[pawr-tuh-men-toh, pohr-; It. pawr-tah-men-taw]
Portamento is a musical term primarily denoting a vocal slide between two pitches and its emulation by instruments such as the violin, and in 16th century polyphonic writing refers to an ornamental figure. It is also applied to one type of glissando as well as to the "slide" or "bend" functions of synthesizers. (see main article glissando).

Vocal portamento

In the first example, Rudolfo'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 more explicit notation.


In 16th century style, portamento is an anticipation figure, occurring on the off-beat. The portamento resolves stepwise, almost always downward. It may occur either once or multiple times in succession.

In multi-voice polyphony, the portamento figure is normally consonant. This embellishment is frequently found ornamenting suspensions, though almost never at the final cadence.

See also

  • A glissando is a similar effect to portamento which moves in discrete steps; for example, dragging a finger over the keys of the piano.
  • Vibrato is a repetitive oscillation about a single pitch that occurs in rapid cycles.
  • Portato is a musical term denoting an articulation.


  • Katz, Mark. “Portamento and the Phonograph Effect.” Journal of Musicological Research 25 (2006): 211–32.
  • Gauldin, Robert (1985). A Practical Approach to Sixteenth-Century Counterpoint. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

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