Glissando for Jazz Violin


When I listen to violinists experienced in classical or other music who are just starting out playing jazz, I very often hear a lot of glissandi played in a very systematic way, and always going up… I did this too at first, and I think it’s because glissando is one of the first elements you hear that gives a jazzy color… Nevertheless, it is often used too much by beginning jazz players, and rather than lending a desired jazzy color, becomes more evocative of country music..

So the first thing I would like to advise you is to use the glissando sparingly! The second important point is to vary the kinds of glissandi. So I’ve listed 6 ways to vary your glissando!

6 ways to vary the glissando in jazz violin


1. Choose the glissando speed

A slow glissando will have a very different color than a fast glissando. In a ballad, a slow speed will be more appropriate, and in a fast piece it will be easier to find fast glissandi.

2. Glissando direction: Up or Down?

We use the rising glissando more, but in jazz descending glissandi also gives a nice color: it can be used between two notes or on the last note at the end of a phrase.

3. Using ghost notes

Flicking the string while doing the glissando can further refine the color of the glissando. Again, on an end of phrase this can be pretty.

4. Slide to change position, or staying in the same position

By remaining in the same position, the glissando is like approaching a note: it is not used to make the link from one note to another.

You can also slide to change position, and go for example the third position from the first position to the third position on one finger or by changing fingers. But when I change position, I find it more elegant to use ghost notes to make the change.

5. Play chromatically between two notes

This type of glissando is used by trumpeters: since they cannot easily make a true glissando between two notes, they play a chromatic scale between the two glissando notes. For example, to go from E flat to G, they will play: Eb – E – F – F#-G, to imitate a glissando that they cannot technically do! Pianists do this as well, because it’s their only way to do a glissando! But this gives the glissando a particular, very jazzy color and eventually we find ourselves imitating them also by playing segments of a chromatic scale…

6. Repeat Notes

I also use another ornament that is close to the glissando, it is the repetition of a note before the next; even if it’s not really a glissando, I think of it a little in the same way as a glissando.

All these ways to do the jazz violin glissando are illustrated in the video which includes several examples you can listen to.



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