You can be a very good cellist, but at the same time a very bad “pizzicato-ist”. This is because pizzicato is rarely used in the solo parts of concertos, sonatas and virtuoso showpieces, and therefore it is rarely taught or studied. But pizzicato is used a lot by the cello in chamber and orchestral music – most especially in operas – and often has a very important musical function, as well as posing specific technical problems.
One of the handicaps for pizzicato on the cello than that we are usually holding the bow at the same time as we are plucking. Imagine if a guitarist had to play while holding a long stick in their right hand! Holding the bow causes two notable problems for our pizzicato, especially for our rapid pizzicato passages:
- it limits the use of our fingers (because we have to pluck and at the same time prevent the bow from flying off and spearing somebody)
- the weight of the bow waving around in the air has a destabilising effect on the hand and arm.
For these reasons, when possible, for a long or complex pizzicato passage, we may want to put the bow down and have the right hand and arm completely free.
We can divide the study of pizzicato into different sections. Click on the following links to open each different area.