How To Do A Piano Glissando Without Hurting Your Hands

Glissando Technique

When I first learned how to do piano glissandos from my instructor, I was about 12 years old. You can imagine, once I learned how to do them, I would do them all of the time while improvising.

With this being said, there are a couple of pointers that can make it so you won’t hurt your hands while doing a glissando.

A glissando is a technique that, when done correctly, looks extremely cool and sounds cool.

This was always a technique I used when I was younger to try and show off. ( I know, how lame of me). This is also a technique that Jerry Lee Lewis would use very liberally and he’s great at them.

Pros Of Glissandos

  • They look and sound cool
  • Improves your technique
  • Important for different styles of music

Cons Of Glissandos

  • Can hurt your hands and fingers when done incorrectly

A few things to highlight when doing a glissando are the following:

  • Use your nails as much as possible and avoid your skin rubbing the keys
  • Be sure you are getting enough Vitamin D for your nail health
  • Go slow when learning
  • Repetition
  • Use the proper technique for going up and going down

How To Perform A Glissando From High To Low

This means to start at the higher registration of the piano or in easier terms, the right side of the piano.

If you have a piano instructor, ask them to go over glissandos with you. While this will really help, an instructor can also help and make sure that you’re performing it correctly.

Take your thumb on your right hand and press it against your pointer and middle finger. You will notice that it almost forms a circle if you turn your hand.

Once you do this, turn your nail down to the keys and place it on top of a key. Slide down the keys with your thumbnail leading the charge.

Try to not catch your skin against the black keys while doing this to avoid getting cut or scratched.

Be sure to play with your angle when doing this to find the most comfortable position.

Note: this is going to be a little difficult to get good at, so be very patient and don’t get discouraged.

I would say to drill this about 10x a day and avoid catching the skin above your fingernails. You’ll get better each day at this and it will start to not hurt.

If you begin to hurt your skin or nails, take a break until they feel better.

How To Play A Glissando From Low To High

There’s a variety of ways to do this, however, the way that I like doesn’t hurt the skin above my nails. Take your right hands and turn it so that your palm is up. Once you’ve done this, you want to angle your hand at about a 90-degree angle over the keys.

When I do this, I start with my middle finger and I keep all of my fingers together, but my thumb. Slowly run your hands down the notes avoiding your skin touching. If it hurts your nails, try to keep practicing it and your nails will get used to it.

It is important to note that this is all about the angle. Here is a great video that breaks this down.

Styles Of Music Glissandos Work For

Glissando written down

Pretty much all types of music. You can use it in classical music as well as for jazz. Once you have it down, it will be a very fun technique to bust out from occasion to occasion.

Be Sure To Have Kids Take Their Time

If your kid is attempting to learn how to do a glissando on a real piano, be sure to take it easy. You don’t want them to do do this incorrectly and hurt themselves right away. This will make it so they will be afraid of the technique.

Make sure they use an angle, you will be able to see how their hand is positioned. If their skin is on the keys, it will scratch or cut them.


If you enjoyed this information and it helped, please leave a comment. Also, leave any questions about glissandos or other things keyboard related.

1 comment
  1. Thank you for explaining that you should use your thumbnail to slide down the keys. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do a glissando for a piece that I’ll be performing in a few weeks at a recital. I’ll be sure to try this out when I practice later today and see how it goes.

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