I am playing an organ patch on an electric keyboard with a low-ish trigger point, so I have to depress the key fairly deeply to be able to trigger sound. Generally, I am finding it hard to get quick, good sounding swipes out of it, especially ones that change direction. In fact, last time I tried I smashed my finger between two keys.

My question has two parts to it: 1) Should I be swiping using the tips of my fingers, or somewhere lower, or is there a best practice technique to swiping? 2) Are there recommendations on what to wear to protect my fingers from getting jammed between keys again, especially if I'm playing on a keyboard with a low trigger point?

Edit: By swiping, I do mean glissandos - basically sliding your hand down (or up) every white key on the keyboard (or possibly every black key), and possibly changing direction as well in the middle of a glissando.

  • Please qualify exactly what you mean by 'swipe'. Sounds like a gliss, but only you know.
    – Tim
    Jan 26, 2015 at 19:22
  • Clarified. For some reason I thought organ players called these swipes - possibly not.
    – tarun
    Jan 26, 2015 at 19:57
  • 2
    One thing to consider is the difference in design. A lot of organs are designed with keys that have rounded edges, making it significantly easier to accomplish this sort of gliss. I don't think this consideration will help with your issue but it is something that I have heard plenty of keyboardists have to deal with when playing organ music. Jan 26, 2015 at 21:10

5 Answers 5


If you mean a glissando, I'd recomend using the back of your fingers; hitting the keys with your fingernails. With certain keyboards it has helped me a lot, since you can pressure the keys easier this way, and your fingers will be angled so you probably wont get them stuck.


If this is what I have heard described as a palm smear - though I believe it is technically a glissando - I have a couple of strategies to try.

If you are playing more informal music (blues, rock and roll, etc.), consider using the palm of your right hand, sweeping across your body ready to hit your destination note with your left, then quickly switching back to your right to continue the solo line.

Or you can use your left to smear to your destination - but still be ready to attack the solo line with your right.

It is a pretty thrilling effect, even on a Clonewheel board. I am sure some genuine B3 players will have great tips, which I will eagerly monitor.


Achieving smooth glissandos is maybe the main reason why waterfall key beds are used in most console organs and related "clones". Thanks to them, you can confortably perform glissandos through the palms of your hands, without scratches and undesired mechanical stresses both on yourself and your instrument. Viceversa, if you have a "spinet" organ or an instrument with "synth" keys or a digital piano (regardless of being weighted or a semi-weighted action keyboard), the toe nail works great. Last but not least, in the latter case do not use your palms to preserve both your hands and the keys! Here follows some links to provide you with some examples and, if needed, clarification:

1) a magnificent example of the glissando technique:

2) synth-shaped keys: https://images.google.it/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nonlinear-labs.de%2Fdev_blog%2Fuser_interface%2Fimages%2Fkeybeds.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nonlinear-labs.de%2Fdev_blog%2Fuser_interface%2Fuser_interface.html&docid=44VVibRUdT12ZM&tbnid=sO0aJ6dIDJkAGM%3A&vet=1&w=1350&h=882&source=sh%2Fx%2Fim#h=882&imgrc=sO0aJ6dIDJkAGM:&vet=1&w=1350

3) waterfal-shaped keys (perfectly rounded): https://images.google.it/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nordkeyboards.com%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Ffiles%2Fproducts%2Fnord-stage-2-ex%2Fimages%2FSW-keybed.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nordkeyboards.com%2Fproducts%2Fnord-stage-2-ex&docid=GxTe9gLWpYJjtM&tbnid=imI0odl2xaKjFM%3A&vet=1&w=320&h=148&source=sh%2Fx%2Fim#h=148&imgrc=imI0odl2xaKjFM:&vet=1&w=320

4) piano-like keys: https://images.google.it/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Ffatar.com%2Fpart_grandi%2FTP_10-MDR_PartGRANDE.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fforums.musicplayer.com%2Fubbthreads.php%2Ftopics%2F2115663%2Fall%2FIs_there_a_brilliant_action_co&docid=mTY_MeNZn-3bsM&tbnid=ydFEzjfaUVPqlM%3A&vet=1&w=350&h=250&source=sh%2Fx%2Fim#h=250&imgrc=ydFEzjfaUVPqlM:&vet=1&w=350


My tip on learning glissando's is to use a finger glove or soft thin glove, to have a smooth slide that you feel comfortable with. As the technique develops, drop the glove. It comes naturally. Same with playing glissando's on the bass pedals. I love those and my audience is more interested in my feet! Take your shoe off and wear a soft woolen sock.


If your keyboard has a low action, you probably need to use piano gliss technique rather than an organ technique, otherwise you will end up injured one way or another. On piano, the basic idea is to you the back of a finger or thumb so that the nail protects you from injury, not the flat part of your fingertips or your palm. For the safest results, you need strong nails cut to the right length. See here:

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