Author Topic: Pizzicato notation  (Read 3071 times)

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Pizzicato notation
« on: September 03, 2017, 07:39:35 AM »
I've always notated pizzicato notes as quarter notes if they are of unspecified length, especially in the contrabass. A recent teacher, who I am no longer studying with, insisted that I write them out in full. For example, if I have a CB pizz note at the beginning of a 4/4 measure followed by rests, he insisted I write it as a whole note. To me that looks silly: there's no way a bass can sustain a pizz. note that long. His point was that if I write it as a quarter note, the bass player will damp the note. I replied that if it was really important I would put in an lv. instruction or symbol, but that a 1/4 note is about as long as the note will sustain in any case.

Thoughts? Opinions? (Don't be shy to tell me I am being a stubborn old fool if that is the case.)
Rules? What rules?


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Re: Pizzicato notation
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2017, 07:50:54 AM »
in my experience with live performances of my works, I have yet to come across a bass player who damps quarter note pizzicati.
while in a solo context, the bass's pizz can actually be quite melodious and have a substantial sustaining power, the minute the rest of the orchestra is playing, or even a small part of the ensemble, that sustained effect vanishes, as it simply does not carry.

unless you specifically notate "damp" then the notes will be allowed to vibrate freely.
I think the "damp" effect, however, only works in certain contexts.

One thing I've noticed is that the minute you use specific durations, like dotted quarters, halves, whole-notes, there creeps in a degree of ambiguity as to whether or not an "arco" indication is missing from the score.

The one context I might suggest use all "correct" durations would be in a passage in a soft dynamic, where ALL of the strings are playing pizz, and it has a sort of melodic quality to it. I still think this would be rather exceptional (since violin pizzicati have even less sustaining power).
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Re: Pizzicato notation
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2017, 09:34:56 AM »
For myself I usually use quarter notes if the pizz. note is on the beat and eighths for offbeats unless the passage is a mix of onbeats and offbeats in which case I use eighths for everything.

I can't see using notes longer than quarters unless something special is being requested such as a strummed note which lasts longer than a quarter.
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Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Pizzicato notation
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2017, 05:09:02 AM »
Depending on the tempo, the bass can sustain a pizz much longer than a quarter, but you're probably not going to hear it unless there's not much else happening in the orchestra. I'll sometimes end a phrase on the downbeat of 4/4 with a half note if I want to make sure it isn't cut off before I like. But for the most part, duration isn't all that important.


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Re: Pizzicato notation
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2017, 11:00:40 AM »
A bass pizzicato can ring strongly for quite a long time.  That said, I can't remember seeing the length of pizz. notes written out in any bass parts that I've seen. As Ron said, it is usual to add a L.V. if you want the note to ring.   When I see an LV, I will stop the string firmly for a good length of time to get a nice sustained note. For an ordinary pizz. I may release the string early, which does damp the sound.