Col Legno

With the wood

"Col Legno" is an Italian musical term with its literal translation being "with wood". This expression finds frequent usage as a performance directive in the realm of stringed instruments, notably encompassing the violin, viola, cello, and double bass.

When the notation "Col Legno" appears within sheet music, it signifies that performers should employ the wooden aspect of the bow (typically the backside) to make contact with and strike the strings of the stringed instrument, as opposed to the conventional use of the bow's horsehair for bowing the strings. This unconventional technique yields a distinct sonic result, deviating from the customary sounds produced by string instruments, often embodying qualities of coarseness, woody resonance, and a percussive nature.

The utilization of the "Col Legno" technique can introduce distinctive sound effects into musical compositions and bestow them with unique tonal palettes. Typically, this technique is called upon in specific segments of a musical piece to achieve deliberate auditory effects or to establish a distinct musical ambiance.

While "Col Legno" may not be a widely adopted approach in the realm of classical music, it stands as a means to infuse diversity and expressiveness into musical works. By altering the traditional methods of playing stringed instruments, performers have the opportunity to introduce novel sonic textures to the music, rendering it more vibrant and richly hued.

"Col Legno" is typically indicated as "C.L." or "col legno" in musical score to indicate to the performer to use this technique at a certain point in the music.

Example of Col Legno

How-To Col Legno with James Ehnes