Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will learn to differentiate between two different string techniques (pizzicato and arco) in this lesson.

ENGAGE students

EXPLAIN. “There's a special word for plucking the string on a violin, viola, cello or double bass: pizzicato. (pit-zah-KAH-toe). Try saying it a few times.” (Pause to let students say it.)

EXPLORE sounds

LISTEN. “Listen to a little of the beginning of a string quartet by Maurice Ravel. Do you hear the plucking sound?”

String Quartet: II. Assez vif. Tres rythme - Maurice Ravel
String Quartet: II. Assez vif. Tres rythme

LISTEN. “When string players use the bow instead, it's called arco. Listen to a little of the beginning of Antonin Dvorak's American Suite Op. 98a to know what arco sounds like.”

American Suite Op. 98a - Antonin Dvorak

REVIEW. Have students make flash cards with the words pizzicato and arco on them. Then, listen together to each piece below. Say to students, “Flash your ‘pizzicato’ card when you hear a plucked sound. Flash ‘arco’ when you hear a bowed sound.” For a little more movement, try an "air pluck" or "air bow"!

EXTEND learning

Choose one or more of the following activities to extend learning.

IDENTIFY. In the Pavane, the strings play pizzicato but you will also hear other instruments playing beautiful melodies over the top of the plucking sound. Can you name the other instruments you hear?

DRAW. While listening to these pieces, grab some art supplies and draw along with the sound. Pizzicato might be short dots, arco might be smooth, long lines - whatever inspires students!

MOVE. Dig out as many rubber bands as you can find. Have students try stretching them to different lengths and plucking. Say to students, “Do you notice that different rubber bands make different sounds? The same rubber band will sound different when you stretch it to different lengths. See how many different kinds of rubber band plucking sounds you can make.

WATCH. Watch this video of previous MPR Class Notes Artist Lux String Quartet. Notice every time they play a pizzicato. Use a finger to "air-pluck" every time you see and hear a pizzicato note.

Related Lesson Plans

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

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