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Glissando vs. Portamento

Do you know the difference?
I thought it was two terms for the same thing, arising from different language origins.
Recently discovered they are actually two different techniques.
I am still not sure, but they way I understand it is Glissando is more of a note bend, while Portamento is more of a slide between notes.
Does this sound about right?

I had to do some research because it is labeled differently on different synths, and I think I have even seen both on a synth before, so I figured there might be more to it. Turns out there is.

Comments

  • I think of the portamento attribute as being a permanent use of glissando's between any 2 consecutive notes being played.

    For most cases the glissando is selectively applied in a given instrument's part between 2 start and end notes. It can also be called a "slide" between 2 notes especially on a trombone, stringed instrument without frets, slide whistle, thermin or the tympani drum using a pedal to change the pitch but only in narrow pitch ranges of about a 4th I think.. But a composer can ask any player to perform a glissando between starting and end notes notating the start and end time in the score and the player's part.

    For most instruments that's a carefully timed chromatic scale run up or down.

  • In practice I've noticed that 'glissando' glides in whole/semi-tone intervals while portamento 'glides' more smoothly?! I bet there's a lot better explanation out there on the interwebs...

  • @Samu perfectly good explanation and @McDtracy nailed it.
    I could tell you to play a glissando up the entire keyboard and to put “plenty of portamento on it” or none at all.
    In piano theory I was told to think of it as: a glissando could still be a little static between notes if wanted, with portamneto you’re really working to smooth off the intervals.
    That way someone can get the message across to a perormer..or a synth :)

    Glissando is overall movement, portamento is micro movement might be another analogy.

  • Glissando is playing the notes in between (either in a scale or every semitone), portamento is a smooth pitch change from one note to another. An instrument like a harp can do glissandos but not portamento, a trombone can do portamento (probably called a slide on that) but not a glissando, at least not easily. At least that is my understanding.

  • Ok. I think it is becoming clearer.

    You could Portamento on a fretless bass, but only Glissando on a fretted one.

    Glissando is like digital with micro, discrete values.
    Portamento is like analog, all smooth and continuous.

    You may hear a zipper effect on a Glissando, but never a Portamento.

    I think my original thought with bends and slides was still off. Thank you for the help, awesome foursome ( @McDtracy @Samu @EDB @PhilW ). B)

  • I always assumed that glissando was the musical term (meaning originating from classical music) and that portamento was a synthesizer/electronics term. I see them used interchangeably a lot, but when I hear glissando I think of running my fingers up or down the length of a piano.

  • @CracklePot said:
    Ok. I think it is becoming clearer.

    You could Portamento on a fretless bass, but only Glissando on a fretted one.

    You could portamento somewhat on a fretted bass using pitch bend.....just when you thought you had it nailed :lol:

    From reading these descriptions I want to describe it as Glissando is chromatic scale locked...portamento isn't

  • @AndyPlankton said:

    @CracklePot said:
    Ok. I think it is becoming clearer.

    You could Portamento on a fretless bass, but only Glissando on a fretted one.

    You could portamento somewhat on a fretted bass using pitch bend.....just when you thought you had it nailed :lol:

    From reading these descriptions I want to describe it as Glissando is chromatic scale locked...portamento isn't

    But then I might break a nail! Seems too risky. :D

  • @PhilW said:
    Glissando is playing the notes in between (either in a scale or every semitone), portamento is a smooth pitch change from one note to another. An instrument like a harp can do glissandos but not portamento, a trombone can do portamento (probably called a slide on that) but not a glissando, at least not easily. At least that is my understanding.

    Never knew this. Good stuff!

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