Bow Strokes & Additional Skills

Additional Skills
PIZZICATO (pizz.) – indicates notes should be plucked rather than bowed. Pizzicato is usually played by the right hand. Generally, the right forefinger is used with the thumb placed against the corner or side of the fingerboard to support the hand. A return to bowing is indicated by the term arco.

Left hand pizzicato is indicated by the + sign placed over or under the note, and is sometimes used while the right hand continues to use the bow (it generally is played by plucking with the 4th finger of the left hand).

VIBRATO - Violin vibrato is similar to vocal vibrato -- it's a slight and rapid fluctuation in pitch, and is used to add warmth and expression to music. There are three types of vibrato: finger, hand, arm or combination of all three. Many violinists use a combination of finger/hand vibrato. This type of vibrato is produced by a back and forth rolling motion of the finger and hand on the string, resulting in the pitch being lowered and raised. Variations in the width and speed of the vibrato can produce a wide range of expression.

The following definitions are excerpts from the great violin pedagogue Ivan Galamian's book Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching, and explain the three types of vibrato in more detail:

Hand Vibrato: "In this type of vibrato, the hand swings from a more-or-less immobilized arm...the finger elongates itself as the hand swings backwards toward the scroll and then resumes its original curved position as the hand returns to its starting point." (p. 38)

Arm Vibrato: "The impulse, instead of coming from the hand, now comes from the forearm, and, in this case also, the finger has to yield passively. The finger should be firm enough to hold the string down and to retain its place on the string, but flexible enough to submit to the motion of the arm. It must stretch and recurve with the backward and forward swing of the vibrato cycle." (p.40)

Finger Vibrato: "The impulse comes from the finger itself, which swings from its base knuckle with the hand slightly yielding and moving passively in flexible response to the finger action. This vibrato is smaller in width than the other types." (p. 40)