Glissando

To slide from one pitch to another

"Glissando" is a musical ornamentation technique commonly used in instrumental performance, characterized by the rapid and smooth sliding of fingering or playing position to create a continuous pitch variation effect. This technique allows for instantaneous gliding of pitch, imparting musicality and dynamic variation to the music.

In sheet music, "Glissando" is typically abbreviated as "Gliss."

When performing a glissando, musicians often quickly slide their fingers or playing position between specific notes, causing the pitch of the notes to continuously change, resembling a musical slide. This technique is commonly found in the performance of instruments such as the piano, string instruments, and woodwind instruments:

  • On the piano or harp, playing a glissando doesn't produce individual pitches for each half-step, as the fingers only move across the white keys of the piano or the available notes on the harp.
  • On string instruments like the violin or erhu, every half-step is audibly produced as the fingers slide up or down the length of the strings or press down on each note individually.
  • On woodwind instruments, except for the trombone, other woodwinds must use their fingers to individually press down each note, as glissando is typically controlled by changing the length of the slide on the trombone.

Through glissando, performers can create rich musical effects, such as gliding from high to low pitches or from low to high pitches, adding a sense of fluidity and variation to the music. This technique is also used to create dreamy, psychedelic musical atmospheres or enhance the drama in specific musical contexts.

Example of Glissando

How to Play Glissando on the Piano - Piano Lesson