Col legno (It.: ‘with the wood’)
- David D. Boyden
(It.: ‘with the wood’)
A term in string playing meaning to set the strings of the instrument in motion with the wood of the bow rather than with the hair. Col legno gives a dry, staccato effect, the sound being relatively small. A distinction is made between tapping with the wood of the bow stick (col legno battuto; Ger. geschlagen) and drawing the wood across the string (col legno tratto; Ger. gestrichen). The resumption of normal bowing is indicated by arco. Although col legno was known in the 17th century (in the works of Tobias Hume, 1605, Farina, 1627, and Biber, Battalia, 1673), this effect was little exploited before the late 19th century, a notable example occurring as early as 1830 in the finale of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. Many 20th-century compositions require the use of col legno; the opening pages of Schoenberg's String Trio (op.45, 1946), for instance, call for ...