For the violin I'd like to notate a glissando over multiple measures. But there's two things that are unclear to me:

  • do I just put a semi-breve in the first and last measures and rests in the measures in between? Like this:

glissando with rests

  • if the glissando will require re-bowing, do I use a tremolo for the first note? Or can I leave it to the musician's own judgment? Come to think of it a tremolo of eights is way too fast for what I want to achieve.


Ok, let me re-formulate: how do I notate a very slow glissando over multiple measures?

  • You really expect someone to portamento (not gliss -- pianos do gliss) a half step over 12 beats? Or for that matter, your audience to hear the difference? I'd take a step back and decide where you really want pitch transitions to matter. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 12:30
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    No, the idea is that the audience does not hear it. And obviously I don't expect an exact rendering. It's more for a disonnant effect/feeling.
    – Creynders
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 12:35
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    @Creynders - Ignore the naysayers. If someone doesn't like your 12-beat gliss, make it a 24-beat gliss. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 15:09

3 Answers 3


I would use first and last note with gliss. between them (as you did), but would delete the rests between them. You can leave the (re)bowing to the violinists, they're used to doing it. :)

  • So, do you mean to leave the intermediate measures blank? No rests, nothing?
    – Creynders
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 10:19
  • Just with the "gliss." line, yes.
    – sam
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 10:46
  • I don't think so -- a measure has to have something in it. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 12:30
  • @carlwitthoft Just false. And anyway, the measures will have the gloss line in them. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 13:57
  • Sam is correct here: keep what you have; delete the rests. Sound is occurring through those measures: the gliss you've written. It's just that the actual result is indeterminate. Either leave the bowing alone or talk to a violinist to put in specific bowing indications. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 15:05

You can also fill the measures that you want the glissando to cover with quarter note headless stems to mark the beats. You can find that option under notations/ note types. Hope you find this helpful.


While I heartily disapprove of such a long and minimal portamento, my recommendation is to use microtonal notation. First measure E, second measure E+1/8, third measure E + 1/4 or E+3/8, fourth measure F .

One such set of symbols: Dolmetsch microtonal


As Creynders pointed out, I was misusing 'portamento'. Referring again to the Dolmetsch online dictionary,


also glissato, glissicando or glissicato, a continuous slide in pitch. On the violin, the left hand finger is placed on the string and then, as the note is played, the finger slides up or down the finger board. The beginning and end note of the glissando are written and connected by either a straight or a wavy line. Usually the word gliss. or glissando will be written above. This is what some writers call 'a true glissando' on the piano, to run the nail or a finger or the back of the thumb along the keyboard over many notes, see glissant, glisser. This is what some writers call 'an effective glissando', in that the change in pitch is by discrete steps rather than through a continuous and steady shift.


on stringed instruments, an expressive device, a slide from one pitch to another, usually stopping for moment either above or below the destination pitch, which was very popular in the 19th- and early 20th-centuries, but has more recently fallen into disuse. a smooth glide between the two notes, including all the pitches in between. For some instruments, like violin and trombone, this includes even the pitches in between the written notes. For other instruments, such as guitar, it means sliding through all of the possible notes between the two written pitches. Although unusual in traditional common notation, a type of portamento that includes only one written pitch can be found in some styles of music, notably jazz, blues, and rock. The proper performance of scoops and fall-offs (the latter also called drops or spills) requires that the portamento begins (in scoops) or ends (in fall-offs, drops or spills) with the slide itself, rather than with a specific note.

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    Erm, I'm pretty sure you can have a glissando on a violin too. And my comprehension was that a portamento uses a glissando, but not necessarily the other way round
    – Creynders
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 12:45
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    Carl, I don’t think it’s nice or valuable to get so judgemental about this musical idea. Personally I find it an interesting and exciting idea. It’s not too far away from sounds often made in synthesizer based music and the overall concept of notating unusual sounds beings to mind Penderecki. To me there is nothing wrong with this idea. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 13:56
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    I suppose, Carl, you've never heard Scelsi's string quartets? Microtonal notation is a good suggestion if the composer has specific ideas about guide notes throughout the glissando (as might be appreciated due to it's length), or if they just want to get super finicky about notation. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 15:08

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