Hornmasters: Berv and Tuckwell on the Glissando

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A topic not mentioned in many classic horn texts is the topic of the glissando. It is a fun effect.

Berv-Creative-Approach-HornHarry Berv says in A Creative Approach to the French Horn that the glissando effect “always reminds me of the sound made when someone tears a piece of wax paper from the roll.”

I have found the following method successful in producing an effective glissando. Play the first note, and in “glissing” to the top or bottom note of any glissando, flick the valve levers once in numerical order as fast as you can while simultaneously tightening embouchure and increasing the air pressure….

The only other way to execute a glissando is to play the initial note and, with a great increase of air pressure but without using any valves, force the air through the horn….

Although it is a somewhat special effect, the glissando must be produced with the same thought and care as any other beautiful sound. It also requires the exercise of considerable taste and judgment, for its abuse produces an effect of vulgarity….

Barry Tuckwell also weighs in on the glissando in Playing the Horn.

The glissando is the smooth movement from one note to another through the intervening notes….

A trombonist can produce glissandos by moving the slide, but on the valve instruments it is something to fake. It can be done by moving the valves half way down (not so easy with rotary valves), or by making a ‘smear’ across the harmonics. Each glissando will have to be worked out by the individual as each instrument reacts in a different way, but in general the ‘smear’ type of glissando is best done on as long a length of tubing as possible, i.e. with all the valves down.

If for no other reason but to hear a few good rips, we close this segment with a video also featured in another article, the main title music for Silverado. Enjoy!

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