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How To Play Trills and Embellishments

Lisa Witt - Dec 19, 2018

Trills and embellishments can be very daunting if you don’t understand them. They don’t have to be though. In fact, trills can be really fun to play and make your playing sound extra fancy. While we usually see these in classical music, you can try adding them into popular music as well!

 

Let’s begin with defining what exactly a trill is. A trill is just a rapid back and forth movement between two notes. They can be slow or fast, long or short. Sometimes you see them written in note for note by the composer and other times it is up to the performer to create a trill based on what they feel would best compliment the music they are playing.


Trills are great not only because they sound fancy but because they present a fabulous opportunity to develop dexterity and build up your hand strength. A couple tips for developing your trill skills are:

 

Tip #1: Select your fingers. Sometimes the approach to the trill requires a very specific fingering. If you have the freedom to choose your fingering select the fingers that are closest in length. This will allow a better wrist rotation and help you to play faster without fatiguing. Your 2 and 4 fingers are usually close in length so they would make a great starting point to try your trills.

 

Tip #2: Use your fallboard or a flat surface to “play” your trills on so that you can get a feel for what feels best for you!

 

Tip #3: Relax and breathe. Don’t get stressed out about the trill because it will cause you to become tense. Try taking a breath BEFORE you play your trill so that you can begin the trill on your exhale which will help you to relax.

 

Tip #4: Practice trills slowly and work up your speed. Use that wrist to help with the movement!

 

Tip #5: Allow yourself to develop variances in speed as you play longer trills. You can start slow, build some speed and then taper off toward the end. This will make the trill sound more musical.

 

 

Happy practicing!

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Hi, I'm Lisa Witt

Lisa has taught in a variety of settings from beginners just getting started to recording artists preparing their songs for the road. While her background is classical, she loves helping students play the music they love by ear and is excited to be a part of YOUR journey.