Technique Series: Pizzicato (Plucking) Exercises

The simple, straightforward exercises below are the best I have seen to develop and maintain right hand pizzicato (plucking) on the upright bass. They isolate the technique to focus one just one thing: your right hand technique. There is certainly room in a practice routine to work on right hand/left hand coordination, or tricky patterns, but these have proven to be excellent, and efficient, foundational training. They are simple, straightforward and work well. They should be done every day.

These exercises should be practiced at a minimum of three, increasingly fast, tempi:

  1. Easy/Warm-up tempo: You can do it while multi-tasking.
  2. Moderately challenging tempo: You can still manage it well, but it takes a bit of effort
  3. Slightly too fast tempo: You can manage during most of the exercise, but there are moments when you fail.

Here are the exercises:

For Two Fingers

*using a 2-1 rh. finger pattern

Do this at three increasingly fast tempi.

Pizzicato (Plucking) Exercises - 2 fingers

Note: Doing these exercises for 8 beats per left hand note is ideal. The benefits of these exercises are diminished when staying for a longer, or shorter, time on each note.

For Three Fingers

*using a 3-2-1 rh. finger pattern

Pizzicato (Plucking) Exercises - 3 fingers

**following the same left hand pattern as before

For Four Fingers

*using a4-3-2-1 rh. finger pattern

Pizzicato (Plucking) Exercises - 4 fingers

**following the same left hand pattern as before the same left hand pattern as before

Again, do these at a minimum of three tempi. For example: m.m. 60, 80, 100

When appropriate, and using your best judgment, you should push your tempi faster. It will be helpful to keep a chart of your progress. In general, your warm-up tempo should move up at the slowest rate. An example progress chart might look like this:

  • mm. 60, 80, 100
  • mm. 60, 90, 110
  • mm. 60, 100, 120
  • mm. 65, 110, 130
  • mm. 65, 130, 140

When increasing the tempi of the exercises don’t push too hard, but don’t get too complacent. Being either overly ambitious or too contented will slow your progress in the long run.

If you are so inclined, I suggest these exercises with left hand pizzicati as well.


Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at and check out the Bass Coalition at

Get daily bass updates.

Get the latest news, videos, lessons, and more in your inbox every morning.

Share your thoughts

  1. All 4 fingers for the right hand on upright? Really?