Playing piano is not just about producing sounds with the black and white keys. It is an art that involves various techniques. You should be familiar with the different styles and forms of playing the piano.

Glissando is one of the forms of playing the piano, in which you produce sounds using specific fingers by swiping them across the keys. It is an interlude that you create between the chord changes to cover up the break between the two chords.

There are several things to keep in mind about playing glissandos as they can cause you to hurt your fingers.

Know the Type of Glissando You are Playing

In a piano, each key has a distinctive sound and hence, the perceived sound of each of the keys is different. The sound of every key can be individually conceived. Of the different types of glissandos, the one played on a piano is known as a discrete glissando.

Know When to Play Glissandos

glissando
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The first thing that you should know about glissandos is when to play them. A glissando, also known as a gliss, is played when you come across a wavy line going up from one note to another on your music sheet. It is also denoted with the use of the word ‘gliss’ on the sides of the wavy lines. They are played at the beginning or at the end of a piece, depending upon the musical composition.

Establish the Start and End Chords of Your Glissando

Before you start working a glissando, locate the chord with which you are going to start your glissando and the chord with which you are going to end it. This will help you not to mess up with this very interesting form of producing sounds with your piano.

The Right Finger for the Right Key

For playing the downward glissandos, using the thumbnail of your right hand will produce the desired sound without letting you hurt your fingers. Alternatively, while playing the upward glissandos, using the third finger of your right hand will do the trick. If you are a beginner, use the fourth finger of your right hand. For lower sounds, you may simply use your nail whereas, for louder sounds, it is recommended to use your fingertips for a downward glissando.

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Choose the Right Kind of Piano to Begin With

Picking the correct kind of piano for commencing your glissando sessions can always be considered as an effective tip. An old piano is an ideal piano for beginners. Older pianos have looser keys which make it easier for you to glide through them. Ensure that the old piano is well-maintained.

Glissandos on the Black Keys

abstract piano keys
Image Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

Although it may seem a little difficult to play glissandos on the black keys, considering the distance between them, it is not an impossible task. Hold your fingers firmly against each other so that their fingernails appear to be in the upward direction. With the index finger, begin gliding pass each of the black keys. Finish with the already decided end note.

Begin Slowly, Increase the Speed Gradually

Every skill is required to acquire slowly, without much hassle. Playing piano is an art and playing glissandos on a piano is a skill demanding technicality. Start slowly. Practice a few keys at a time before jumping on the long pieces. Starting with only about 3 to 5 keys will help you to learn better and practice more to achieve perfectly long glissandos.

Reduce the Possibilities of Getting Hurt

Playing with the wrong technique may cause you to hurt your fingers. To prevent this from happening, proper measures are required to be taken by you. If you are a beginner, before trying to play a glissando, ask your piano teacher to show you a demonstration on how to do it, correctly. Besides this, since you only want your fingernails to swipe across the keys in a swift motion, remember not to press the fingers too hard against the keys.

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Watch Online Videos and Take Online Lessons

One of the best things about e-learning is that you can learn from anywhere. There are numerous people who give free piano glissando lessons to all. Watch their videos on the Internet and ask them questions, if you have any concerns or issues. Also, visit the sites that provide free glissando training.

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Extended Techniques for Piano

luna novaAnother example of chord-producing glissando, this time an f-minor chord is produced.

Toward the end of the “Sea Nocturne,” there is a curtailed reiteration of the Also sprach Zarathustra theme. This time, only one big chord is heard before the low, muted notes. This is an F minor chord that is produced with the same technique as we had seen in the previous example. In order to ensure that only these chord tones are sustained, Crumb reminds the pianist not to depress the pedal until after the glissando. During the eighth-note rest (not visible in the example) that precede this F minor chord, the notes of the chord should be depressed silently, and the pedal should still be down. Crumb places the indication “lasciare vibrare” under this rest. This means “continue to sound” In fact, the pedal has been down since the beginning of the “Sea Nocturne.” The pedal should be released during the glissando and quickly depressed again. Via Luna Nova