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The term glissando (also glissato , glisscato , glissicando ; derived from the French glisser "glide"), gliss for short. In music , denotes the continuous (sliding) change in pitch when connecting two tones. Closely related to the term glissando, and partly overlapping with it, is the musical form of portamento .

Instrument-specific subdivision

Glissando using the example of a tenor trombone

Glissandi over a larger interval (“real” glissandi) are only possible with musical instruments that are not set to specific tones. This includes

String glissandi are often used in film music (e.g. in the horror genre), but also in modern trailer music as a stylistic device in order to achieve a tense effect. String glissandi are also used in avant-garde music. The Glissando can be used in numerous different variants, for example in cluster configuration or flageolets. The notation is not standardized here, but noteheads in triangular, X or rhombus form are often used.

The glissando on timpani is also a frequently used device in modern percussion composition. The timpani is played while the tuning pedal is pressed. A drum roll can also be combined with a glissando that is used at the same time.

On the trombone, a glissando can be created very easily by using the slide.

With most other brass instruments , the pitch is usually predefined by a certain lengthening of the wind tunnel or handle holes, so changes in pitch are usually only possible to a limited extent. In the case of trumpets and horns, an imitative glissando is relatively easy to achieve through certain use of the valves and certain blowing or lip techniques. Glissandi play trumpets most of all in big band music, with glissandi being used there in numerous different variants: In addition to the glissando-like ornamentation of individual notes (portamento), also as a "fall" (descending figure), "doit" (ascending figure), "bend" (ascending and descending figuration) or "slide-in" ("gliding into" a target note). Horns play particularly often in concert music of the 20th century, but also like strongly accented glissandi in film music, the so-called "rips".

With woodwinds , the pitch can be varied with open finger holes that are directly covered with the fingers, i.e. not when they are covered by flaps. The finger holes are not opened by lifting the fingers or closed by lowering, but the fingers are rolled up or down on the instrument tube or pulled away to the side (in the direction of the ball of the hand) or pushed over them in the opposite direction. As a result, the finger holes are not suddenly opened / closed, but slowly and partially. In connection with nimbly played legato playing of chromatic scales, "real" glissando can be imitated. With the clarinet, a glissando can also be done by changing the approach, i.e. by changing the position of the tongue or simultaneously singing a scale with glissando. The most common are glissandos with saxophones. Sometimes glissandi can also be found in concert music, for example in the famous clarinet glissando at the beginning of Gershwin's “ Rhapsody in Blue ”.

Instruments with predefined pitches, which cannot be changed afterwards, can only approximate a glissando. For example, the effect of the slide (or slur , the "sliding into" a note on the same string) on ​​the guitar. In addition to chromatic glissandos (in which the tones are run through in semitone steps), there is also the option of a diatonic glissando (on the piano only lower keys, CDEFGAH tone stock) and a pentatonic glissando (on the piano only upper keys, tones in C sharp, F sharp, G sharp, B-flat) Representatives of these instruments are

The modern concert harp (also known as “double pedal harp”) offers a special glissando option. With different pedal positions, glissandi can be played in all keys from C flat major to C sharp major and from A flat minor to A sharp minor . Whole- tone and pentatonic glissandos can also be played. There is also the possibility of playing so-called “chord glissandos”: To do this, the “disturbing”, non-chord tones of the scale are confused enharmonically . Example: As7 has the pedal position As-His-C-Dis-Es-Fis-Ges. Many seventh and ninth chords as well as all diminished seventh chords can be set. In modern literature, especially in jazz , there is another playing technique, the so-called "pedal glissando". A string is plucked and immediately afterwards the corresponding pedal is pressed or let up. The sounding tone changes by a semitone, but not continuously, but tied in steps, similar to a legato . In doing so, gripping or loosening the hook on the string can cause strong snarling noises. Real glissandi on a single harp string are created by sliding a hard object (e.g. a tuning key ) along the plucked string.

Guzheng in Taipei

East Asian instruments

In contrast to Europe and the Middle East, there are musical instruments in East Asia in which the glissando is already designed specifically in the design.

Vault board zithers

The vault boards zither Guzheng (China), Koto (Japan), Gayageum (Korea), Đàn tranh (Vietnam) and Yatga (Mongolia) have movable bridges (bridges, divisors = string dividers) that are built so high that the part that is not plucked the string can be depressed or released with the left hand. As a result, the plucked part of the string is also tightened (increased pitch) or relaxed (decreased pitch), which enables very variable glissandi of the string plucked with the right hand.

Đàn bầu

Single-string box zithers

The single-stringed box zithers Đàn bầu (Vietnam) and Duxianqin (China) allow the string tension to be changed in both directions with the left hand thanks to a long lever arm, with which precisely controlled and spacious glissandi of the plucked string are achieved.


The glissando is noted by means of a wave (No. 1) or straight line (No. 2) between the beginning and ending notes .

1. Glissando with wavy line notation 2. Glissando with straight line and “gliss.” Notation 3. Diatonic glissando 4. Chromatic glissando 5. Octave glissando 6. Chord glissando

Sequences 3 and 4 of the graphic show notated versions of this glissando as they could be played on a keyboard instrument, for example. Number 3 is a diatonic and number 4 is a chromatic glissando. The exact notation of a glissando using only notes is not possible, since an ideal glissando is a constant change in the tone frequency, but notes denote discrete pitches. Alternative ways of playing are 5, whereby the glissando is doubled in the octave, and 6, whereby other ladder-specific tones are added to the "basic tones" of the glissando and a chord glissando is created.

In the piano notation, the scales can also be written out and with the instruction glissando , gliss. or gl. be provided.

Web links

Commons : Glissando  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, and Musikverlag B. Schott's Söhne, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , p. 164.
  2. ^ Guitar: String pulling (Bending) - Wikibooks, collection of free textbooks, non-fiction and specialist books. Retrieved June 25, 2018 .
  3. ^ Wieland Harms: The Unplugged Guitar Book. 20 of the most beautiful songs for acoustic guitar. Gerig Music, ISBN 3-87252-249-3 , p. 112.