I recently received some sheet music for bass guitar with one section having a Pizzicato marking. I know for orchestral strings it means pluck the notes, but how does playing Pizzicato transfer to the electric bass?

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  • Are you sure the sheet it not for double bass? – Shevliaskovic Oct 1 '14 at 14:15
  • @Shevliaskovic I play electric bass in the ensemble. We don't have a double bass player. – Dom Oct 1 '14 at 14:17
  • @Dom - thanks for that. It's by that prolific writer Anon. Sure he's not taking the pizz? Does it say 'arco' later ? – Tim Oct 1 '14 at 14:17
  • @Dom maybe there was some mistake by the person that gave it to you? – Shevliaskovic Oct 1 '14 at 14:18
  • @Shevliaskovic It's a possibility. Even if it is a mistake how would you play Pizzicato on an electric bass? – Dom Oct 1 '14 at 14:22

Of course, everything on bass guitar is pizzicato in theory, as nothing is bowed. I've only ever seen pizz. markings in double bass parts, which I've then played on bass guitar. You can imitate a pizzicato sound on bass guitar by plucking with the RH thumb while palm muting. This is also how a pizzicato marking should be executed on classical guitar.


While less common for electric bass notation, pizzicato in this context means pluck the strings with the fingers, as opposed to using a pick or playing in a slap/pop style.

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    What if (sorry, Randall!) you're a purely finger-picker to begin with? I suspect the answer involving immediate hand-mute (no sustain) is closer. – Carl Witthoft Sep 30 '14 at 11:49
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    @CarlWitthoft - wouldn't that be shown with staccato dots ? – Tim Oct 1 '14 at 13:56
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    @Tim I plead ignorance, not having actually read any bass guitar scores. Let me ask: is there a notation to instruct the player to use a pick? – Carl Witthoft Oct 1 '14 at 15:25
  • @CarlWitthoft - if there is, I've never come across it. – Tim Oct 1 '14 at 15:28

My approach would be to assume that this was written for double bass, and that the intention was to give that section a different texture and/or rhythmic feeling than the previous section. And I'd try to listen to the group as a whole and figure out how you can help create that same sense of contrast in your group's performance (without necessarily trying to sound like a double bass playing arco and pizzicato). Good luck!

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