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Questions on Plucking Motion, Left Hand, and Holding the Bow while playing Pizz

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Zerofox Kitsune, Oct 3, 2010.

  1. Hi TB,

    I came across some things I've become curious about, and how these things came to be or why they are done.

    Let's see how well I can describe what I'm asking:

    I saw this in a technique book: when classically playing pizz, there is a sort of "windmill" motion to the right arm, then it comes parallel to the floor and two fingers pluck the string. Why is this motion done?

    I also saw that in this book that on the left hand, the index and pinky fingers are spread apart, but the middle and ring fingers stay together, making a W shape. Why is this done for the hand on the fingerboard?

    And here's my last question: when a double pass player has to switch from arco to pizz and back, they hold the bow with their plucking hand while simultaneously plucking. How do you hold it?

    -Zerofox Kitsune
  2. I think that book is pretty old, and some of what you're seeing is just that author's habits.

    The main difference between strict classical pizz and jazz comes down to classical being a free-hand pizz, without bracing the thumb on the fingerboard, and without being what guitarists call a 'rest stroke' where the plucking finger comes to rest on the next string down. The result is a pretty round, very short note with no 'mwah'. For much 20th century repertoire, this is no longer appropriate and more jazzy technique is called for.

    As for pizz while holding the bow, that depends on which bow you use and how long you have to change over.

    German bow, fast switch: poke your middle finger through the frog, pizz with that. Bow ends up pointing about where it does playing arco, with the hair away from you.

    German bow, more time to switch: flip the bow around into your palm with your fingers (don't hit the bridge on the way past!), hold it with ring and little fingers, which frees your thumb, index and middle fingers to do any kind of pizz you want. Bow ends up pointing at the floor to your right, hair away from you (and try not to rub too much rosin on your pants leg if you're sitting).

    Often times with German bow, you get a fast switch and then time to flip the bow around after the first pizz note.

    French bow: roll the bow into your palm, freeing your index and middle fingers to pizz (bow ends up pointing past your left shoulder, hair up)
  3. Thanks Andrew; I learned something new today. :D

    Currently I use a French Bow, but I eventually want to learn German, so thank you for describing both methods.
  4. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    maybe that book is based on the Italian style where they play with the 3rd finger.
  5. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Inactive

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)

    It dosent matter. As long as the distance from the index to middle is correct, and the distance from the middle to the pinky is correct, and you are supporting with the ring, you can have it close to whichever finger you prefer

    the thing is when you arch your claw over the neck and press down a string, your hand will naturally lay the way it needs to. I find that that "W" shape is more of a mental idea, but it is also how my fingers "lay" on the string.
  6. Thanks for the help, guys. I appreciate it.
  7. Andrew Hamilton

    Andrew Hamilton Guest

    Apr 18, 2010
    As already mentioned, it's important to release the note in classical playing, but I think it's important to note that this motion shouldn't be exaggerated. I think a release of 2-3 inches is optimal. I've seen a number of bass players pluck the string and it seems like they throw their hands 8 or 9 inches off the fingerboard. I don't think this looks good in the audience, but it also can't be very good for efficiency, control, etc...

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