Pull Some Strings

Pull Some Strings


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It's time to pull some strings! The technique of plucking the string is called pizzicato or Pizz. for short. Pizz is the opposite of Arco, which means playing with the bow.

We usually pluck the strings with the fingers of the right hand, whilst holding the violin in playing position. We can pluck like it's a guitar too, with the violin under the arm, but that's not so common. So when playing a piece of sheet music it's best to assume that the violin stays under the chin unless it says otherwise.

Most violinists use either the index finger or the middle finger to pluck the string. Try it with both and see which you prefer. Some people even use the thumb to pluck the strings but not the third or fourth fingers. They're too weak and too hard to control.

In order to play pull some strings you don't need to use your bow. There are five little pieces and they're all pizzicato. When plucking the string, there are good places to do it... and not so good places to do it! Some parts of the string are much easier or harder to pluck than others, and the position of the finger along the string has a big effect on the sound quality too.

Nearer to the bridge, the string becomes harder to pull and therefore harder to pluck. There's just too much resistance.

As we move away from the bridge, the string becomes easier to pull. But if we go too far in that direction, then the string gets so close to the fingerboard that it's much more difficult to get a good connection between the string and the finger.

The sweet spot for plucking the string is in the area around the edge of the fingerboard. We often describe this as 'over' the fingerboard.

It's best not to play in the gap *between* the fingerboard and the bridge, because it's much harder to control and it doesn't sound so good. Generally we don't pluck the string in the same place that we bow on the string.

There's a practical reason for that too. We don't want to transfer the grease, oil, sweat, dirt and other delightful substances from our fingers onto the part of the string where we'll be playing with the bow. If we do that, it can damage the hair of the bow and make the sound become really strange.

When plucking, keep the hand close to the strings so that everything is nicely controlled. Touch the string, pull gently and release. You shouldn't feel like you're plucking *across* the string, because then you're more likely to accidentally pluck another string at the same time.

Instead, feel like your finger is very slightly *under* the string as you start the plucking motion, and then release it at an upwardly sloping angle.

Experiment with different placements of the finger along the string. This could include different amounts of pull, different angles of release, and so on. Keep experimenting until you find the most pleasing, pure and resonant sound that you can.

Oh... and make sure to keep your fingernails away from the strings. We want to use plenty of the flesh of the finger when plucking, and avoid the nasty hard sound that the fingernails make!