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I made this sound with my synthesized flute

There are three in this particular snippet. I did this by draggging a slider button up and down that allows me to move smoothly between different pitches.

I want to notate this in sheet music now however and I'm not sure what to put down.

My Question

How do I notate a 'wailing' sound?

I've heard this kind of thing plenty of times before when people improvise, so I suspect there's a way to do it.

  • @joseem's answer is great. I think the squiggly lines on the staff make the most sense. Are you notating this music on a classical western staff? – sova Apr 23 '16 at 23:33
  • Yes. Its supposed to be – Stan Shunpike Apr 24 '16 at 0:33
  • Curiously, the "squiggly" line is a glissando in music notation, which is not exactly the same as a portamento (for example a glissando in a piano would be a scale played extremely rapidly or even raking the fingers across the keys, producing an effect almost like, but not quite, a true portamento). For that reason I did not mention glissando in my answer below, but of course it can also be used, as did the transcriber of the Tangerine Dream piece. I agree with leftaroundabout's comment below, though, and would rather recommend the oblique straight line. – José David Apr 24 '16 at 15:53
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In classical terminology portamento would probably be the most appropriate naming for the effect you wish to notate, and the notation for that is a slur connecting the notes in the "gliding" range extremities. A curved slur is the most common form of notation:

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In some instruments that allow for portamento, like the trombone and timpani, a slur may imply portamento. In other instruments it may have specific meanings (like the bowings in bowed string instruments) or just mean to play legato (like in the piano). [thanks to @leftaroundabout for the improvement of this paragraph].

However I have also seen used an oblique "straight" slur (I'm not sure if it's still called a slur if it is a straight line) to indicate portamento, in situations where the round slur could be misinterpreted as a portamento when it was meant as legato.

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The simultaneous use of the slur and "straight" line also can be used (as I understand it is used mostly with bow instruments, as the slur on it's own is used to indicate the intended bowing).

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Any way, these are only suggestions. Your piece is specific and uses specific technology that may not be possible to notate (to your satisfaction, as notation is always an aproximation). So you should feel free to adapt, adopt, or develop your own form of notation, as many composers have done.

Just as an example of a possible approach to transcribing a synthesizer piece I include here a few excerpts of a transcription for a Tangerine Dream piece (Choronzon, from the 1981 album Exit). As can seen a combination of music notation, suggestive graphic signs and text indications is used. (I expect the inclusion of these small clips is considered fair use and does not infringe on copyright)

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  • 2
    Great answer, though I wonder whence you procure that “general rule” of slurs automatically implying legato if possible on the instrument. As you say yourself, this is not the case for bowed string instruments, nor on woodwinds (which are more limited in portamento range, but e.g. oboe could certainly implement many half-tone slurs as portamenti), nor on guitar or keyboards with pitch-bending capability. In fact, trombone and timpani seem about the only instruments where slurs are commonly understood as portamenti! So, I'd definitely put the oblique-line notation as first recommendation. – leftaroundabout Apr 23 '16 at 22:53
  • leftaroundabout, I got the information from an old notation manual, but my main instrument is the piano and I may have generalized too much the case of the remaining instruments. I'll edit and try to improve the answer as per your comment. Thanks a lot for it! – José David Apr 23 '16 at 23:02
  • A slur in guitar music COULD be played portamento, as in a bend, or as a slide, or as a hammer-on/pull-off - assuming the pitch difference is less than, say, four frets. Or even as a combination of these. – Tim Apr 24 '16 at 8:37
  • A slur on guitar and indeed, most (all?) instruments means legato, It never means slide or bend. Slide and bend each have distinct markings themselves. – Andrew Gallasch Apr 25 '16 at 9:09

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