Guitar Double Stops

A double stop is a guitar term for playing two notes at the same time. Double stops are used in various styles of guitar playing including the blues, rock, country, metal, and more.

Double stops add harmony and fatten up guitar riffs and lead guitar. Double stops are played using specific intervals. An interval is the distance between the notes in a scale. Double stops are commonly played in, but not limited to, third and fifth intervals.

Double Stop Thirds

Double stop thirds are played using the root and third (major) or flat third (minor) notes of a major scale. In a chord, the third note makes the chord major or minor.

Double Stop Thirds in the Key of C Major

    C  Dm Em F  G  Am  Bm  C    
e|--0--1--3--5--7--8---10--12--|
B|--1--3--5--6--8--10--12--13--|
G|-----------------------------|
D|-----------------------------|
A|-----------------------------|
E|-----------------------------|

The guitar tab above shows double stop thirds using the B and high E strings. This tab shows the same double stop thirds using most of the guitar strings. Notice how double stop thirds are played slightly different on the G and B strings.

    C  Dm Em F  G  Am Bm C    
e|--------------------------|
B|-----------------1--3--5--|
G|--------0--2--4--2--4--5--|
D|--2--3--2--3--5-----------|
A|--3--5--------------------|
E|--------------------------|

Double Stop Fifths

Double stop fifths use the root and fifth note of a major scale just like power chords do. Double stop fifths are pretty much power chords without the root's octave played. There are a couple ways to play double stop fifths.

C Major Scale in Double Stop Fifths

    C  D  E  F   G   A   B   C    
e|-------------------------------|
B|-------------------------------|
G|-------------------------------|
D|--5--7--9--10--12--14--16--17--|
A|--3--5--7--8---10--12--14--15--|
E|-------------------------------|

The guitar tab above shows double stop fifths with the root note on the lower string (A). Now let's take a look at another way to play double stop fifths with the root note as the higher note. Playing double stop fifths this way is easier because you can play them using one finger and gives you the ability to play riffs easier.

Double Stop Fifth Guitar Riff

e|-----------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------|
G|---------------5-------------------|
D|--7--7--5--7---5----5--7--7--5--7--|
A|--7--7--5--7--------5--7--7--5--7--|
E|-----------------------------------|
   P.M.-------|      P.M.----------|  

Octaves

Octaves are a type of double stop that use the same note played on different strings. Octave riffs are popular in modern rock and metal. The guitar tab below shows how to play octaves that are closest to each other on the guitar neck. Mute the string between the other two strings you're strumming with your finger (shown with an "x").

e||------------------------------------------|------------------------------------------||
B||------------------------------------------|------------------------------------------||
G||--5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-12-12-12-10-10-10-10-10-|-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-12-12-12-10-10-10-10-10--||
D||--x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x--x--x--x--x--x--x--x--|-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x--x--x--x--x--x--x--x---||
A||--3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-10-10-10-8--8--8--8--8--|-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-10-10-10-8--8--8--8--8---||
E||------------------------------------------|------------------------------------------||

You can play the same octave pattern using different strings this way:

e||----------------------------------|----------------------------------||
B||------------------8-8-8-6-6-6-6-6-|-----------------8-8-8-6-6-6-6-6--||
G||--5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-|-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x--||
D||--x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-5-5-5-3-3-3-3-3-|-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-5-5-5-3-3-3-3-3--||
A||--3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-----------------|-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3------------------||
E||----------------------------------|----------------------------------||

Notice the to play the octaves on the higher strings you need to stretch your fingers across an extra fret than on the lower strings.