Two things attracted me to the violin when I was eight - vibrato, and the beauty of sliding from pitch to pitch - also known as "glissando." Those techniques caught my ear in the subtle ways in which they altered the shape of the sound and the music. When I tried to slide, however, my rhythm, sound, and intonation suffered.
My ear heard a lovely, gentle transition and, unfortunately, my left hand and bow arm turned to mush.
A glissando needs conviction and continuity. If the slide causes the left hand foundation falls apart, it won't work. It's important to maintain the foundation, then slightly modify it to create the proper conditions for the slide. Nuance, structure, and strength work hand-in-hand. Here are some ideas for producing beautiful glissandos while keeping a safe and sound foundation.
Smooth Sliding and Bowing
Bumping up and down the fingerboard is neither graceful nor rhythmic. To avoid that, lay the groundwork for the slide by being aware of the whole steps and half steps within the shift. After that, a little imagination shows the distance as pure space, simply an arc, like a rainbow with perfect proportions.
Slides and Shifts Are Almost the Same Thing
A beautiful glissando should have all the same ingredients as a straight-forward shift. The main difference is that the slide is slightly slower. Feeling the similarities makes it easier, rather than thinking about a series of technical hoops you have to jump through.
Concentrate on hearing only two pitches, the starting pitch and the ending pitch. As for the pitches in between, as long as the slide is smooth and the bow doesn’t accidentally accent, those numerous pitches will do no harm. (I marvel at the elegant physics that make the pitches in-between the first and the last of the slide non-obtrusive.)
Sometimes the slide can sound overdone and bottom-heavy, that is, you accent the bow and hear an obtrusive pitch in the middle of the slide. To avoid this, be careful to gloss lightly during the majority of the glissando and focus on the end of the slide as the expressive part. The closer to the note, the better.
The Left Hand’s Balance Board
Glissandos can weaken the balance that the hand needs to maintain while sliding - in fact, falling off the edge of the E string or G string side is not unheard of. To "stay on top of it," so to speak, try these guidelines:
Staying in the Groove
To avoid losing contact with the fingerboard during a slide, it is important to "stay in the groove," that is, to feel comfortable and secure with this movement while holding the violin. Here are two things to keep in mind that may help:
Pitches that are Clear and Obvious
Clarity is important to a successful glissando. Since there are so many pitches between the beginning and end of a slide, be aware of the following:
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