Pizzicato is an instruction for musicians playing stringed instruments, such as the violin. Often abbreviated to ‘pizz’ on a musical score, it indicates that musicians should use their fingers to pluck the strings, rather than play them using a bow.
Pizzicato comes from the Italian word for ‘pinched’, and the technique results in individual notes having a staccato (detached) sound.
Examples of pizzicato
Perhaps one of the most famous pieces of pizzicato classical music is Léo Delibes’s Pizzicati from the ballet Sylvia. The string-plucking technique is used throughout the piece, which has featured in countless films, cartoons and TV programmes (often to accompany a character tip-toeing or sneaking about), so you’re likely to recognise it, even if you weren’t aware of the piece’s title or origins.