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How to Play Pizzicato Technique on Classical Guitar (pizz.)

The guitar is a versatile instrument. This is one reason Ludwig van Beethoven called the guitar “a miniature orchestra in itself.”

Using special techniques, we can create varied sounds and textures. And one such special techniques on guitar is the “pizzicato”.

What is Pizzicato (pizz.)?

“Pizzicato” translates roughly as “plucked”, or “pinched”. The result is a short, slightly muted sound, much like a jazz “walking bass”.

Instruments using a bow (violin, cello, etc.) may use the end of their bow to pluck the strings for this effect.

On guitar, we usually opt for the thumb.

When we see music that calls for pizzicato playing, it’s usually abbreviated “pizz.”.


How to Play Pizzicato on Classical Guitar – Right Hand Position

To play pizzicato on the guitar, first place the outside of the hand on the bridge of the guitar (as in a “karate chop”).

Next, roll the hand down toward the strings until the thumb comes within striking distance of the strings.

When we play from this position, the flesh of the outer hand is muting the strings back by the bridge, though not completely.

Usually Bass Guitar Strings Only on the Pizzicato

Most often, we only play pizzicato on guitar using the bass notes and strings.

While there are exceptions, the vast majority of pizzicato effects written in guitar music use the bass only.

This may be because of the lesser sound quality and projection of the higher-pitched pizzicato notes, or for ease of playing.

Listen for the Balance of Pitch and Duration

Through trial and error, we can find the perfect balance of pitch and duration.

If we mute the string too much, the note will come out as a “thud” or a “thunk”, and we won’t be able to hear the actual note.

If we mute too little, the note will ring out as normal.

Between these two is a “sweet spot” where the note is still audible, but is shortened and altered in tone quality.

Practice Moving Into and Out of Pizzicato Position

To gain facility with the pizzicato technique, we can practice moving into and out of position.

We can use any simple exercise or excerpt for this. The goal is to be able to jump into perfect pizzicato position, and return to an optimal basic position. We should be able to do this in rhythm and without much “foot shuffling”.

With a little time and practice, we can become masters of the pizzicato!

5 Responses to How to Play Pizzicato Technique on Classical Guitar (pizz.)

  1. Cadie June 11, 2018 at 8:23 am #

    Well, I realy appreciate the time you’re investing in these posts. It is to me always interesting. You have an ability to make everything clear and simple. I never ad chance to learn a piece including pizz… the one you are using in the exemple seems interesting. Would you please tell us the title of it. Thank’s again to be so helpfull .


    • Allen June 11, 2018 at 4:08 pm #

      Hi Cadie,
      Thanks, I’m glad you liked the article. The piece I used was Astor Piazzola’s “Verano Porteña”, arranged by Baltazar Benitez (if I remember correctly).
      thanks again,

  2. Cadie June 10, 2018 at 8:40 am #

    Wow, what a simple way to demonsrtate pizz. I heard some pieces with this sound now and then but I never went in one that I have learned where it was needed so, can you please just tell us the tittle of the one you are using for this interesting lesson. Thank you for all of your time you invest to help us all getting further in the art of playing guitar better.

  3. Laura Morales June 9, 2018 at 3:21 am #

    I love your style of instruction. Pointing out the various key signatures, etc. with a colored marker brings them to my attention. I would love nothing more than to go back to school and get a Masters in Guitar, but alas, I have to earn a living. Anyway, great job!

    • Allen June 9, 2018 at 8:29 am #

      Thanks, Laura!

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