Left Hand Pizzicato

January 22, 2004 at 08:24 PM · Could anyone explain me how to play left hand pizzicati?

I am trying to play "Zigeunerweisen" by Sarasate and I don't know how to play the pieces with left hand pizzicati. My questions are: Do I have to play the other notes with the bow or right hand pizz? Do I have to do the left hand pizz with the last finger I used for the previous note or is it to play with any finger? Is there any special tip to know when practising left hand pizz?

Thank you for your answers!


Replies (20)

January 23, 2004 at 01:13 AM · Greetings,

you play the notes not marked as left hand pizz with the bow unless rh is written above the note. The idea is to drop the bow onto the string at the tip to emulate a pizzicato sound.The drop is pretty musch vertical but it does make a difference whetehr you are doing an up or down and you can experiment with this.

You should pluck the note with the finger that has just played for maximum efficiency although there may be some exceptions ot this rule.

The reason we use the funger that has just played is that it is already on the string and therefore just has ot make the sidewayds pulling movement.

There is no mystery to LH pizz and it can be improved by daily pracitce in:

Dounis- Artists technique of Violin Playing

Flesch Scales (Back of ostal edition)

Sevcik Book ???????

Kreutzer trill studies (edited Galamian)

It also helps to practice xecerpts from other pieces such as Sarasate`s Zapateado and Paginini Caprice 24.

However, after a certain point I think LH pizz is something of an innate talent which you eitehr have or you have not got. I don`t think any violnist has come close to the young Menuhin in Sarasate`s Caprice Basque, for example.

You might search the archoives ar there are a numbe rof articles on this topic,



November 25, 2016 at 01:51 AM · Well this is an old thread, so I'm going to jack it.

I've been lately practicing left hand pizz. I am basically doing left pizz on a note, then playing double stop in fifths to the note with the bow, and scaling up and so on.

I'm getting a bit confused here. As I reach higher positions, My left pinky seems to not be able to grip the string with the fingernail. Am I supposed to pluck with fingernails, or with the tips?

November 25, 2016 at 02:25 AM · As far as I know, LH pizz does not involve fingernails. Don't worry if you cannot make LH pizz sound good. Nobody else can either. Whoever came up with this idea for the violin did us all a tremendous disservice.

November 25, 2016 at 02:30 AM · Excuse me?

Listen to Julian Sitkovetsky play Paganini's Campanella on YT.

The LH pizz sounds like a mandolin or small ukelele. :D

November 25, 2016 at 03:11 AM · So, I need to build up some callus on the fingetips to get a grip on strings at high tension to pluck them?

November 25, 2016 at 04:36 AM · Keep your nails trimmed as short as possible. Sadly, at some point in life, all of us have to choose between being a coke dealer and a violinist.

November 25, 2016 at 05:09 AM · A nice side benefit of practicing left-hand pizzicato is that it builds up the lateral motion of the fingers that we often neglect!

November 25, 2016 at 06:18 AM · Christian: I don't understand what you meant by coke... :)

November 25, 2016 at 06:45 AM · Should I pluck "down" by closing the finger, or pluck "up" by opening the finger?

I'm a lot more comfortable plucking up for the time being, I just can't grip the strig well enough to pluck down with the pinky.

November 25, 2016 at 01:30 PM · A.O., I don't know about you, but I spent way too much on my violin to have it sound like a "small ukelele." As much as I admire Julian Sitkovetsky, I would much rather listen to his recording of the Sibelius Violin Concerto than any show-piece by the likes of Paganini or Sarasate. Of course that is just my own personal preferences, which I realize runs counter to the usual praise for such "violinistic" material.

I'll concede that LH pizz has its place. It's place is in pieces like "The Puppet Show." Not in serious literature. Somehow, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms managed to write a trove of gorgeous concertos and sonatas without needing this silly device.

November 25, 2016 at 02:31 PM · I very much agree with Paul's sentiments, but there is an use for some facility in LH pizz if you're in orchestra and you have a normal (RH) pizz passage which is immediately followed by a return to arco without a helpful intervening rest.

