Left Hand Pizzicato is a specialised technique which is generally employed in more virtuosic string music and involves the fingers of the left hand actually plucking at the string, often with another finger ‘stopping’ the string to create the pitch. It differs in sound from a normal pizzicato because of the place on the string where the plucking occurs. Normally, a pizzicato would happen within two or three inches of the top of the fingerboard whereas by it’s nature, left hand pizzicato occurs much further down, a few inches from the ‘start’ of the string, near the nut (raised area at the bottom of the strings).
When the strings are plucked in normal usage, the sound is fulsome and (depending on the string) will take a slight amount of time to die away, whereas in L.H pizzicato, the sound is much tinnier and has a thin, pecking sound. Paganini uses it in his 24th Caprice to great effect by alternating it with ‘up bows‘ which have a similar sonority.
In L.H Pizzicato, the strength of fingers is important and those string players with well developed finger muscles will find it easier to perform than those with weaker fingers. Like normal pizzicato, the string is plucked sideways with the finger applying lateral pressure in a ‘dragging’ motion followed by a rapid release.
Most importantly of all, it is marked by a cross (+) above a note. The effect of L.H Pizzicato is a surprising one and gives a very flashy touch to a piece. It very rarely occurs in orchestral music or arrangements for a whole string section but appears more in the solo repertoire.