William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Understanding Left Hand Pizzicato

Learn more about this important violin technique

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick talks about left hand pizzicato and how to apply it in well-known violin repertoire.

Released on January 6, 2016

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

So, this is called pizzicato and it's done with the right hand fingers, makes a slightly percussive kind of a sound. Well, what if this kind of pizzicato could be done with the left hand fingers? What would that sound like? Well, this is called left hand pizzicato. I propose we have a look at how this is done.

And with that, welcome to Virtualsheetmusic.com's "Meet the Expert." My name is William Fitzpatrick, and I am the Henri Temianka Professor of Violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, which is located on the campus of Chapman University. And am as well director of MusiShare and the MusiShare Young Artists Program. Okay, so let's take a look at how left hand pizzicato works.

Well, if we look closely, it very much resembles a rotation from the left arm elbow. Now, let's put a finger, let's say the third finger, on the E string and pull it away, as I just did. It produces this sound. This is called left hand pizzicato. I remember Miss DeLay explaining to me how the finger goes to and from the string. She said, "If A were the starting point of the finger and C were the arrival point and B was here at the top, then we've formed a triangle." She asked the question, "What's the quickest way to get to C?" Well, from A it would be C, not A up to B, down to C. Or the reverse coming away, it would be C to A, and not C all the way up and back.

So let's look a little closer at this left hand pizzicato. Let's look at the third finger, again on the E string. Remember, it looks like that. Why don't I slow it down so that you can see it even better?

That's great. But you know, we can use our other fingers as well. For example, we can do it with a fourth finger, third finger (what we just did), second finger, first finger. Now, we can as well do four one or four two or three one or three two. And to top it off, we can do four three two one. But you know, to really do it more effectively, we need to use our bow. If we drop the bow to the string, it makes a similar sound to a pizzicato. If we use this one for our fourth finger, which can't be pizzed, we hear all five notes. Here, have a listen.

Why don't I slow that down as well so that we can really see it? Using this is really, really cool, so why I don't I show you how I used it in one of my melodies, "Number Two."

Now, lots of different composers have used left hand pizzicato for quite a long time. Here are two examples, two very famous examples of that usage. First, let's look at Sarasate's "Zigeunerweizen." Did you see the three one bow on the third finger and then pizz the first? Or the two zero? Here, let me show you: three one, two zero. And then, of course, there's the very, very famous variation in Paganini's "24th Caprice." Let's see, there's three one, two zero, four two, one zero, even four one. Oh, unless we forget the second part of the variation, which contains a four three two one on all four strings. Have a look.

Well, like I said, left hand pizz sort of resembles that rotation that I talked about before. We can use it to both put our fingers on the string, but in this case, we use it to take our fingers off the string, which gives us a real expressive possibility. A whole range of possibilities such as, suppose I wanted to do the left hand pizz, suppose I wanted to do it while I was actually playing a piece such as Wieniawski. You see, I can even use it to help articulation with a slur. But this gets into a whole, whole nother conversation. Let me do another video on that a little later.

So, that's it for this discussion about left hand pizzicato. If you have a comment or a question to ask me, please feel free to post it below. But as always, do take care and here's hoping that your practicing is becoming more and more efficient, and this is leading you to even better performances.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Edward Emanuel on June 12, 2020 @1:57 pm PST
Hello Prof Fitzpatrick, thanks for posting this excellent video! I’d really like to know more about exercises or etudes that help develop this technique, specifically a solid left hand that does all these things, rotation, clean and resonant pizz with different fingered notes, and I’d like to know more about that ABC thing! Timing, speed and accuracy while coordinating left and right hand is ever elusive! Do you have any more videos with these things in mind and can you recommend any exercises or etudes to develop them? Your thoughts would be very much appreciated! Once again thanks for your great videos, always refreshing and enlightening!
Leo Cheung on December 26, 2019 @8:08 am PST
Amazing video! I was wondering is there any way to avoid plucking other strings (the outside string), so as to avoid making any unwanted sound, especially when I use my 4th finger to do the LH pizz. The 4th finger is the weaker finger, and when I try to do the LH pizz with it, I always want to pluck it harder, but when I do, very often I'll also pluck the outside string, which will make an unclean sound. How do we solve this problem?
William - host, on January 1, 2020 @9:51 am PST
Hi and thanks! Under the ear its annoying but the sound doesn't travel very far in a hall so in a performance its not critical! To diminish it however look to your elbow!
ian on November 26, 2018 @11:13 pm PST
It has taken me sometime now to get the left hand pizzicato on the violin but more practice is needed, yet i can do it comfortably on my classical guitar do you have any idea's to practice?

William - host, on November 29, 2018 @10:45 am PST
Check out my Melodies book https://www.virtualsheetmusic.com/score/ViolinMelodies.html perhaps this would help? Thanks!
ian on November 29, 2018 @11:32 pm PST
Thank you William::Smiley Face)) I will order the book
Ian Watts on February 8, 2019 @4:14 pm PST
Left pizz is going great, my friends all want to know who taught me, so I told them it was from a master violinist::::Smiley Face))))
Ian Watts on November 18, 2018 @5:50 pm PST
G'day from Australia! your a great teacherSmiley Face
Loved the video, started playing left hand, kewl
Barry Conrad on September 5, 2018 @10:24 pm PST
absolutly amazing, no matter how many times i watch your videos i always learn something new every time, thanks again for sharing your wealth of knowledge, its greatly appreciated Smiley Face
William - host, on September 6, 2018 @6:38 pm PST
Thank you so very much!
Susan * VSM MEMBER * on October 24, 2016 @4:26 pm PST
that was EPIC!!!
Victor Adeyemo age 12 :
Lois Owsley * VSM MEMBER * on January 27, 2016 @8:50 am PST
Great video to explain left hand pizzicato...thanks!
William - host, on July 14, 2016 @11:28 pm PST
You're welcome!
Betsy Pike on January 13, 2016 @9:27 am PST
Excellent demonstration! I am a violinist/violist/cellist performer and teacher and am always searching for informative videos for my students, as well as myself, to help with difficult techniques. Please keep them coming! Betsy Pike
William - host, on January 15, 2016 @9:43 am PST
Thank you! Betsy! Will do!
Rafael Vazquez on January 9, 2016 @2:39 pm PST
Thank you For taking your time on making this helpful videos.
William - host, on January 15, 2016 @9:44 am PST
Thank you Rafael! Its my pleasure!
Jan on January 6, 2016 @2:00 pm PST
Thanks for sharing, very informative!
William - host, on January 15, 2016 @9:44 am PST
You are welcome!
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