I find there are two ways to solve this conundrum - starting the arco section with a down-bow at the heel is no great problem because the pizzicato finger and the heel of the bow are together in the same location relative to the string. However, if you've got to start the arco with an up-bow near the tip things can get untidy, so that's when a LH pizz comes in useful on the last note or two of the pizzicato section, giving you enough time to get the bow into place. It's helpful if the last pizz note is an open string; if not, then some practice is indicated - a lateral movement of the 3rd finger is best (and no fingernails if you value your strings!).

November 25, 2016 at 03:10 PM · steven, if I understand your question - you pluck "down" (aka g string to e string direction). It gives you much more volume / tone. Do you have a teacher?

November 25, 2016 at 03:23 PM · Hi Steven,

LH pizz is executed using a lateral (sideways) motion with the fleshy part of the plucking finger -- no fingernails involved. Read Buri's original reply from 2004.

November 25, 2016 at 03:31 PM · By the way, it can help to position the left hand and elbow so the fingers are a little taller during the LH pizz section. Taller LH fingers make it a little easier to grab the string and execute a sideways plucking action.

Just my 2c, I think LH pizz is like up bow (or down bow) staccato. It can energize a performance with added virtuosity. After all, that's one of the reasons it is fun to watch really accomplished musicians.

November 25, 2016 at 04:39 PM · Steven J,

It sounds like you may be using the pinkie for all the plucks. You can do that, but you can also use other fingers that have more muscle. An exercise is to press with the 1st and pluck with each of the others, press with the 2d and pluck with 3 & 4, etc.

It takes time to build strength and calluses, but stick with it and it will happen.

November 25, 2016 at 05:38 PM · Thank you Smiley and Mike,

I will keep at it.

Irene, at this moment I do not have a teacher. I cannot afford both in time and money for a new teacher until.. ever. I take a technique lesson from different people here and there. Right now, my focus is in LH and bow pizz. I am more trying to understand the "rule" for LH pizz as to how I should be plucking the string.

Mike, I do find it certainly easier to use other fingers. In fact, I find it extremely helpful when I do a shift then pluck with other fingers than staying within a certain position and trying to use pinky all the time. I am focusing on pinky now however because I want to strengthen it.

I must admit that I find it a bit funny, each year, I set a goal for technique, and get it down near the end of the year, but my repertoire has changed very little bit in the past 2 years.

Last year, it was vibrato, this year it was position-intonation and projection. Next will be pizz.

November 26, 2016 at 12:24 PM · Yes, especially strengthening 3 and 4 (as pizzicato strengthens fingers in reverse order, 4 to 1)

November 26, 2016 at 01:53 PM · If your current focus is LH pizz (which seems almost unimaginable to me, but it's your life) then I recommend the piece "Souvenir de Sarasate" which is in Book 3 of the "Solos for Young Violinists" book by Barbara Barber. This piece has some sections that demonstrate the characteristic use of LH pizz with fingerings. And of course, if you have not played "The Puppet Show" might as well start there, that's in Book 1.

Like Trevor, I find that LH pizz is useful in an orchestral setting when the transition from arco to pizz is too fast, and especially when the pizz note is an open string. I have that situation right now with a grouping of Chinese pieces that we are playing in chamber orchestra. I am playing viola and the last note is a plucked open A, which is very convenient for LH pizz - on the viola!

November 26, 2016 at 04:12 PM · My experience: If you can snap your left-hand fingers audibly you can probably do or develop left-hand pizzicato. If you can't do the first, you probably cannot do the latter. One may lose the ability with age and one may lose the ability to gain the ability with age - so start when you are young, if you still have a chance to.

November 26, 2016 at 10:52 PM · Interestingly, some people are able to learn the ideal way for the 4th finger to lift and drop by practicing left-hand pizzicato. It can help the fingertip stay pointed toward the string rather than over to the wall or, worse, up to the sky!

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

2023 Authenticate LA: Los Angeles Violin Shop
2023 Authenticate LA

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide


Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine