Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about which fingers work best for playing trills on the piano. Sometimes people see trills and they think they should just play as many notes as possible. I’ve talked before about how trills must be measured. You have to know exactly how many notes you’re playing in a trill. Even though when you listen to a trill it sounds like a free form explosion of notes going back and forth, trills have to be measured so you know exactly how many notes you play. Otherwise, ending a trill is impossible because you’re leaving it to chance whether you end up on the right note or not!
You don’t always get to choose your trill fingers.
There are some instances, for example in Bach Fugues, where you must trill with four and five. These are the worst fingers to trill with! Try to avoid four and five as trill fingers. A lot of people think three and two are the best trill fingers. And indeed, three and two are pretty strong trill fingers. But the best trill fingers are actually three and one! Three and one are the strongest fingers. Your thumb is the strongest finger and the third finger is probably your second strongest finger. Three and one are terrific for trills. Four and two could work nicely as well. There are a lot of different possibilities. Three and one are great when you have that possibility. Three and two are good too. It depends where you’re coming from and where you’re going in your score to determine what the right fingering is. Not only that but if you have other lines within the same hand, sometimes as I said, in contrapuntal writing in fugues particularly, you might not have much of a choice as to which fingers to use for trills.
I’m going to give you one final trill fingering tip.
I’m going to show you something that’s really interesting and it ties right in with the idea of measuring your trills. If you measure your trills, you might want to try alternating three, one, three, two. By using those fingers, you actually reduce the load of the trill to three fingers so none of the fingers have to work quite as hard. Not only that but it helps you to measure your trills. Even if you don’t end up using three, one, three, two as trill fingerings, it will help you to make sure that you’re playing the right number of notes in your trills, which is the most important thing!
You never want to think of trills as something abstract from music.
Just imagine that every single note is written out and play it as it’s written in the score. If you’re figuring out your own trills, find something you can play reliably. Don’t worry about trying to make the fastest trill. What’s important is that it’s musical, repeatable, and dependable. If you can use three and one, or at least three and two, you’re going to be way ahead of the game. I would like all of you to try three, one, three, two, as well and let me know how it works for you! I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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