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#1467190 - 07/02/10 07:32 PM How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills?
chueh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/08
Posts: 85
I don't remember how I started playing trills. I have some intermediate/early advanced transfer students who have trouble playing trills. Their fingers seem stuck together. They have finger separation problems. It's mainly physical problem. I told them to relax the wrist, hand, and fingers, while playing trills. Their fingers cannot relax when playing trills. I even asked them to NOT to think fast when playing trills. Instead, think of them being slow and evenly spaced out the two notes.

However, no success at all with their trills. Their trills are always uneven and fall short. They cannot carry the trills long until the next notes arrive.

Would anyone share with me how you tackle your students' trill problem, and how to tell them to practice? thanks

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#1467199 - 07/02/10 07:48 PM Re: How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills? [Re: chueh]
Urtext Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/11/10
Posts: 12
Try rhythyms, and accents.

Ex. (numbers represent fingers)
1 2 1, 2 1 2, 1 2 1
3 4 3, 4 3 4, 3 4 3

On each of the bolded numbers, ask them play the given note accented. The result will be a triplet-like figure with the first note accented for each set. You can also ask them to pause between the triplet figures. Hope it works!

Thanks to my teacher. :]
Music, is Language.

#1467510 - 07/03/10 09:48 AM Re: How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills? [Re: Urtext]
Gerard12 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 776
Loc: South Carolina
I usually insist on practice with slower trill speeds at first
(8ths instead of 16th's, 16ths instead of 32nds, or something similar) then gradually move up through the faster note values.

Especially for the less-coordinated kids and young adults who have a tendency to overgrip and tense up when confronted with faster passages. Plus, you don't get those maddening tempo fluctuations.
Piano performance and instruction (former college music professor).

#1467600 - 07/03/10 01:18 PM Re: How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills? [Re: Gerard12]
chueh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/08
Posts: 85
Great advice. Thanks.

Urtext's suggestion reminds me one more thing though: I know that a good pianist needs to listen and be able to hear the subtlety. I am not sure how I am able to train my transfer students to listen and to hear things. I mean, too many students just play the piano without listening to music recordings or going to concerts. I explain to these intermediate/early advanced transfer students that playing triplets with trills against duplets with the melodic line makes the music more flowing, interesting, and less rigid like 1 note against 2 or 4. Of course it is easier to align notes up evenly. However, I have a difficulty to get my message across, despite the fact that I play both very slow and fast pace for them to see. Teenagers and adults are all so confused about 3 against 2 notes. It's much easier to just ask them to play anyway that's simple for them to play. Nevertheless, if I don't train them now, how are they going to pick it up later once they are confined with ONE single pattern or way..

#1468747 - 07/05/10 04:50 PM Re: How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills? [Re: chueh]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
This is not a problem, as I see it. Trills are never supposed to be
played perfectly evenly, that's beginner-level playing. There's
nothing worse, in my opinion, than seeing some top concert
pianist playing a long trill in perfect evenness. That's disgraceful
playing at that level.

Edited by Gyro (07/05/10 04:51 PM)

#1469951 - 07/07/10 02:50 PM Re: How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills? [Re: Gyro]
cardguy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/17/08
Posts: 977
I had a terrible time learning to trill as a returning adult. This mystified me as I have pretty fast hands and am generally pretty dexterous. But the harder I tried, the worse I did.

Of course the problem as we all know was tension. I think just about anyone with average hands can learn to trill. The key in my opinion is to learn what it feels like to be utterly relaxed.

Trill slowly and without the slightest tension. if tension creeps in stop, shake hands out, take a deep breath and try again. All the fancy drills in the world won't work 'til tension is gone...

All just my opinion of course.

I'd just like to add that learning to trill has been extremely satisying and fun. I still tense up sometimes, but once one learns what that relaxed feeling is, it gets easier and easier to find it again.

