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Pizzicato

Pulgar Plucking for Classical Guitar

"Pizzicato - A light plucking staccato sound sometimes referred to as Pinched ..."

This technique, as the headline suggests, is performed on the guitar by using the thumb ("pulgar" in Spanish) to pluck the string. This is done whilst having the side (or "heel") of the hand that is doing the plucking resting on the string close the bridge of the guitar.


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The whole effect is to try to mimic the sound on bowed instruments such as the violin and the thumb is used throughout, even on the treble strings of the guitar. The effect is a good clear pitch yet with a damped sound that has a resonant, even comical sound.

On bowed instruments, players tend to pluck the string with their index fingers (as instructed by Leopold Mozart and continued to this day), whereas guitar players will use the palm of their right hand to mute the strings near the bridge of the guitar.

It is thought that this technique was first used by the Renaissance/Baroque composer, Claudio Monteverdi in his work " The Combat of Tancredi and Clorinda", circa 1638 (see below).

Here is how this technique is directed in music notation...

David Braid, writing in Play Classical Guitar, says of Pizzicato...

"Experiment to find the best hand position: if the note sounds too much like a dull thud with little pitch, the hand is too far to the left. Alternatively, if the string is still ringing for a length of time, and the sound is similar to the usual tone, the hand is too far to the right..."

Sometimes you just have to move the heel of your hand around a little to get the perfect position but with a little practice and experience it's not that hard.

Good luck!

Here are a few related pages in which you may be interested...

More than Pizzicato...

Here's a little bit of history from the Wikipedia page...

"The first recognised use of pizzicato in classical music is in Claudio Monteverdi's Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (around 1638), in which the players are instructed to use two fingers of their right hand to pluck the strings. However in Tobias Hume's Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke (1607) Hume instructs the viola da gamba player to use this technique ('thumpe'). Later, in 1756, Leopold Mozart in his Versuch einer gr√ľndlichen Violinschule instructs the player to use the index finger of the right hand. This has remained the most usual way to this technique, though sometimes the middle finger 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. Unless necessary, avoid picking the strings too hard, or else resulting in an unpleasing slap sound on the instrument."

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