Pizzicato refers to plucking the strings with the finger or fingers, rather than activating the strings with the bow. This may be done with a variety of fingers on either the right or left hand.

While it is impossible to know whether bowed string instrument performers in the past used pizzicato techniques with regularity, it seems likely that plucking was used,[1] especially when considering that many bowed string instrument performers also played plucked string instruments.[2] However, the first known instruction for pizzicato on a bowed string instrument is located in Tobias Hume’s 1605 collection Musicall Humors for the viola da gamba, where the performer is instructed to play “with your finger”.[3]


[1] For examples of string instruments from as early as the Renaissance which were both bowed and plucked, see Kite‐Powell (2007. pp. 142–150).

[2] For instance, Giovanni Coprario (ca. 1570–1626), Sylvestro Ganassi (1492–ca. 1565), and Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741).

[3] This instruction may be found in the first and tenth pieces in the collection, The Souldiers Song (Hume, 1605, p. 1) and Harke, Harke (Hume, 1605, p. 8).