YourClassical Children

What does PIZZICATO mean?

 StockSnap/Pixabay

March 20, 2020

LISTEN — Audio Instructions

Need ideas for easy and fun at-home music learning? Here's our daily YourClassical Music Lesson.

Target age range: Grades K-3 (but anyone can listen in!)

1. Explain that there's a special word for plucking the string on a violin, viola, cello or double bass: pizzicato. (pit-zah-KAH-toe). Try saying it a few times.

2. Listen to a little of the beginning of Maurice Ravel's String Quartet: II. Assez vif. Tres rythme. Do you hear the plucking sound?

LISTEN — String Quartet: II. Assez vif. Tres rythme
Maurice Ravel

3. When string players use the bow instead, it's called arco. Listen to a little of the beginning of Antonin Dvorak's American Suite Op. 98a. Now you know what arco sounds like.

LISTEN — American Suite Op. 98a
Antonin Dvorak

4. Make flash cards with each word on it:

PIZZICATO

ARCO

5. Quiz time! Listen to each piece below and flash your "pizzicato" card when you hear a plucked sound. Flash "arco" when you hear a bowed sound. Or do an "air pluck" or "air bow" if you feel like a little more movement.

Pizzicato Polka by Johann Strauss II

Plink, Plank, Plunk by Leroy Anderson

Pavane, Op. 50 by Gabriel Faure

In the Pavane, the strings play pizzicato but you will also hear other instruments playing beautiful melodies over the top of the plucking sound. Can you name the other instruments you hear?

6. While listening to these pieces, you might get out some art supplies and draw along with the sound. Pizzicato might be short dots, arco might be smooth, long lines -- whatever inspires you.

7. Dig out as many rubber bands as you can find. Try stretching them to different lengths and plucking. Notice that different rubber bands make different sounds. The same rubber band will sound different when you stretch it to different lengths. See how many different kinds of rubber band plucking sounds you can make. 8. Want more? Watch this video of MPR Class Notes Artists Lux String Quartet.

Notice every time they play a pizzicato. Use a finger to "air-pluck" every time you see and hear a pizzicato note.

Have a question or suggestion? Contact Katie Condon, music education specialist.

More: View all of our YourClassical Music Lessons