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(Related to this question for the case without glissando)


Consider following example of an arpeggiando on the four open strings of the cello (but the question also holds for violin or viola).

Arpeggiando (up and down) on the four open strings of the cello.

Is it now possible to add fingers on the neck and realize an upwards glissando on all four notes at the same time while repeating the figure (i.e. same position for each of the four strings)? Or should one use different positions for each string to be able to shift the hand?

Also, how far can one shift the figure upwards?

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    Hm. As I think more about this,: Do you want a true glissando? As in, the left hand is constantly moving? If so, no matter how rapidly the bow crosses the strings, there will be some upward shifting during each iteration of the pattern. Which means the notes won't be precise and neither will the intervals. If this is your goal, not precise intonation but just a pattern generally moving upward, then many of the warnings about intonation will be moot. Dec 1, 2023 at 23:05

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The answer is sort of "Yes, but."

  • The general principle is sound: You can take a four-string chord and "translate" it up the fingerboard in parallel motion. And sure, the fact that you're rolling the bow back and forth across the strings doesn't affect that.
  • One warning: What's shown here is a chord made up entirely of fifths. Once you get beyond open strings, this would mean a "barre" technique in which one finger is supposed to stop all four strings. This is very challenging to do with good intonation on fretless instruments. It would be much easier if the chord let the player use a different finger on each string.
  • Be aware that as you go up the fingerboard, distances shrink. I.e. the actual string length of a whole step becomes shorter the higher you go. This means that the player will not simply slide their hand upward exactly in parallel, but will have to adjust finger distances as they go. A skilled player will do this automatically, but be aware that it presents a challenge for intermediate players (and beginners probably don't move beyond first position anyway). Be aware that at the extreme end of the fingerboard, you might even have notes so "crowded" together that standard fingerings become problematic.

"How far can you shift the figure upwards?" Well, pretty much until you hit the same limits of "how high can you play on a given string." At some point the tone quality just becomes unpleasant, or the technical demand becomes greater than your intended players. But you could go right to the end of the fingerboard or maybe a couple of notes beyond!

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    Also doing a four string glissando might be a bit tricky. You’ve got a lot of pressure with four fingers and doing this with decent intonation should be quite a challenge.
    – Lazy
    Dec 1, 2023 at 17:19

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