Want to improve your left-hand technique? You should try practicing your solos and excerpts pizzicato for awhile.
“Why pizzicato?”, you might ask.
Here are my five key reasons for why you should strategically practice all of your arco material pizzicato sometime in the early stages of preparing for an audition or performance:
1 ) You are firmly pressing the string into the fingerboard for each note
Want to know the easiest way to compromise your overall tone quality? If you are not fully pressing the string into the fingerboard enough, your tone will come across as muffled and your bowing arm will have to work harder to compensate for the lack of projection and clarity in the left hand. Practicing pizzicato requires you to apply enough weight with the left hand into each note in order to achieve clarity in the right hand. Notice what happens when you try to play pizzicato with a disengaged left hand: the note will barely speak, there is a quick decay and an ugly vibrating sound at the end. You need to apply enough weight with the left hand to achieve a resonant sound when you approach pizzicato. Your fingers should hold the string down as if you were emulating the nut on your bass when you play open strings.
2 ) You become completely aware of the way that you approach shifting
The most important part of shifting is that you stop the note in the left hand before your right hand articulates the note. How can you possibly play a note pizzicato without the left hand stopping the note? It is physically impossible. Yet so many string players cannot get clarity in their fast “arco” runs because the left hand is not able to keep up with what is going on in the right hand. You need to practice pizzicato and choreograph your shifts. Take note on how fast or slow the left hand needs to respond in order to get to the next note. The two biggest reasons for why you are not getting clarity in your runs are: A) You are not approaching your practicing by isolating the left hand and B) You are not choreographing your shifts.
3) Your vibrato improves
Is your approach to vibrato enhancing the music that you are playing or taking away from the music? Once you have visualized the sound that you are looking to achieve, you are going to want to execute vibrato when it is appropriate to do so. But how do you know how wide or fast to execute your vibrato? Practicing vibrato while playing pizzicato ensures that you vibrate at just the right width and speed while still keeping the fundamental note resonant and clear.
4) Your phrasing improves
We often think of phrasing as what we are doing with the bow but when you practice pizzicato, you still need to craft your phrases and your left hand is going to play a more significant role in that. Coordinating the left-hand and right-hand as a string player is similar to understanding Newton’s third law in physics, where each action has an equal and opposite reaction. As an example, if you are trying to emphasize a note in the right hand, your left hand is going to have to work harder to keep the note stopped and prevent the string from moving.
In conclusion, if you want to polish up your tone and get your left-hand more engaged in your overall approach to playing, you need to incorporate some pizzicato practice into your agenda.