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Tonal Effects

The strings can create a variety of tonal effects. The most commonly used effects are sul ponticello, sul tasto and harmonics.

Sul Ponticello and Sul Tasto

The string player usually positions the bow between the bridge and the fingerboard when playing arco passages. However, the player can create different sonorities by positioning the bow close to the bridge or over the fingerboard instead.

Sul ponticello is an Italian term that instructs the player to bow near the bridge of the instrument. This produces a strange, glassy sound.

Because of the nature of the sul ponticello effect, it is most often used while performing a bowed tremolo. Listen to the violins perform a bowed tremolo in their usual fashion:

Now listen to the exact same part as the strings perform this tremolo using the sul ponticello technique:

Notice how different these two bowed tremolos sound.

Sul tasto instructs the string player to position the bow over the fingerboard. Playing sul tasto creates a very soft string tone - almost a muted effect.