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The act of striking or bowing the strings of a bowed string instrument with the stick or wood of the bow. The words col legno in Italian mean "with the wood".

There are two fundamental ways of playing col legno:

  • Col legno battuto
  • Col legno trattato
Col legno battuto means "hit with the wood". This produces a rather hard, metal-like sound and has a good effect. A good example is the first movement, Mars, of Gustav Holst's orchestral suite The Planets.

Col legno trattato (sometimes written just tratto) means "drawn with the wood" and produces an indistinct and soft but rough sound. It is used in contemporary classical music.

Most string players are a little cautious about playing col legno battuto, as it can damage their bow if too much force is used.

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