Edited by cardguy (07/07/10 02:53 PM)

#1470261 - 07/08/10 01:31 AM Re: How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills? [Re: cardguy]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: South Florida
For me, as a teacher, the problem is not so much with trills themselves as with what is happening in the other hand while the trill is happening.

There are measured trills, which are more basic and can be used to stabilize the beat when something complicated is happening in the other hand. (I'm not getting into situations where a trill is happening with two fingers while another finger is being held down.)

The unmeasured trill is the problem, and in my experience people seem to get close to being able to do it, then they have a breakthrough.

I clearly remember struggling with a trill in the RH while playing an Alberti bass pattern in the LH. My RH sounded spastic.

Later, I remember being able to play the same thing effortlessly. To this day I don't remember how I broke through that wall. I do have some ideas, if you are interested, which might help your student(s).
Piano Teacher

#1470350 - 07/08/10 08:18 AM Re: How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills? [Re: Gary D.]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12397
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I remember how I was finally able to play the unmeasured trill. I started out with the measured trill, of course, and continued to do that for quite some time. But as a child I knew that was not the same way my teacher played it, even though she said the measured trill was OK. So I just practiced it at home a lot, and I remember the thing that helped me do it was similar to trying to sing two notes at once in my head. It's impossible, and so you simply go back and forth between the two pitches very quickly. I never have had a problem since (it also helped me do trills in singing!).

It worked for me, but I'm not sure such a thing would be easy to convey to someone else. Lots of slow practice with gradually increasing speed while not freezing up is probably the most efficient way.
private piano/voice teacher FT
Petrof 9'2, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

#1470374 - 07/08/10 09:15 AM Re: How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills? [Re: Morodiene]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3306
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I remember the thing that helped me do it was similar to trying to sing two notes at once in my head. It's impossible, and so you simply go back and forth between the two pitches very quickly. I never have had a problem since

Trills on trombone are similar. Since you don't have valves, and can't move the slide fast enough, you must do it all with your lips. Most people never learn them, and they are one of those signature elements that forever separate the pro from the amateur.

The reason is (at least, IMO) that the strategy for learning is wrong. The common strategy assumes that a trill is just a fast flexibility - it differs only quantitatively, not qualitatively. So the way to learn it is to start slow and over time get incrementally faster.

On trombone, this pretty much never works. The pros think it does, because they can slow down a trill to any speed desired. That's because they don't realize they are doing something qualitatively different. The mechanics are different - what works at speed can be slowed down, but what works slow cannot be sped up beyond a certain point. Very much like the concept of speed wall on piano.

What works on trombone is much like you describe on voice. You attempt to play a note between the two you can lip, and by trial and error you hit on the trick of letting it flutter rather than forcing it back and forth. This is a case where too much slow work can make it hard to find that trick, because you become so well practised you have trial but no error. Error is your raw material here, because your normal approach isn't working and will never work. (sometimes after a long period, frustration gets to the point where you do make the error and do learn the new mechanics - and are forever convinced your approach worked)

On piano I don't know how different the mechanics are. If the mechanics of a trill are sufficiently different from the mechanics of rapidly alternating fingers, then you probably need a different approach than slow play. Perhaps the chord attack/phase separation approach described by chang and others?
gotta go practice

#1470379 - 07/08/10 09:24 AM Re: How to Students' Uneven and troubled Trills? [Re: TimR]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12397
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I recently worked on the 3rd movement of the Waldstein, which has a ton of trills toward the end. The hard part was coordinating them with the melody to be played also in the RH while the LH played triplets. Even though the trills in the earlier sections didn't give me much trouble, the added complexity here did, and so I had to resort to doing measured trills for a while under tempo. However, after doing this slowly, it was quite easy to speed up and do them as unmeasured.

I think the mechanics of a piano are such that slow practice doing them evenly/measured really helps. The Hanon exercises fro trills is also very good to help learn this because again, it is measured.
private piano/voice teacher FT
Petrof 9'2, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11


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