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Pizzicato

Pizzicato

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Pizzicato
is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

. The exact technique varies somewhat depending on the type of stringed instrument.
  • On bowed string instrument
    Bowed string instrument
    Bowed string instruments are a subcategory of string instruments that are played by a bow rubbing the strings. The bow rubbing the string causes vibration which the instrument emits as sound.-Violin family:...

    s
    it is a method of playing by plucking the strings with the fingers, rather than using the bow
    Bow (music)
    In music, a bow is moved across some part of a musical instrument, causing vibration which the instrument emits as sound. The vast majority of bows are used with string instruments, although some bows are used with musical saws and other bowed idiophones....

    . This produces a very different sound from bowing, short and percussive rather than sustained.
  • On a keyboard string instrument, such as the piano
    Piano
    The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

    , pizzicato may be employed (although rarely seen) as one of the variety of techniques involving direct manipulation of the strings known collectively as "string piano
    String piano
    String piano is a term coined by American composer-theorist Henry Cowell to collectively describe those pianistic extended techniques in which sound is produced by direct manipulation of the strings, instead of or in addition to striking the piano's keys...

    ".
  • On the guitar
    Guitar
    The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

    , it is a muted form of plucking, which bears an audible resemblance to pizzicato on a bowed string instrument with its relatively shorter sustain. For details of this technique, see palm mute
    Palm mute
    The palm mute is a playing technique for guitar and bass guitar executed by placing the side of the picking hand below the little finger across all of the strings very close to the bridge and then plucking the strings with the fingers while the damping is in effect. This produces a muted sound...

    .

History


The first known use of pizzicato in classical music is in Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the...

's Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda
Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda
Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda is an operatic scena for three voices by Claudio Monteverdi, although many dispute how the piece should be classified. The piece has a libretto drawn from Torquato Tasso's La Gerusalemme Liberata , a Romance set against the backdrop of the First Crusade...

(around 1638), in which the players are instructed to use two fingers of their right hand to pluck the strings. Later, in 1756, Leopold Mozart
Leopold Mozart
Johann Georg Leopold Mozart was a German composer, conductor, teacher, and violinist. Mozart is best known today as the father and teacher of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and for his violin textbook Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule.-Childhood and student years:He was born in Augsburg, son of...

 in his Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule
Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule
Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule is a textbook for instruction in the violin, published by Leopold Mozart in 1756...

instructs the player to use the index finger of the right hand. This has remained the most usual way to execute a pizzicato, though sometimes the middle finger is used. The bow is held in the hand at the same time unless there is enough time to put it down and pick it up again between bowed passages.

Use in various styles of music


In jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 and bluegrass
Bluegrass music
Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music, and a sub-genre of country music. It has mixed roots in Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish traditional music...

, and the few popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

 styles which use double bass (such as psychobilly
Psychobilly
Psychobilly is a fusion genre of rock music that mixes elements of punk rock, rockabilly, and other genres. It is one of several subgenres of rockabilly which also include thrashabilly, trashabilly, punkabilly, surfabilly and gothabilly...

 and rockabilly
Rockabilly
Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music, dating to the early 1950s.The term rockabilly is a portmanteau of rock and hillbilly, the latter a reference to the country music that contributed strongly to the style's development...

), pizzicato is the usual way to play the double bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

. This is unusual for a violin-family instrument, because regardless whether violin-family instruments are being used in jazz (e.g., jazz violin), popular, traditional (e.g., Bluegrass fiddle) or Classical music, they are usually played with the bow for most of a performance. In Classical double bass playing, pizzicati are often performed with the bow being held in the hand; as such, the string is usually only plucked with a single finger. In contrast, in jazz, bluegrass, and other non-Classical styles, the player is not usually holding a bow, so they are free to use two or three fingers to pluck the string.

In classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

, however, string instruments are most usually played with the bow, and composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

s give specific indications to play pizzicato where required. Pieces in classical music that are played entirely pizzicato include:
  • J. S. Bach
    Johann Sebastian Bach
    Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

    : the ninth movement of the Magnificat
    Magnificat (Bach)
    The Magnificat in D major, BWV 243, is a major vocal work of Johann Sebastian Bach. It was composed for orchestra, a five-part choir and four or five soloists. The text is the canticle of Mary, mother of Jesus, as told by Luke the Evangelist .Bach composed an initial version in E flat major in 1723...

