Piano Ornaments ~ Trills



WRONG – this post, and others in this category, isn’t about ornaments at Christmas but about those funny looking marks over your music and how to play them.

The trill (or shake, as it was known from the 16th until the 19th century) is a musical ornament consisting of a rapid alternation between two adjacent notes, usually a semitone or tone apart, which can be identified with the context of the trill.

A trill provides rhythmic interest, melodic interest, and harmonic interest. Sometimes it is expected that the trill will end with a turn or some other variation. Such variations are often marked in the music.

A trill in your music can look like this trill

Or like this tr~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Trills can be played differently, depending on the period in which the composer was living so it is important to know the time period of your piece.

Baroque trills (aka shakes in this time period) have several ways to be played as shown in this chart:

A table depicting how to perform different types of trills when playing music from the Baroque period (1600-1750).[4] Note the similarity between the symbol for trill and that of the mordent.

A table depicting how to perform different types of trills (or shakes) when playing music from the Baroque period (1600-1750). 

The Baroque trill continuing through Mozart’s time usually begins on the note above the main note.

In music after the time of Mozart, the trill usually begins on the principal note.

Often, your music will have suggestions about how they should be played written above the music.  If not, ASK!

A really good book which explains about the trill and other ornaments is this one, available as a reference book in the O’Connor Music Studio:




Some trill exercises:

Questions?  Write them down and don’t forget to ask at your next lesson!

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