Engaño – The Art of Pizzicato



Another first! A complete volume of 6 original and performable works for viola quartet, where pizzicato plays a major role.

This is what the composer says:

“This volume of viola quartets is not intended to be a study book. They are all performable works in their own right.

However, a few words of explanation may be helpful in understanding what is expected of the player.

As our technique develops we discover there are very few absolutes. Pizzicato is no exception.

Where pizzicato is a key feature, as well as plucking the string in the conventional way there are times (indicated in the music by dotted slurs) where you may keep your pizzicato finger in contact with the strings, rotating your right arm or wrist and drawing your finger across the strings thus creating a feeling of legato as you pass from the low to the high strings. With practice it becomes second nature and you can employ this technique throughout this volume should you wish. There are also times when you might prefer to hold the instrument like a guitar (or Ukulele, indeed) while strumming rather than plucking. Therefore you may also use both down and up strokes, particularly where rapid multiple stopping is required, either with your thumb or maybe holding your thumb and index finger together and employing fingernails for extra clarity. There are even a few moments where plucking with the left hand is required for rapid downward scale passages (indicated by a + above the note). Don’t overdo it, it can be very hard on the fingertips. And for rapid repeated notes, either alternate plucking with the right hand co-ordinated with a spare finger on the left, or use a rapid down-and-up stroke with your index finger while bracing your thumb on the corner of the fingerboard should you require extra stability, or try plucking with both the first and second fingers of your right hand, alternately. Whatever works for you.

Your tone quality varies depending upon a combination of distance from the bridge and the part of the finger that makes contact with the string. The fleshy pad brushed over the string will produce a soft tone, and the finger tip will produce greater volume and a more penetrating sound.

Let the strings ring for a sustained sound, or dampen the string for a staccato or secco effect.

And for bell-like natural harmonics you can improve the sustain by lifting the left hand finger from the string immediately the note has sounded.

Regrettably for some, there is no snap (or Bartók) pizzicato anywhere in this volume (pinching the string between your right thumb and forefinger, then pulling it upwards and letting it snap back to produce a percussive whip-crack as it hits the fingerboard), but feel free to add some if the spirit moves you – if you really must.

You may use vibrato (with the instrument both in the raised and lowered position), but don’t overdo it.

None of the techniques as described here are new, but some may feel unfamiliar to the player at first. And I think it is safe to say there are very few times where you will encounter them all within a single volume. Remember, whatever works for you is fine.

Again, there are few absolutes. Feel free to experiment – that’s what makes it fun.”

 20 mins. M

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