trill vs tremolo, question about the difference

Posted by: ShiroKuro

trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 04/30/05 08:03 PM

I was re-reading some of Chang yesterday and reading his ideas about how to practice tremolos inspired me to check the definition of trill and tremolo in my music dictionary. Here's what I got:

Tremolo: on keyboards, the rapid alternation of two or more notes.

Trill: an ornament consisting of the rapid alternation of two adjacent notes- the main note and the note a half or a whole step above it.

(courtesy of Hal Leonard publishing)

So by this definition, the main differences between a trill and a tremolo would be:

1) a tremolo is written out note for note (but that's not right 100% of the time, is it?) whereas a trill is not written out, since it's an ornament. (when a trill is written out, it tends to be because the editor has included that information to assist the student). Is this accurate?

2) a tremolo uses notes that are not adjacent, and often is made up of octaves (is that right?)

The definition from my dictionary is pretty basic, so would anyone like to add anything about trills and tremolos to flesh this out? For example, a trill often (though not always) appears as only a portion of one bar (maybe a quarter note or less and then the trill ends/resolves and you move on to the rest of the bar) whereas a tremolo tends to be sustained over a longer period (one entire measure.) Is that correct?

Anything else? I thought I knew what trills and tremolos are, but now I'm not so sure! Also, I've been spending a lot of time looking at the scores for Bach's Inventions, and the text I have includes lots of information about ornaments and Bach's use of different one (trills, turns etc) so between that and all the pieces I've played that have trills, I feel more comfortable with my understanding of them, but I don't think I've played anything with a tremolo in it, so if anyone has some examples (piece X bar Y) that would be great too! Thanks!
Posted by: ShiroKuro

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 04/30/05 08:17 PM

Oops, I just remembered that at least one piece I play does have a tremolo: the end of George Winston's Variations on Pachelbel's Canon. And it is not written out, it's displayed with notation, here's a bar:



So that's the tremolo notation (duh.) And this is indeed not played using the adjacent notes. Anyway, I still would like some more info and comments from anyone who has something to add about trill and tremolos. Thanks!
Posted by: Suz

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 04:41 AM

Hi ShiroKuro,
I think whether something is called a trill vs. tremolo may be a result of the notatation in the score as much as anything. But I tend to think of trills as an ornament to a musical line, whereas tremolo is either an accompaniment figure and/or (in piano) used as a device to increase the feeling of sustain. There probably are lots of exceptions! In string music, where you don't have the sustain problem, tremolo can create different effects. If played quietly, it gives a "shimmery" quality. If played loudly, it gives a feeling of excitement (and makes your arm tired!). Now that I think about it, this could be true for piano as well. I like your posts very much--they make me think!
Posted by: Prophetic

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 05:01 AM

This may be complete n00b, but I've never run across a tremelo, how exactly do you play them?
Posted by: signa

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 07:39 AM

a trill usually means to play 2 adjacent notes rapidly (one of which as the main note to be trilled), while a tremolo means a pair of 2 non-adjacent notes, such as the most common ones:

octave: C-C1, B-B1, etc.
6th: C-A, G-E, etc.
3rd: C-E, F-B, etc.

usually, tremolos appear in squence, which would be played mostly in fast tempo to get a 'trill' like effect. an example is Beethoven 'Tempest' sonata's 3rd movement bar 50-54, 83-86, and etc. while RH tremolos are in octave. another example is 'Pathetique' 1st movement bar 33-49 LH tremolos in octave.
Posted by: ShiroKuro

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 07:51 AM

Prophetic, no nOOb-yness whatsoever! I'm not even sure what that means, maybe we can cover that next!

In Winston's version of the Canon, the tremolos are played as thirds, fingers one and three (at least, that's how I play them!) If it's an octave, of course fingers 1 and 5. Chang makes reference to... was it Pathetique maybe? Anyway, another one of LVB's that uses the tremolo in a slow movement (even tho a tremolo is not itself slow) and I believe those are in octaves.

