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How do you play “Double Stop Rock?”

Our question today comes from both the Guitar Noise Forum and an email, so I’ve taken the liberty of combining parts of both in order to make one single inquiry:

I’m reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Rock Guitar and I’m on Chapter 3. I’m at the exercise at the end of that chapter, called “Double Stop Rock.”

For anyone that has read it, I’m curious about the best way to go about playing this exercise. Do you always just barre using your index finger for each fret, or do you use multiple fingers? For instance, barre strings 3 and 4 with your index finger on the second fret and then barre strings 3 and 4 with your pinky on the fifth fret? I’m trying both ways, but my pinky is rather weak so when I try to bar the 2nd fret and then the 5th fret, I tend to get a little buzz at times.

I just can’t seem to play this exercise smoothly enough. Whenever I let off the fret and move to the next position, the sound stops and there is a brief pause in the music until I fret the next “chord.”

Concerning “Double Stop Rock,” there’s no one method that works better than any other. I tried to cover this idea in the musical example at the top of page 40, showing that using both two fingers for the double stop works as well as using a single finger. Ultimately, of course, you are going to want to be able to use both techniques.

For whatever it’s worth, I play “Double Stop Rock” in the following manner:

The first four measures I usually use a “two finger” approach, using either my middle and ring fingers or index and middle fingers to make the double stop. I also use a slight slide to jump from the double stop at the second fret (end of first measure) to the double stop at the fifth fret (start of second fret) as well as from the one at the second fret to the one at the seventh fret (again in the second measure).

For the first two measures of the second line, I switch to using one single finger to cover the double stop, but I will alternated which finger is used. The first double stop (third fret) I use the index finger and then slide that up to the fifth fret for the next two. I use my pinky to get the one at the eighth fret. Many people have bigger hands than I do and can reach the eighth fret with their ring fingers. Then it’s back to the index finger for the double stop covering the two high strings at the fifth fret.

To get the final double stop of the first measure in the second line (fifth fret on the B and G strings), I slightly roll my index finger toward the center of the neck in order to shift my finger so it will be able to cover the G and B strings.

In the second measure of the second line, it’s ring finger for the seventh fret, pinky for the eighth (so people will use the ring finger for both but I advice getting used to using the pinky. You’re going to need it at some point!), ring again for the seventh, index again for the fifth. Then a slight shift so that the ring finger can get the seventh fret of the G and D strings, then index finger gets the fifth fret of the G and D and then rolls slightly again to get the fifth fret of the D and A and rolls back to get the fifth fret of the B and G.

For the last two measures, I go back to using my “two finger” approach.

Some things to note: When I’m using one finger, I try hard to just use enough of the finger to make the double stops. This helps me concentrate on being able to pick the right corresponding strings. Some people have large enough fingers to cover all six strings and make them sound cleanly but I don’t, so it becomes a matter of getting the sweet spot of my fingers to cover the double stop at the correct point.

I actually had to sit down and work through “Double Stop Rock” again because I couldn’t just answer your question without playing it. And then I had to figure out why I did it the way I did and to be honest, I’m not sure why. After this long at playing, it just seemed to be the way that worked best. Believe it or not, you’re going to get like this, too. Just not as quickly as you’d really like to.

If you’re worrying about how the sound stops and starts while moving your fingers around on the neck, remember a few things. First, if you’re playing with an amp, that sound will create overtones and it will sound a bit smoother. Second, you will get quicker and smoother through repetition. You truly would not believe how many takes it took me in the studio to do some of these exercises. The simpler ones were some of the hardest because doing them slowly didn’t always create the best sounding ones. You’ll get there! Learning is never linear and some things will come easier to you than others. So hang in there!

I hope this helps. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do as it takes some coordination. But it’s amazing how quickly you’ll get the hang of it. One day you wake up and it’s there and you think it’s magic because you’ve forgotten all the effort that got you to that point.


If you’ve got any questions, we at Guitar Noise are always happy to answer them. Just send any of your questions to David at [email protected]. He (or another Guitar Noise contributor) may not answer immediately but he will definitely answer!