the notes are two full steps apart it’s a maj 3rd and if they are a step and a half apart it’s a min 3rd. To play through the scale with double stops in 3rds we must stay in the key (diatonic) and maintain the 3rd intervals throughout.
Ex 2. is a great example of this is, the intro to Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”. This bar room staple is played with 3rds in the key of G. There is one non-diatonic tone only, an F natural in the second measure.
Another great sound are 6ths which can be thought of as inverted 3rds. The quality is reversed also, in other words a maj 3rd becomes a min 6th and vice versa. Our G&B which is a maj 3rd can be inverted to B&G and it now becomes a Min 6th. Playing these double stops involves skipping a string between the two notes due to the fact that the interval is wider. To achieve this sound hybrid picking works really well, that’s a combination of using the pick and fingers together. Ex 3. is a G major scale harmonized in 6ths with the 1st and 3rd strings.
To hear this sound in action check out Ex 4. – the intro to “Soul Man” by Sam & Dave.
Ex 5.'s a 6th based lick in the key of A. It’s descending down the scale but I have added some chromaticism to make it a little more interesting. This is a cool sounding country lick that would be good to end a tune with.
The sky is the limit with double stops for guitar. In my next lesson I will get into the bluesy side of double stops and the r&b, Curtis Mayfield, Hendrix-y style of rhythm guitar using this technique.