#19 -The Scoop on Glissando & Vibrato

More Ornamentation on Wooden Flute

I'd like to continue on with the subject of ornamentation that was begun in the past missive. The next two components of the seven venial sins of ornamentation that I'd like to talk about are vibrato and glissando. There are two main styles or techniques of vibrato. One is a finger manipulation while the other is done through breath and muscle control.

Now I'd like to talk about a fingering technique that is called glissando. This is the act of bending a note up or down by sliding your finger on or off a tone hole. By this point, we know that nothing is ever as simple as it sounds. This is, again, the case. To play effective glissando (or glissandi in plural?) embouchure and breath control both play a major role.

To play an upward moving glissando, say from F sharp to G in the first octave, first slightly relax the pressure on your F sharp (number 4) finger. Then to produce the glissando, slide your finger across the tone hole. I prefer pushing my finger forward most times as this will keep your finger over the tone hole as opposed to pulling it back away from the tone hole. There is no hard and fast rule as to whether you should push your finger forward off the flute or pull it back across the tone hole. I do different movements depending on which finger will perform this ornament.

In an upward glissando, the note that you are traveling towards is the subject, or important, note. In the example I noted above, the object is to achieve a clear G. You should play upward glissando with a strong embouchure and support. Downward glissando requires a very different approach. You should blow easy, but with a very tight embouchure. The subject, or important note, in this case will be the F sharp (coming down from G). If you play descending glissando with too much support, you will either crack the note you are going to or force it into the second octave.

Remember, if you are playing a conical bore instrument, the compression backloads from the foot of the flute toward the embouchure hole. If you play downward glissando by blowing lightly but with a firm embouchure you will have the correct compression to keep the note in the first octave.

Just try sliding around on your flute. Uh, I should clarify that. I mean sliding around notes not rolling around the room on your flute like some crazed lumberjack doing tha log rolling thing... First, work on keeping the two notes in the same octave. When you have the hang of that, try jumping octaves (a high G to a low F sharp, for example). Let the joy of sliding take you where it will.