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One-handed pizzicato


Lee Essayan
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I never got far enough into lessons as a kid to have been professionally taught the correct way to do a one-handed pizzicato. However, I've been improvising all my life and think I'm pretty good at it.

Can any of you professionals out there tell me the RIGHT way to attempt it?

My best guess is that you play the note and use the pinkie to pluck (only a logical guess).

Any tips would be appreciated.

Lee

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In the great scheme of things, having a good left-hand pizzicato ranks right up there with being able to wiggle your ears of cross your eyes.

Having said that, here is what I have been taught (by someone, let me add, who does not share my disdain for parlor tricks on the violin):

If you are playing just one or two plucks, and have time, ordinarily you use just your little finger, because that gives you the most volume, since it is most separated from the stopping finger. If you are playing a downward cascade of the things, you use all of the fingers.

Whatever the finger or fingers used, the technique is the same: position the plucking finger on the base side of the string and pull the finger strongly, all the way off the fingerboard.

In my next post I will explain how to wiggle one's ears and cross one's eyes, which are probably more useful tricks in most social contexts.

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I'm curious, aren't there some *relatively* standard pieces (Zigeunerweisen? "La Ronde des Lutins"?) in which it's very preferable to do it with your left hand because of the sheer speed that some of their passages demand, and most importantly, since they are mixed with other bowings?

-Mu0n

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Yup, it's a common trick in the music written by the virtuoso violinists. And there are some pieces where you have to alternate left and right-hand pizz., like Sarasate's Introduction and Tarantella. There's also left-hand pizz. in some works not written by virtuosic composers -- in a Prokofiev concerto, for instance. A left-hand pizzicato has a different tone quality than a right-hand one.

If your left-hand fingers are strong, your left-hand pizz. will probably be good, as soon as you get used to the effort. If your left-hand fingers are weak, it'll be an effort to pluck the string and you won't get a good sound.

I actually think it's easier to extend the third finger and pluck with it, since it's larger than the pinky, and for the vast majority of people, also stronger than the pinky. The finger you use, though, will often depend on the fingering of the passage around it.

You don't want to pull the string too violently, though -- you don't want to stretch it out of tune!

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Here's a left-hand pizz. hint:

When doing left hand pizz on the A, D, and G strings, hold down the upper neighbouring string with an unused finger to avoid hitting two strings. It is often makes things quite difficult, but the result is clean pizzes.

On another note (pardon the pun), I have found left hand pizz exercises to be great for strengthening the pinky!

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Thank you for this thread, people starting with letters K and L. I will commit to a 3 month regime of all left hand 3-octave bonanza.

How is your 6 month regime of pure open strings going so far, Lydia?

(Read: how is your preparation for your contest going? Or concert? So much stuff has happened since I read this bavs post).

-Mu0n

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In addition to Lydia's list, I would add Paganini's 24th Caprice. Left-hand pizz is the focus of one of the variations and it pretty much leaves no finger or string un-pizzed so it's a good one for practicing the technique.

[This message has been edited by tc (edited 11-22-2000).]

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As Lydia has said, which finger you use for left hand pizzicato depends on the fingering you use.

If you want to try your hands at left hand pizzicato an easy etude is Kayser #20, there are a couple of bars that call for pizz, and the coda needs it too.

If you want heavy training on this topic use Sevcik's Op.1 Book 4. #19 and #20.

Etude 19 alternates bow and pizzicato. Etude 20 will have you playing bow and pizzicato at the same time.

enjoy it, -sm

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