Pizzicato (plucked strings)

Pizzicato is simply a technique where the strings are plucked rather than bowed (arco). It is a great tool to add variety to a piece and can enhance the rhythmic vitality of a section. As the tension of violin strings is higher than that on guitars, plucked notes tend to give an immediate response with a slightly ‘tight’ sound and a rapid decay.
When used in a full string section, pizzicato can cut through other textures without sounding abrasive, but can also be used to add a touch of humour or quirkiness to a song. Often single notes can be picked out or plucked as part of a counter melody, or if a single chord needs to be struck, 2, 3 or even 4 notes can be simultaneously plucked. In this instance, a knowledge of the tuning of stringed instruments is needed as the spacing of the chord is unique to the string family (being tuned in fifths). A string arranger has to take into account that on a given chord, there is a big spread of notes and it’s important to know which finger takes each string so that the chord ends up being playable by your session musicians.
When writing for stringed instruments, it’s always important to keep in mind how the four strings are tuned unless the lines are very simple. If the parts have been written on a keyboard, they may not necessarily be playable on a violin, viola or cello so unless the composer is a professional string arranger, asking a string player to check them through is advisable before entering the studio.
Although usually used sparingly, adding some pizzicato effects can be a great way to bring some bounce and life to string arrangements. Plucked strings can be soft and subtle or really dramatic.