Orchestral pizzicatto

November 21, 2021, 6:24 AM · Hi all,
Does anyone have any suggestions on improving pizzicatto in an orchestra setting? Every time I do it in one of the pieces, it doesn't resonate as much as I want/expect it to. It just kind of dies

Replies (23)

November 21, 2021, 6:54 AM · Vibrato! and I find that lower tension strings resonate pizzicatto better on my violins.
November 21, 2021, 9:18 AM · Pluck a bit further away from the bridge. Be sure to pull sideways more than up.

And better never than late!!

Edited: November 21, 2021, 10:55 PM · Of course pizz. dies off quickly. The violin is designed to do that. For a longer pizz. sound we use an instrument without a sound-post, like guitar or harp. For orchestral pizz. that is marked pp I do something different. I put a little rosin on my fingertip, push the string straight down and release it straight up at the right moment. That way is guaranteed to not be accidentally too loud and is more rhythmically accurate.
November 21, 2021, 10:51 AM · But what kind of rosin?
November 21, 2021, 11:57 AM · I have little doubt that a specialist “pizz” rosin could be made available – at a price.
November 21, 2021, 12:09 PM · As above. For orchestral as well as "solo" pizz. In the orchestra the main extra "ingredient" of success is this: Make sure to be perfectly together. Avoid pluplupluck sounds.
November 21, 2021, 12:40 PM · You're going to get some side-eye if you're trying to be the section's pizz virtuoso. Make sure you blend in.
November 21, 2021, 3:30 PM · Yes, try to avoid a complete pluckup.
November 21, 2021, 4:17 PM · Orchestral pizzacata is best with motetsarella.

Oops, sorry, wrong forum.

Edited: November 21, 2021, 5:07 PM · Stephen has mentioned two vital tricks: away from the bridge, and brushing, not hooking, the string. May I add a third: increased left hand finger pressure, for a fret-like clarity (not to be applied to arco playing!)
November 21, 2021, 5:07 PM · Another quick way for improving pizzicato is to write it correctly.
November 21, 2021, 5:17 PM · "You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write."
--Saul Bellow
November 22, 2021, 10:14 AM · Good advice above. And, play the pizzicato notes in as low a position as possible. The longer the string (between finger and bridge) the longer the note will ring.
November 22, 2021, 8:30 PM · Just out of curiousity Karl, if that is true (pluck as low a position as possible), why are guitars, lutes etc etc plucked about 1/4th of the length of the string?
November 22, 2021, 9:20 PM · I think he meant left hand position.
November 24, 2021, 6:11 AM · Think of the resonating length of the string as the distance between the bridge and where your left-hand finger is stopping the string. You will therefore get the most resonance if you pluck as close to exactly halfway between those two points as possible. If the left-hand finger is held down more firmly, it is also a cleaner stop for the resonating length. That's pure physics. It also helps to use a slightly slanted strumming motion.

That's probably why some people think pizz sounds better in a lower position -- because they've been taught to pluck horizontally across at the end of the fingerboard, and there's more distance if they're in the lower position.

Edited: November 24, 2021, 9:55 AM · When I played in the Kensington Philharmonic in 2014, the viola section leader gave me a welcome lesson on how best to pluck: Your right hand moves down the instrument towards the peg box more than to the side (& certainly not vertically up and down). it did sound nicer.
November 24, 2021, 10:40 AM · Not really applicable to the violin, but, for the Bass, what I have heard is that you wrap your finger around the string and try to "spin" it. Some jazz bassists will have a career that never uses the bow. For the Harp, the standard technique is that you prepare, tense the string in advance, then release it at the right moment. Imagine a reverse-action harpsichord that sounds when you release the key, not when you strike it.
Edited: November 24, 2021, 3:55 PM · I don't give a pony how my pizz sounds - it's the rapid switching from pizz to arco to pizz to arco that I want to improve.
November 24, 2021, 4:07 PM · Gordon, I have found it some help to
1. use a left hand pizz whenever it makes since to do so.
2. mark my bowing so an upbow always precedes a pizz passaage and a downbow always follows a pizz passage.

But perhaps you already do that.
It does not solve all problems, but every little bit helps!

Edited: November 25, 2021, 3:45 AM · If it kind of dies away, it's the composer's fault for not including the basses.

Jake's questions are always interesting, and this one has invoked great responses, technical and hilarious.

Edited: November 25, 2021, 2:16 AM · Andrew, yes, I already do both those things - it's the bowhold is the biggest problem. Thanks for the suggestions, though.
November 26, 2021, 5:22 PM · Reading over the responses here I find an important element missing: Vibrato. Vibrate while pizza.-ing and the note will die down marginally but noticeably slower.

BTW Lydia, I think it is more the frequency than the used length of the string that makes high pitch pizzicati so unattractive, but frequency and length are not entirely independent variables.

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