Trills : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Whenever I play trills, they NEVER come close to sounding like they should be. The top note comes out louder, and my other finger just barely comes out ~ it sounds more stacatto-like rather than a trill. I really need some help on how to improve the way they will come out, so please help me if you know what might help!! Thanks~


-- Julie (, April 02, 2001


Julie, I don't have naturally great trills either, and have had to work hard for them.

3 billion ways to practice trills.

I think the key to trilling is to find the right balance between rotation of the arm and action of the fingers. Start out really slow with lots of rotation, really exaggerated rotation, where your whole arm is rotating, like turning a doorknob. Gradually speed it up, but only work in little bits.

Try accenting the finger that isn't working well. Practice slow.

Watch for slow fingers. If one finger is getting stuck, that will sabotage the trill. Try to make that slow finger release the key faster.

Practice trills with really high fingers, playing loud, but still with a good (not bangy) sound.

Combine the rotation and the high fingers.

You can try trilling fast playing on the "bump" of the key. If you press a key very slowly, so slowly there is no sound, there is a point when you will feel the key catch or stop, then it will go down further. This catch part is what I call the "bump." Sometimes people have a hard time playing trills because they are trying to go all the way to the bottom of the key every time they hit the key. If you think about playing on the bump (it's more of an imaginary thing), sometimes it's easier to play, and it can give a nice pearly sound. This may seem opposite from the playing loud suggestion offered above, but that suggestion is more to improve your finger strength.

Make sure that you are playing with good hand position. If you are trying to trill with one finger curved and one finger flat, for instance, it's going to be very hard.

Try trilling fast in small groups (like CDC), then reverse it (DCD), then add a note (CDCD) etc. Keep adding notes in small groups.

You can also try long trills, slowing down, speeding up, using different combinations of arm weight, rotation, and finger motion, to see if you can find what works for you.

Don't get frustrated. Just practice trills a little bit everyday, and they will get better! Have fun!!

-- Julie2 (, April 05, 2001.

I'm not a teacher, but I play the harpsichord, and the literature requires trills of all sorts. Recently I was helping my 10 year-old practice a minuet for a recital at the end of her first year of study. She recognized the need for a cadential trill although it wasn't in her beginning book--she hears a lot of this sort of thing. She tried, too hard, and it didn't go well. I explained to her that she should continue to feel the music, and the trill would be like a sneeze: harder NOT to do it than to do it. This worked for her, and far more advanced students at the recital couldn't do trills half so well. You could try starting with simple cadential trills like this. Also: relax. Trills don't really take strength--even on the piano. Think lightness, finesse, elegance. Slow down, maybe--they're fast but not necessarily as fast as the blur of sound people strive for. Trills are also something you can practice away from the keyboard--drum your fingers when you have a minute, and keep it even. If the trill finishes with a turn, try to visualize how it fits with the rest of the music: like a gymnastic feat a good dismount is half the battle. You could also read up on the forms and practice of ornament--often trills realized in piano editions are too complex or not even historically accurate. Listen to music that uses trills so you can internalize the need for them. And enjoy. I find even a simple trill has non-players gasping at your keyboard prowess!

-- J. Rowland (, April 06, 2001.

Thanks. I'll try the suggestions!! :)

-- Julie (, April 06, 2001.

Based on your description of your sound during a trill, I bet the advice above is right on target (playing at the escapement level or "bump" instead of all the way down, and using a LIGHT touch). Trills SEEM so hard, so we really WORK THEM, but as ornaments they need to sound effortless and gracefully decorate the melody or cadence.

Imagine a hummingbird's wings -- incredibly fast and controlled movement, but with a lightness and airy quality. Use this imagery when drumming your fingers on your legs or on a table.

-- John Bisceglia (, April 07, 2001.


your problem is very common and EVERYBODY (except genius) has it. What helps is if you stop thinking of a trill as something fast, a fast repetition or something like that. Play them as if they were written out 16th notes ,play them slow and stay as CLOSE AS POSSIBLE to the key. You can not stay close enough, you should imagine that you finger tips stick on the keys and then play very slow while you are actualy relaxing your fingers. if you do that every day after a while (1-2 weeks) you won't have problems anymore. One more suggestion: the russion school teaches to play trills in the right hand only with 2-4 (index and ring finger) wherever itis possible. many people start playing their first trills with 2-3, (index and middle finger), thats not a good thing to do.

-- just call me andy (, April 08, 2001.

Wow Andy, that's great. I thought I was just weird to trill with 2 and 4. And I'm not even Russian!! Julie, another thing I thought of. Sometimes I see a trill sign and freak out because that's not very concrete. But if I write out the trill, it's easier, because I am planning out exactly how many notes I'm going to put in the trill. Then I practice the trill with the same number of notes every time. Of course, this doesn't work with longer trills, but it does with short ones. Also, in some music you can sort of ease into a trill, starting slower and gradually speeding up with longer trills (like Romantic music or sometimes in slow Baroque or Classical music). This is easier and makes it sound more musical too.

-- Julie2 (, April 09, 2001.

Andy, how come it's not good to play a trill with 2-3?? I played the Venitian Boat song by Mendelsohnn (sp?) and one of the trills is played with 1-3. I find that an easier way to play them, and it sounds better. Last night I tried 2-4; that worked pretty well, too. All of the advice you've all given me is very helpful!! I'm going to print it off so I won't forget it. :) Thanks~


-- Julie (, April 09, 2001.

I tell my students not to let the "TRILL!!!" sign serve as a panic button. The suggestion above to write out the trill is good. You need to know exactly what notes you will play, and exactly what the rhythm pattern is going to be. I have my students break down trills to the lowest rhythmic level possible - groups of 2 or 3 notes - then move to the next level - 4-8 notes, etc., until they're able to incorporate them into the actual tempo. I have also used word patterns that match the trill's rhythm, and shifting accents (every 2, every 3, every 4 notes, for example).

-- Jon Ensminger (, April 21, 2001.


Just contributing with an alternative fingering for trills: Try using 1-3, 3-5 and the "ever-changing" trill fingering (especially good with Scarlatti!) that goes 2-3-1-3-2-3-1-3 and so on, depending on how long the trill lasts...

Great suggestions above for practicing trills!

-- Nuno Maulide (, April 26, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