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This article is about the musical term. For the album, see Portamento (album).

Portamento (plural: portamenti, a noun meaning literally "carriage" or "carrying") is a musical term that describes pitch sliding from one note to another. The term originated from the Italian expression "portamento della voce" (carriage of the voice), denoting from the beginning of the 17th century its use in vocal performances[1] and its emulation by members of the violin family and certain wind instruments,[2] and is sometimes used interchangeably with anticipation.[3] It is also applied to one type of glissando as well as to the "glide" function of synthesizers.

Vocal portamento[edit]


In the first example, Rodolfo's first aria in La Sonnambula (1831), the portamento is indicated by the slur between the 3rd and 4th notes. The second example, Judit's first line in Duke Bluebeard's Castle (1912), employs a short, straight line between the fourth and fifth notes to indicate a steady rise in pitch. If the composer desired the pitches to be, variously, raised and lowered between those two notes, the wavy line would additionally be curvy, conveying an approximation of the pitches intended. Portamento may, of course, also be used for descending intervals.

Opinions of vocal portamento[edit]

Although portamento continued to be widely used in popular music, it was disapproved of for operatic singing by many critics in the 1920s and 1930s as a sign of either poor technique, or of bad taste, a mark of cheap sentimentalism or showiness.[4] This is not valid criticism of a performer when portamento is explicitly specified in the score or is otherwise appropriate. However, when there is no such specification, the singer is expected to be able to move crisply from note to note without any slurring or "scooping".[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harris 2001.
  2. ^ Stowell 2001.
  3. ^ Merritt 1939, 82; Jeppesen 1946, 184 & 188; Gauldin 1985,[page needed]; Stewart 1994, 37; Schenker 2001, 88; Benjamin 2005, 71.
  4. ^ Potter 2006, 543–44.
  5. ^ Potter 2006,[page needed]


  • Benjamin, Thomas. 2005. The Craft of Modal Counterpoint: A Practical Approach, second edition. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-97171-3 (cloth); ISBN 0-415-97172-1 (pbk).
  • Gauldin, Robert. 1985. A Practical Approach to Sixteenth-Century Counterpoint. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. OCLC 59143146
  • Harris, Ellen T. "Portamento (i)". 2001. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Jeppesen, Knud. 1946. The Style of Palestrina and the Dissonance, translated by Margaret Williams Hamerik, second revised and enlarged edition. Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard Publisher; London: Geoffrey Cumberlege; Oxford University Press. Reprinted, Minneola, NY: Dover Publications, 2005. ISBN 0-486-44268-3.
  • Merritt, Arthur Tillman. 1939. Sixteenth Century Polyphony: A Basic for the Study of Counterpoint. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • Potter, John. 2006. "Beggar at the Door: The Rise and Fall of Portamento in Singing". Music and Letters 87:523–50.
  • Schenker, Heinrich. 2001. Counterpoint: A Translation of Kontrapunkt, by Heinrich Schenker: Volume II of New Musical Theories and Fantasies. Book 1: Cantus Firmus and Two-Voice Counterpoint, translated by John Rothgeb and Jürgen Thym, edited by John Rothgeb. Ann Arbor: Musicalia Press. 0-967-8099-1-6.
  • Stewart, Robert. 1994. Introduction to 16th Century Counterpoint and Palestrina's Musical Style. Ardsley House Pub. ISBN 978-1-880157-07-7.
  • Stowell, Robin. 2001. "Portamento (ii)". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

Further reading[edit]

  • Katz, Mark. 2006. "Portamento and the Phonograph Effect". Journal of Musicological Research 25, nos. 3–4:211–32. doi:10.1080/01411890600860733

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portamento — Please support Wikipedia.
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Fri, 18 Jul 2014 08:45:00 -0700

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Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:56:14 -0700

It's been a little quiet on The Drums front of late, who broke through in a big way back in 2011 with sophomore LP Portamento and its ubiquitous, now-unlistenable hit Money, going on to grace festival stages around the world – including at Australia's ...
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Tue, 22 Jul 2014 02:11:15 -0700

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Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:03:41 -0700

He and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Graham then left behind the frothy bounce of 2010's "Portamento" and launched into the dark, reverbed twangs and theremin wails of "Magic Mountain," the first single off the Drums' forthcoming third album ...
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Thu, 17 Jul 2014 23:11:15 -0700

Best of all, the portamento and humanization of the harmony effects have been improved - like on its acoustic counterpart - making Play Electric's tireless two-singer backing group more realistic than ever. And users don't have to worry about setting ...

Riverfront Times (blog)

Riverfront Times (blog)
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 08:22:30 -0700

He can hold a note when he wants to, but his style of vocal portamento at the upper limits of his voice defines these songs. Hypoluxo shows a band working well within its defined constraints; the members show proficiency with the hooks and structures ...
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Wed, 16 Jul 2014 06:41:15 -0700

The Drums have reminded us why weve missed them so much over the past few years. Yesterday the indie-pop band dropped their new track "Magic Mountain," which is their first new song since the release of their 2011 album Portamento. As a sheen of ...

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Wed, 16 Jul 2014 03:41:15 -0700

Fusing surf-pop melodies with chiming indie pop hymnals, The Drums made a huge impact with their self-titled debut album. Earning a Clash cover feature, the band then quickly followed this with 2011's 'Portamento'. Taking a break, a re-grouped version ...

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