How would the notation below be interpreted?

What is this called on the guitar?

I'm calling it "glissando to nowhere in particular" in my mind. It resembles something I've seen in a jazz violin book before but I'm really not sure what it is called or how to do it on guitar.

Uncertain notation

It's from RSL All Along the Watch Tower, acoustic grade 2.

2 Answers 2


Guitarists would usually call this slide instead of glissando, which is not a bad term as a guitar cannot really do arbitrary, controlled glissandi. So what you have here would be a slide out. This is pretty much guitar specific notation by the way, so it makes sense that there is not common notation term for this.

A slide out requires you to play to given notes and slide your hand in the direction indicated by the line. So in your case play the notes and slide your hand down (that is towards the head).

If you are looking for reference, searching for guitar slides will help you.

  • +1 to the clarification, as glissando is the appropiate term to describe the musical theory effect and slide is a very acurate word to refer to the specific technique used for guitar. But, may I ask about "slide out"? I've seen the term in a few web pages, a wiki among them, but no "official" or "proven" references... Is it a documented term or just a colloquialism? Thanks! Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 12:51
  • Marking as correct as i was able to find a specific demonstration using the term 'how to guitar slide out' on youtube Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 14:24
  • @DaveMiller It is something in between I’d say. It is something very specific to guitarists of specific styles. But the general gist of it is that you play a note and then slide out of the note to, rather than sliding between two notes or into a note. It is definitely a bit of a colloquialism, but then most musical terms are in some sense colloquialisms. But if you speak to a guitarist chances are high that they are going to know what "slide out" means.
    – Lazy
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 18:01
  • @xerotolerant Glad it helped you :)
    – Lazy
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 18:02
  • @Lazy I agree with you about colloquialisms. Very often musical terms have been conceived long time ago and the evolution in tecniques, styles and instruments require sometimes to create neologisms. At the end they're are simply words to exchange information between musicians, so usefulness preceeds them. Thanks again for the explanation! Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 7:23

It certainly is a glissando. Basically, play the two appropriate noes, on strings 2 and 3, as the tab says, then keeping pressure on those two fingers, slide down the fretboard, as far as you want. It could be all the way to the nut, but in reality, since you have to get back to that part of the fretboard again, and it's not that far, make sure you don't end up letting the open strings ring out. So three frets maximum should do it.

Have a listen to various versions on Youtube, for some audio ideas. I guess it's things like this that a teacher would help you with...

EDIT: The term glissando isn't actually an Italian word at all, but bastardised from the French 'glisser', to slide. There is no reason to suppose individual notes in a gliss are not heard - it's used on piano and harp as well, where it's obvious individual notes are played consecutively. So quite appropriate for sliding up or down strings on the fretboard of a guitar.

Not to be confused with portamento, which is possible on trombones, and non-fretted string instruments, and, of course, the voice.

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