Thursday, June 4, 2015


"Her voice, the music of the spheres,
  So loud, it deafens mortals' ears;
  As wise philosophers have thought,
  And that's the cause we hear it not."

AUTHOR: Samuel Butler
"The music of nature is always playing around us so
  we have trained ourselves to stop listening to it."

Leroy Kirkland And His Orchestra
Anderson wrote very clever
arrangements which caught the
attention of the music director of
the Boston Pops, Arthur Fiedler,

who recruited Anderson to compose for
the orchestra. In 1938 the first piece he
wrote for them was ''Jazz Pizzicato.''

Misha Rachlevsky, Conductor
Chamber Orchestra Kremlin
Pizzicato (or shortened: pizz.) is the Italian
word for "plucked." To play pizzicato on a
stringed instrument (such as the violin, viola,
cello, or double bass) means to make the notes
sound by plucking the strings with the fingers
rather than by using the bow. The term is not
associated with instruments that are always
plucked, such as the harp and the guitar.
In music notation pizzicato is an Italian
universal musical term used when a composer
wants a note or notes plucked and is often
indicated using the abbreviation pizz.
Pizzicato requires the musician to raise the
bowing hand to the finger board and pluck
the string. This is easier to reach after the
player has performed an up bow, or after
a rest. Pizzicato's are usually followed by
the term arco to indicate when to resume
playing with the bow (arco is the universal
Italian term meaning "bow").
In 1756, Leopold Mozart
in his Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule
Violin Playing) instructs the player to pizzicato
using the index finger of the right hand. This has
remained the most usual way to execute a pizzicato,
though sometimes the right hand middle finger or
thumb 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 but usually the player keeps
it in his hand while plucking.
Demonstrated here with the right thumb is
placed at the corner of the fingerboard:
Demonstrated here with the right thumb is
placed on the side of the fingerboard:
Pizzicato passages may be fast or slow, loud or soft.
In addition, the player can produce different kinds
of sounds by varying the specific manner
in which he plucks the strings.
for example, will give a sound that is much harder
or coarser than plucking with the fleshy part of the
fingertip, and plucking at different points along the
string will cause the string to resonate in different
ways. A stiff finger versus a flexible finger will
also change the sound, and even the direction or
manner of follow-through will have an effect.
Right Hand
If a string player has to play pizzicato for a long
period of time,the performer may put down the
bow. Violinists and violists may also hold the
instrument in the "banjo"or "guitar" position
(instrument resting horizontally on the lap while
plucking the strings with the thumb of the right
hand). This technique is rarely used and usually
only in movements which are pizzicato throughout.
Sometimes when an entire piece or movement is
performed pizzicato the violin is held in a
"guitar" or "banjo" type manner
when plucked.
In the following video
the performers are using
pizzicato in the "guitar" position:

Barcel Brioso Benefit Concert
Portland Suzuki Project

It is also possible to execute a pizzicato with a
finger of the left hand (the hand that normally
stops the strings) allowing for bowed tones and
pizzicato tones to be played simultaneously or
in alternation (places in the music where there
would not normally be time to bring the right
hand from or to the bowing position). This other
rarely used technique is called left hand pizzicato
and was invented and used as a special effect in
the nineteenth century by Niccolo Paganini (the
Italian virtuoso violinist and composer who
lived from 1782-1840) in the 24th Caprice
Jascha Heifetz, Violin

Performing this technique usually involves
throwing in bowed notes in rapid alternation
with those that are plucked. The left hand
touches a string and plucks it then the plucked
note is usually accompanied by bowed notes
on strings which are not being played pizzicato.
asks for slurred pizzicati in
Jacqueline Du Pre, Cello
Daniel Barenboim, Piano

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 pizzicato with a "slapping" sound is a variation
of the regular pizzicato which is particularly
strong to where the string rebounds (snaps) off
the fingerboard of the instrument producing a very
resounding and percussive sound. Because the
twentieth-century composer Bela Bartok
(1881-1945) was one of the first composers to use
it extensively the snap pizzicato is sometimes
called a "Bartók" pizzicato.
The quietest instrument in a jazz band,
the un-amplified double-bass
(used in jazz since the 1920's) uses the slap
style a lot because it cuts through the sound
of a band better than simply plucking the
strings plus it 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,
sliding the stopping  finger up or down the
string. This technique can be heard in his
for example.


There is also a pizzicato tremolo which is a rapid
motion of the finger against the string. It is a tiring
technique to execute for long periods on the
violin and it is an uncontrolled effect.
Composers since the Baroque period (ca. 1600-1750)
have used pizzicato often to provide color and
contrast in their works whether for gentle
accompaniments to arias or instrumental melodies
(sometimes in imitation of a guitar or harp), resonant
counter melodies or rhythmic punctuations,
percussive effects, or flashy displays. In his
Fourth Symphony, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
(1840-1893) included one
movement where the strings play
only pizzicato for the entire movement.
Daniel Barenboim, Conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra

View more information on
pizzicato on my other page:

Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops


Composed in 1838 this was written as a
companion piece for Jazz Pizzicato.
Together the Jazz Pizzicato and Jazz
Legato were just long enough to fill one
side of a three-minute 78 r.p.m. record.
Legato Bowing on the Violin
Legato literally means"tied together"
in Italian and indicates that notes are
played smoothly and connected. No
silence between notes transitions. With
string instruments you mostly use the same
bow direction for as many notes as possible
while still keeping a desired quality sound.
Legato doesn't have to be
played in one bow direction but should
be made to sound as much so as possible.
In notation legato is indicated with a
slur, a curved line connecting the
notes or by the word itself.
Fiddlerman Demonstrates
Legato Slurs and Articulation
When a group of notes is played with a single bow
stroke one note should flow into the next without
a break. This technique is always
indicated by a slur.
Example of
Slur Notation
When each note is played by one stroke the direction
of the bow is changed quickly and imperceptibly
while the bow remains on the string. This
technique is not indicated by a slur.
Right click here to download a Sing Legato midi file
(Heavy Legato)
A short series of several gently pulsed legato notes
that are played with one stroke. Although there
are slight breaks between the notes the
impression of legato remains. This technique
also applies to repeated notes or notes
with the same value.
A slight swelling at the beginning of the note should be
applied, followed by a gradual lightening of the sound.
Strokes are distinctly separate, yet unaccented.The
expressive swell is produced by applying pressure
and speed to the bow at the beginning of
the note. Although a slur and horizontal dashes
are generally used to indicate this effect,
dots with slurs are occasionally used.