Pizzicato – How to Get Faster and Avoid Hurting Yourself
Usually abbreviated pizz., pizzicato means you should pluck the strings instead of using the violin bow. The opposite of pizzicato is arco, which in Italian means “bow.”
Pizzicato in Sheet Music
If neither pizz. nor arco are explicitly stated in your sheet music, then you should assume the music is meant to be played arco (with the bow).
Some beginner violin books have you start playing exclusively pizzicato at the very start (regardless of what is indicated in the sheet music), as learning violin bow technique is a whole additional process.
How to Develop Faster Pizzicato
Some pieces call for fast pizzicato, which can be a challenge! A good strategy for both faster pizzicato and helping prevent blisters is to alternate between your first and second finger on your right hand. By using two fingers, you can often double the speed at which you can perform a series of pizzicato notes.
Also find out the best strategy for you: you can bend your fingers to pluck the strings, or you can also keep your finger straight and and move your wrist or your hand to put your finger in contact with the string. Try a variety of techniques. You may find that you like one better than the others, or that it is convenient to switch between them as your fingers get tired, or for different parts of the piece.
Check out our article about building calluses for tips about hardening the skin on your fingers to help reduce finger pain. The tips there are for the left hand, but the same principles apply for the right hand when using pizzicato.
Bartók Pizzicato, also called “Snap Pizzicato,” is a special kind of pizzicato indicated by a small circle with a line through it above a note. This is an extra strong type of pizzicato that is performed by using two fingers to lift the string upwards and then let go so that it snaps back into the finger board, producing a slapping sound in addition to the note pitch. You will usually not see the Bartók Pizz in beginner violin sheet music as it is reserved for more advanced pieces of music. It was used extensively by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók.
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