String instruments have many extended techniques that while less commonly utilized in the repertoire by most composers, they are still important to understand.
Here, we’ll take a deep dive into col legno, col legno tratto, and col legno battuto, so you can take your technique to the next level.
Click here to watch the full tonebase lesson on col legno, entirely for free.
Preview of Giora Schmidt's course on right hand violin technique on tonebase Violin.
Col legno: Introduction
What is col legno? Col legno, which means "with the wood" in Italian, is a technique used in classical music in which the bow is used to strike the strings with the wood rather than the hair.
The result is a super dry, airy sound that adds a completely new dimension of sound.
Now, let’s take a look into the two main types of col legno: col legno tratto and col legno battuto.
Col legno tratto
Col legno tratto refers to dragging the bow across the strings with the wood, producing a wispier or ethereal timbre.
This technique is often used to add texture or emphasis to a particular passage, and is achieved by applying minimal weight to the bow.
Make sure to approach col legno tratto with care, as applying too much pressure can damage the bow. Some musicians will even go so far as to utilize a bow made out of carbon fiber if they are playing a piece with lots of col legno.
Col legno tratto can be a challenging technique to master, as it requires precise control of the bow and a delicate touch.
To play col legno tratto effectively, it is important to use a light and relaxed grip on the bow and to avoid applying too much pressure. The bow should be held at a slight angle to the strings, and the movement should be smooth and controlled.
Col legno battuto
Col legno battuto involves tapping the strings with the bow in a downward motion, producing a louder and more percussive sound.
This technique is often used to create accents or punctuation in a piece of music, and is achieved by using a firm and controlled stroke.
It is important to approach col legno battuto with control, as an uncontrolled stroke can produce a sloppy and unclear sound.
To play col legno battuto effectively, it is important to use a firm and controlled grip on the bow and to apply a consistent amount of pressure. Similar to col legno tratto, the bow should be held at a slight angle to the strings, and the stroke should be smooth and precise. It can be helpful to practice col legno battuto with a metronome to ensure that the timing is precise.
While col legno is not often written very often by composers for most string instruments,, it is an important stroke to know as you continue
Experimenting with different bow pressures and stroke techniques can help you find the sound you want to achieve.
Whether you are using col legno tratto to add texture or col legno battuto to create percussive accents, this technique can be a valuable addition to your technical toolkit.
Did you learn something new?
Feel free to click this link to check out our in-depth courses on violin, taught by artists including Grammy winning violinists and professors from schools such as Juilliard, Curtis, and more.
On tonebase, you will find in-depth courses and workshops with some of the world’s top violinists, covering a wide range of subjects such as repertoire-specific lessons, violin technique, and more.