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I'm learning a couple of songs that have some big glissando's in them, from the highest keys down to the bottom and then back up again! I have developed quite painful red marks on the back of my fingers just below the nail, and it hurts more every time! In one of the songs there is a decrescendo during the gliss from FF to p.. quite hard!! So I wondering if anyone had any tips for technique?
Your piano has sharper edges on the keys than some pianos? If that's so, you might try digging even deeper into the keys when doing the gliss and use an area of your finger that's a little more protected.
Which hands/fingers are you using? I can't say I'm an expert as I've only recently come across them myself, but I find that angling the finger makes all the difference in the world. If it's painful, try tilting toward the keybed a little more to decrease the resistance.
What I did to learn how to play glissando was simply trial and error. I tried playing it, if it hurt I'd move my finger a bit up, if i missed too many notes I'd lower it. I think it's harder to play too slow: the notes won't be played, which will lead to you lowering you finger and hurting yourself. That's all I can think of. Plus angling the fingers correctly. I'm no way expert in this, hope it helped even a bit.
I was never a fan of glissandi. I always figured they were discriminatory against all key signatures except C major, A minor, G flat major and E flat minor. I think the best way to play a "glissando" is a very fast scale, which is very much possible to do (just look at the finale for Chopin's Ballade Op. 23!)
Just my two cents, though. I feel so old-fashioned, even though I'm only 19. Feel free to use glissandi as long as they don't injure you.
Organists never have to worry about this. Except...
The ending of Middelschulte's Perpetuum Mobile for pedals alone. At the close the left hand executes a glissando all the way up the keyboard. It is done with the palm of the hand. And I must say, by far the easiest passage!
I have a really old piano with ivory covered keys and because of this you have to be really careful when doing glissandos or you will tear your thumb up.
My technique for doing them is to keep the thumbnail at about a 45 degree angle with the keys and do it quickly so that when the nail collides with each key there is enough force to sound each key. Glissandos should never be played slowly anyways.
I have tried glissando on other pianos that aren't ancient history and they are usually a lot easier to perform.
As far as a glissando from low to high where you need the fingers rather than the thumb; I have never needed to do those so you are on your own.
Finally, doing a decresendo with a glissando; I would rely heavily on the damping pedal for this. Still would be tricky though. Or just do the glissando at FF and then play p afterwards. It doesn't have to be played exactly as it's written.
I've recently started playing pieces with glissandi. I haven't found them too uncomfortable. I do tend to use the nail but sometimes it overlaps to skin too. Occasionally I have a mishap and it hurts. Ravel has a lot of glissandi as his pieces are so 'watery'. The ones that really have me stumped are his glissandi in 3rds and 4ths in Alborado del Gracioso. They ARE painful, not least because the hand seems to have to distort in a strange way to encompass them. I decided against working on this piece for that reason, which is a pity because it leaves me one short of playing all of Miroirs. My piano teacher, who is a professional performer has the same misgivings and also won't learn this piece. I'm not sure I have any useful advice except perhaps that hesitation and tentativeness risk increasing the pain. I try to just go for it and close my mind to the discomfort. Of course you can't do that if you are losing skin though.
One pianist (Leonid Hambro?) used to take his wallet out of his pocket and put it on the piano, and use it for the gliss, but I can't remember the piece (some energetic person might do a search of the PianoWorld archives for this).
Nicholas Slonimsky used to play that etude with an orange long before Lang Lang did.
There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians
Glissandi on black keys are kind of tricky.. There's one in Ondine that is almost impossible especially with a crappy piano.
I never quite mastered Ondine to my satisfaction but I was OK with the glissandi at least. As you say, a reasonable piano can make a big difference. Trouble with such pieces is that they decline quickly if you stop practicing them. I sacrificed Ondine for Une Barque eventually, which I found more manageable (and plan to present for my licentiate next year). That has a couple of very hasty back and forth glissandi in too, though some people prefer to play scales instead. I found scales too hard there.