    (1723-1733)
  • Johann Strauss II
    Johann Strauss II
    Johann Strauss II , also known as Johann Baptist Strauss or Johann Strauss, Jr., the Younger, or the Son , was an Austrian composer of light music, particularly dance music and operettas. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other types of dance music, as well as several operettas...

     and Josef Strauss
    Josef Strauss
    Josef Strauss was an Austrian composer.He was born in Vienna, the son of Johann Strauss I and Maria Anna Streim, and brother of Johann Strauss II and Eduard Strauss. His father wanted him to choose a career in the Austrian Habsburg military...

    : Pizzicato Polka (1869).
  • Léo Delibes
    Léo Delibes
    Clément Philibert Léo Delibes was a French composer of ballets, operas, and other works for the stage...

    : the "Divertissement: Pizzicati" from Act 3 of the ballet Sylvia
    Sylvia (ballet)
    Sylvia, originally Sylvia, ou La nymphe de Diane, is a full-length ballet in two or three acts, first choreographed by Louis Mérante to music by Léo Delibes in 1876. Sylvia is a typical classical ballet in many respects, yet it has many interesting features which make it unique...

    (1876)
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

    : the third movement of the 4th symphony
    Symphony No. 4 (Tchaikovsky)
    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, was written between 1877 and 1878. The symphony's first performance was at a Russian Musical Society concert in Saint Petersburg on February 10 /February 22 1878, with Nikolai Rubinstein as conductor.- Form :The symphony is in four...

     (1877-78)
  • Béla Bartók
    Béla Bartók
    Béla Viktor János Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary's greatest composer...

    : the fourth movement of the String Quartet No. 4
    String Quartet No. 4 (Bartók)
    The String Quartet No. 4 by Béla Bartók was written from July to September, 1927 in Budapest.The work is in five movements:#Allegro#Prestissimo, con sordino#Non troppo lento#Allegretto pizzicato#Allegro molto...

    (1927)
  • Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    : the second movement of the Simple Symphony
    Simple Symphony
    The Simple Symphony, Op.4 is a work for string orchestra or string quartet by Benjamin Britten.It was written as a piece for string orchestra and received its first performance in 1934 in Norwich, with Britten conducting an amateur orchestra....

    (1934)
  • Leroy Anderson
    Leroy Anderson
    Leroy Anderson was an American composer of short, light concert pieces, many of which were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Arthur Fiedler...

    : Plink, Plank, Plunk! (1951).

Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi , nicknamed because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Vivaldi is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe...

, in the "Ah Ch'Infelice Sempre" section of his cantata Cessate, omai cessate, combined both pizzicato and bowed instruments to create a unique sound. He also included pizzicato in the second movement of "Winter" from The Four Seasons
The Four Seasons (Vivaldi)
The Four Seasons is a set of four violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Composed in 1723, The Four Seasons is Vivaldi's best-known work, and is among the most popular pieces of Baroque music. The texture of each concerto is varied, each resembling its respective season...

.

Notation


In music notation, a composer will normally indicate the performer should use pizzicato with the abbreviation pizz. A return to bowing is indicated by the Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 term arco. A left hand pizzicato is usually indicated by writing a small cross above the note, and a Bartók pizzicato is often indicated by a circle with a small vertical line through the top of it above the note in question or by writing Bartók pizz. at the start of the relevant passage.

Practical implications


If a string player
Violin family
The violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the sixteenth century. The standard modern violin family consists of the violin, viola, cello, and double bass....

 has to play pizzicato for a long period of time, the performer may put down the bow. Violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

ists and violists
Viola
The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin and the cello.- Form :The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin. A full-size viola's body is between and longer than the body of a full-size violin , with an average...

 may also hold the instrument in the "banjo
Banjo
In the 1830s Sweeney became the first white man to play the banjo on stage. His version of the instrument replaced the gourd with a drum-like sound box and included four full-length strings alongside a short fifth-string. There is no proof, however, that Sweeney invented either innovation. This new...

 position" (resting horizontally on the lap), and pluck the strings with the thumb of the right hand. This technique is rarely used, and usually only in movements which are pizzicato throughout. A technique similar to this, where the strings are actually strummed like a guitar
Guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

, is called for in the 4th movement of Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five.The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie, refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César...

's Capriccio Espagnol
Capriccio espagnol
Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34, is the common Western title for an orchestral work based on Spanish folk melodies and written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1887. Rimsky-Korsakov originally intended to write the work for a solo violin with orchestra, but later decided that a purely orchestral work...

