2. Snap pizzicato

Snap pizzicato, sometimes referred to by the misnomer of “Bartok” pizzicato, refers to plucking the string with such force that it snaps back, striking the fingerboard upon rebound. Snap pizzicato may only be executed at louder dynamics, due to the height to which the string must be lifted in order to obtain the snap.

While Bartok did indeed use snap pizzicato, for instance in the fourth movement of his String Quartet No. 4 (Bartok, 1929, p. 14), and in the first movement of his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1939, p. 20), and he employed the notation which is now most common today, he did not invent snap pizzicato. In fact, there is evidence of snap pizzicato being used as early as the 17th century in Biber’s Battalia (1673/2007, pp. 13–14), where the violones are required to execute snap pizzicato to represent cannon fire.


Snap pizzicato on the baroque violin:

Snap pizzicato works in the same way on the baroque violin as on the modern violin. However, raw-gut strings are more easily stretched than modern steel strings and can therefore become flat after extensive snap pizzicato.


The following is an example of snap pizzicato on open strings on the baroque violin, followed by some possibilities for stopped notes.

Video example 15.1 – snap pizzicato on open strings, followed by stopped possibilities


Suggested notation:

Regular note head with a circle with a line through it above the note, as in Figure 15.1 below.

Figure 15.1 – example of notation for snap pizzicato