Okay, I have been trying to find the word for this vocal trick/note trick for so freaking long. I don't even know if there's a word for it but it's in so many songs spanning the history of recorded music that there has to be a word for it! So I'm wondering if any of you know what this is called or just what something similar to this little note/tonal trick is called. I've included five really obvious uses of the trick but there are so many more, so if more examples are needed to pinpoint what this is, let me know!

Most clear example: 0:40 to 0:49 (and repeated throughout song) of Baby by Os Mutantes

More examples: 0:43 to 0:50 of Mr. Maker by the Kooks

0:24 to 0:36 of In an Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel

0:00 to 0:20 of Dead Record Player by Dr. Dog and the repeated slide-note throughout the song

0:32 to 0:42 & 1:05 to 1:15 of (Dee Dee) Be My Girl by Dee Dee Sharp


2 Answers 2


Glissando or portamento.

Glissando is moving up or down existing notes - as in the strings of a harp, frets of a guitar or keys on a piano.

Portamento is moving from one note to another with no gaps - as in a trombone slide, a violin string or indeed a voice.

Both tend to happen smoothly.

I quote both, as generally an instrument will do one or the other, although voice can do both. Here, it would appear that the voice is 'portamento-ing'.

  • But on trombone, a portamento is called a glissando. No point in disputing it. And, to confuse matters further, trombone CAN do a 'distinct notes' glissando. Start on middle Bb in 1st position, lip up while moving the slide out. You'll get something close to a Bb major scale.
    – Laurence
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 12:34
  • Sadly, gliss is used more and more to indicate portamento , and I don't recall anyone ever referring to the opening of Rhapsody in Blue as anything other than "clarinet glissando." Sic transit mundi. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 12:49
  • @CarlWitthoft - isn't it written as a gliss?
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 13:54
  • Harp has always called one thing a gliss, trombone another. 'Portamento' implies an expressive transition between notes. I'm not sure this ever bothered anyone except narrow-vision textbook writers until the DX7 de facto defined the terms for a new generation of musician, many of them with little hands-on experience of real instruments.
    – Laurence
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 15:05
  • Tim, The original piano solo (IMSLP) is not marked "gliss," and wikipedia says "The opening clarinet glissando came into being during rehearsal when; "... as a joke on Gershwin, [Ross] Gorman (Whiteman's virtuoso clarinettist) played the opening measure with a noticeable glissando, adding what he considered a humorous touch to the passage. Reacting favourably to Gorman's whimsy, Gershwin asked him to perform the opening measure that way at the concert and to add as much of a 'wail' as possible."" ref Schwartz, Charles, (1979). Gershwin: His Life and Music. New York City: Da Capo Press. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 15:38

In music performance and notation, the term for instrumental or vocals that are sung/played smoothly and connected is Legato.

  • Did you listen to the linked audio clips? Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 19:39

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