(Scena e canto gitano), where the violins and cellos are instructed to play pizzicato "quasi guitara"; the music here consists of three- and four-note chords, which are fingered and strummed much like the instrument being imitated.

Other pizzicato techniques


Another colorful pizzicato technique used in the same Rimsky-Korsakov piece mentioned above is two-handed pizzicato, indicated by the markings m.s. and m.d. (for mano sinistra, left hand, and mano destra, right hand); here, the open E string is plucked alternately in rapid succession by the left and right hands.

One can also use the left hand fingers for pizzicato, either when they are not in use or as they are leaving their previous position. This allows pizzicati in places where there would not normally be time to bring the right hand from or to the bowing position. Use of left-hand pizzicato is relatively uncommon and is most often found in the violin solo repertoire; two famous examples of left-hand pizzicato are Paganini
Niccolò Paganini
Niccolò Paganini was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. He was one of the most celebrated violin virtuosi of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique...

's 24th Caprice
24th Caprice
Caprice No. 24 in A minor is the final caprice of Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices, and a famous work for solo violin. The work, in the key of A minor, consists of a theme, 11 variations, and a finale...

 and Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen
Zigeunerweisen
Zigeunerweisen , Op. 20, is a musical composition for violin and orchestra written in 1878 by the Spanish composer and virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate and premiered during the same year in Leipzig...

. Left hand pizzicato can also be used while bowed notes are being held, an effect appearing primarily in repertoire of the late 19th century and beyond. Examples of this technique can be found in the works of Wieniawski
Henryk Wieniawski
Henryk Wieniawski was a Polish violinist and composer.-Biography:Henryk Wieniawski was born in Lublin, Congress Poland, Russian Empire. His father, Tobiasz Pietruszka, had converted to Catholicism. His talent for playing the violin was recognized early, and in 1843 he entered the Paris...

, Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

 (Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto (Berg)
Alban Berg's Violin Concerto was written in 1935 . It is probably Berg's best-known and most frequently performed instrumental piece.-Conception and composition:...

), Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 (Three Pieces for String Quartet) and many others.

Maurice Delage
Maurice Delage
Maurice Delage was a French composer and pianist.Delage was born and died in Paris. A student of Ravel and member of Les Apaches, he was influenced by travels to India and the East. Ravel's "La vallée des cloches" from Miroirs was dedicated to Delage.Delage's best known piece is Quatre poèmes...

 calls for slurred pizzicati in the cello part of his Quatre poèmes hindous for soprano and chamber orchestra . This is achieved by playing one note, and then stopping a new note on the same string without plucking the string again. This technique (known as "hammering-on" to guitarists) is rarely used on bowed instruments.

A further variation is a particularly strong pizzicato where the string is plucked vertically by snapping and rebounds off the fingerboard of the instrument. This is sometimes known as the Bartók
Béla Bartók
Béla Viktor János Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary's greatest composer...

 pizzicato
(or colloquially as "slapping
Slapping
In music, the term slapping is often used to refer to two different playing techniques used on the double bass and on the bass guitar.-Double bass:...

" or "snap pizzicato"), after one of the first composers to use it extensively. Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště in the Czech Republic...

 famously employs a Bartok pizzicato in the third movement of his Seventh Symphony
Symphony No. 7 (Mahler)
Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony was written in 1904-05, with repeated revisions to the scoring. It is sometimes referred to by the title Song of the Night , though this title was not Mahler's own and he disapproved of it. Although the symphony is often described as being in the key of 'E minor,'...

, in which he provides the violins with the footnote 'pluck so hard that the strings hit the wood'. On the double bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

, this style of snap pizzicato, which is called "slapping", was used in jazz since the 1920s and later used in rockabilly. Because an unamplified double bass is generally the quietest instrument in a jazz band, many players of the 1920s and 1930s used the slap style, slapping and pulling the strings so that they make a rhythmic "slap" sound against the fingerboard. The slap style cuts through the sound of a band better than simply plucking the strings, and allowed the bass to be more easily heard on early sound recordings, as the recording equipment of that time did not favor low frequencies.

Bartók also made use of pizzicato glissandi
Glissando
In music, a glissando is a glide from one pitch to another. It is an Italianized musical term derived from the French glisser, to glide. In some contexts it is distinguished from the continuous portamento...

, executed by plucking a note and then sliding the stopping finger up or down the string. This technique can be heard in his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz. 106, BB 114 is one of the best-known compositions by the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. Commissioned by Paul Sacher to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Basel Chamber Orchestra, the score is dated September 7, 1936...

.