How to Play a Glissando on a Wind Instrument

Composers often add ornaments and articulations to a piece of music, to give it a unique and interesting flair. One of these is the glissando, which is similar in both definition and effect to a trill, though different, as well. Music is generally a technical art, where rhythms and notes must be played exactly. However, glissandos "break" that rule, and present an opportunity to let loose with your playing. The playing of a glissando varies greatly depending on the type of instrument being played. While many piano players consider glissandos to be easy to execute, that's not always the case with woodwind brass instruments. However, with practice, you'll soon be an expert at adding this particular ornament to your music.


  1. 1
    Understand what a glissando is. A glissando is defined as a rapid succession of notes, and that is exactly what you will be playing. The goal when playing a glissando is to go from the first marked note to the second while staying in time and hitting as many notes in between as possible.
  2. 2
    Warm up your instrument. A glissando will require that your fingers be loosened up and nimble. You'll want to warm up with long tones, chromatic scales, and exercises that will loosen up your fingers.
  3. 3
    Recognize a glissando in a piece of music. A glissando can be represented by several different symbols, most commonly a squiggly line connecting two notes. However, two notes connected by a thin or thick line, with or without the word "gliss." over it, also indicate a glissando.
    Image titled Glissando 4619
  4. 4
    Decide how to play the glissando. One of the unique things about this musical ornament is that there's no "set" way to play it. You can choose to go between the two notes chromatically, in a pattern of the consecutive notes between the two, or just randomly.
    Image titled Glissando 1470
  5. 5
    Start out slowly. Play through the music, and when you reach the glissando, slow down somewhat and perform the "rip" between the two marked notes. Experiment with ways to perform the glissando, and try to find one that you can produce fairly cleanly, that your fingers can perform easily.
  6. 6
    Keep practicing. Continue playing the piece until you can play the glissando quickly, cleanly, and in time with the music. In time, you will master this technique.


  • On reed instruments, a short glissando can often be performed simply by controlling the embouchure. With practice the range of the glissando can be extended.
  • If you're playing on a trombone, all you have to do is move your slide without stopping the stream of air.
  • A metronome may be helpful when practicing, as one of the most difficult aspects of playing a glissando is staying in time with the music. It's easy to get carried away, or take too long, and get lost completely.
  • Bend the note with your embouchure as you glissando. This is particularly effective when doing an ascending glissando.


  • Don't play the glissando too loudly when playing in a full band setting. They are usually not the melody, but are merely "background noise" to add emphasis to the melody being played by other instruments.

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