If you’re a violinist, particularly at the beginner or intermediate level, you’ve probably come across playing instructions in your sheet music that you don’t recognize. From vibrato to tremolo, there are a variety of techniques that musicians use to produce specific violin sounds. Today we’re going to be examining the pizzicato technique and how to achieve it.
Pizzicato, meaning “pinched” in Italian, is a technique that involves plucking violin strings with one’s fingers instead of using a violin bow. This results in a distinctive staccato sound with shorter percussive notes. Pizzicato is a popular technique among beginning and advanced players alike, and we’ve included some of the basics below. As with any new skill, you should work with your teacher to make sure your technique and form is correct.
Before you can play the perfect pizzicato, you need to ensure your posture is correct. You should use the fingerboard to anchor your thumb and avoid plucking too close to the bridge to produce the best sound. Additionally, we strongly recommend using the tip of your finger to pluck the strings instead of your fingernail. Not only does this prevent potential damage, but it produces a fuller sound. Avoid open strings or stopping their vibration with your opposite hand to keep your playing cohesive.
Once you’ve mastered standard pizzicato, you can graduate to more advanced techniques like performing pizzicato while holding your bow. You may even feel ready to attempt pieces that rely on the technique, such as Strauss’ Pizzicato Polka.
There are many ways to play the violin and make use of its sound producing qualities, and pizzicato is just the tip of the iceberg. The next time you’re reading through sheet music, take note of the instructional notation. You may come away with a new technique you want to try!
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