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How To Play a Glissando on the Saxophone

By April 14, 2019October 27th, 2019sax lessons

Playing glissandos on your saxophone is a great technique to have in your bag of tricks. It can be used as a great expressive tool in solos and in any melody when leading up to a note.

Video transcript

The glissando, or as some people call them; fall offs. So you could fall off a note and you could also glissando up to a note like this. That’s going up. A fall off or a backward glissando will sound like this… and they could be really effective. I find I use them a lot.

Biggest deal about a glissando is really knowing how to play all your notes. Meaning, a chromatic scale. if we started on a high D. So yeah, high D, D flat C, B, B flat, a G sharp, G, F sharp, F, E, D flat, C, B. In other words every single note that you can play on your sax one after the other. that’s called a chromatic scales. They’re the whole deal behind the fall off.

This is a great exercise to know just learning how to play your chromatic scales. Very fast. I don’t I play every single note every time I do a glissando but as long as you know, 99% of them  it’ll sound Like a proper glissando.

Some people think that you can maybe play some of the notes and you can but you’re not going to get a real good sounding glissando. Listen, if I don’t play the full chromatic scale how it’ll sound. Do you hear the difference? This is without playing the chromatic scale. And this is playing the chromatic scale coming down. If you if you miss a step in order to from the first note during the fall, it doesn’t have a complete nice tight fall. At least I don’t think so.

I hope you can hear the difference. So it’s just practicing your fast fast chromatic scales coming down. The other thing too is the breath control. You want to kind of fade out, you know, start putting less air into your sax as as you’re falling at the end of the fall. Kinda make it fade out, right? If you were to blow steady it wouldn’t sound the same right? It’s more like one big long blur, but. You gotta, you gotta, to make it sound like it’s falling you must starve your sax of air a little bit.

So going up. It’s not quite the same. I don’t think you have to worry about the full chromatic scale quite so much. When you’re going doing an upward glissando, you know, you’ll feel it. If it sounds bad and incomplete you’re not playing enough of the chromatics. If it does sound good to you, then you’re hitting enough of them. I think coming down it’s more important to hit more of them than going up. But I may be wrong.

Keep in mind when you’re practicing the chromatic scale start really slow. There’s going to be some notes that force you to make little trips and errors on your fingers and that’s just the nature of this crazy beast here and that’s why we practice slow. And build up on the speed. Practicing with a metronome is a great idea.

We can’t do a good-sounding glissando, unless you’re falling out those notes really fast enough that means doing the chromatic scale. Of course, your tongue is just there to hit the note and then it lays back, and let every other note just fall on their own. There’s no involvement in the tongue other than “tah” other than starting the note. So push it hard do a fast chromatic scale, and as you’re falling less Air and give it a sort of fading out effect. You got a good sounding glissando.


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