How to Practice Left Hand Technique with Pizzicato on the Violin

By Katharine Rapoport

Pizzicato sounds like something delicious to order in an Italian restaurant, but it’s actually a technique that can make your violin sound a bit like a harp or a guitar — you pluck the strings. You can use the pizzicato technique to allow you to concentrate on placing your left‐hand fingers on their spots without having to think about using the bow at the same time. All you need to do is to leave your bow safely in your case and follow these simple steps:

  1. Set up comfortably in playing position.

  2. Make a fist with your right hand, with the tip of your thumb cuddling the middle joints of your first and second fingers.

  3. Hold your fist over the strings just above the top inch or two of the fingerboard, with your knuckles pointing toward the ceiling.

  4. Extend your thumb and index finger so that they are fairly straight.

  5. Park the pad of your thumb along the E‐string side of the fingerboard.

    The tip of your thumb points almost straight down toward the table of the violin, and your index finger is ready over the strings.

  6. Put the pad of your index finger on the left side of any string — try the G string, for example — and then pluck the string by making a little circular pulling motion with your index finger.

    Bend your finger’s middle joint to pull the string a little toward you, and then let the string ping back as your finger continues its circle around for the next pizzicato.

    Shaping up for pizzicato. [Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk]

    Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk
    Shaping up for pizzicato.

Here are two songs for you to practice on. You can follow the music for these songs and play pizzicato along with the audio tracks. Just refer to the following music charts. The chart uses the real locations of the notes on five lines. But to help you along if you aren’t familiar with reading music, there’s a finger number for each note just under the note to let you know which string to play on. A 0 means open string, no fingers on the string.

Asian Mood

“Asian Mood” uses an Eastern‐sounding scale. In the very first bit, try keeping finger 1 on the A string while finger 3 plays, because you’re coming right back to finger 1 again. Things go smoothly if you watch carefully when you land your fingers on the D string to make sure you’re aiming them at the right spots.

“Asian Mood”

“Asian Mood”

Octave Ping-Pong

This bagatelle (a short, light musical piece) will help you practice something very important: getting finger 3 on target. If you can land finger 3 accurately, chances are good that the rest of your fingers will be on target too! Because you are landing finger 3 on the note A on the E string, you’ll be able to hear that A matching the sound of your open A string.

And of course, the same thing applies when you land finger 3 on other strings: The notes match their corresponding open strings. You can feel the ping‐pong effect in the movement of finger 3. Just let your finger bounce onto the string to play and rebound off again when it isn’t playing.

Octave Ping-Pong

Octave Ping-Pong