So Signa, then the one-line definition would be that tremolos are non-adjacent, where as trills are adjacent (ok, that's more than one line, but it's meant to be short and sweet). Is there any other really significant thing missing from this?

Of course, as Suz pointed out, its notation, because the actual way of writing on the score is different. I should post another image, but just in case someone (besides me) is getting confused, a trill is generally written as a horizonatal squiggly line above the staff, and a tremolo is written onto the note itself, so it exists as part of the staff (see the image in my post above).
Posted by: signa

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 07:59 AM

exactly, one doesn't really write out a trill (assuming you know how to play it), while a tremolos is fully written out as part of notation of the music.

be aware though that tremolos need some forearm rotation and free wrist to play while your fingers remain still, or else your hands will get fatigue pretty soon. but playing trills in most cases just need fast fingers.
Posted by: ShiroKuro

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 08:17 AM

I had a lot of trouble with the tremolos in the Winston piece, and they go on 2 per measure, for 8 measures!!! Actually, I still have trouble with fatigue for those 8 measures, it's kind of like I can only play that well in the morning when I have a day off.

I wonder if I can get a whammy bar for my piano :p
Posted by: Nina

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 10:19 AM

The tremolos in the George Winston piece are on the same note, IIRC. He wants you to play the same note repeatedly.

The best way to do it is to alternate fingers quickly, usually 2-3-4, or sometimes just 2-3. So in the piece you posted, you'll be just playing C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C followed by B-B-B-B-B-B.

You keep playing them for as long as the duration of the note value--in this case for however long a half-note lasts.

You get a bit more leeway with trills. You can vary the number of notes you can pack in there, you can start with the primary note and trill up to the adjacent, you can start with the note just above the primary and drill down to the primary note, you can hold the primary note a bit longer, then toss the trill in (or vice-versa). How you choose to do a trill depends on the time period and your own aesthetic judgment.

For example, most trills in classical-era music and earlier begin on the note above the primary and go down. There's a lot of debate on how trills are used as ornamentation, what specific composers wanted, what sounds best with what period of music, etc.

I guess my point is that there is a difference between a tremolo and a trill--a trill isn't a tremolo on adjacent notes. The difference is subtle but present. Trills are ornamentation, pure and simple. Tremolos are usually to get a very specific effect, whereas trills "decorate" a primary melody line.

BTW, I've seen tremolos more frequently with chords than with just two notes. I don't know if that's just me, though.
Posted by: tk

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 12:47 PM

Great post, Nina. And, an informative thread altogether.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Nina:
BTW, I've seen tremolos more frequently with chords than with just two notes. I don't know if that's just me, though. [/b]
I am not sure I can picture what you mean. Can you think of a piece as an example of this? How would this work? Would it be rotating between two notes played together as a chord then a third note on its own then back to the two-note chord?

ShiroKuro--I have never seen (at least not that I can recall) the notation on the image you posted. And, my version of Canon in D is different. I will be curious to find out if it indeed signifies a tremolo or if it represents the repetition of the same note, as Nina suggested...?
Posted by: Nina

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 01:37 PM

A notation nit-- a tremolo on the same note is a repetition of the same note.

tk-- thanks! \:\)
Posted by: Rodolpho Portamento Fritzweil

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/01/05 02:26 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by ShiroKuro:
Tremolo: on keyboards, the rapid alternation of two or more notes.

Trill: an ornament consisting of the rapid alternation of two adjacent notes- the main note and the note a half or a whole step above it.

(courtesy of Hal Leonard publishing)

So by this definition, the main differences between a trill and a tremolo would be:

1) a tremolo is written out note for note (but that's not right 100% of the time, is it?) whereas a trill is not written out, since it's an ornament. (when a trill is written out, it tends to be because the editor has included that information to assist the student). Is this accurate?

2) a tremolo uses notes that are not adjacent, and often is made up of octaves (is that right?)

[/b]
To get an idea of tremollos please fast forward to exercise 60 in Hanon's book. Trills can be found in exercise 46.

I found tremollos in the orchestra part of piano reductions of various concerti. The tremollos simulate the fast repeating notes played by the strings.
Posted by: Nina

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/02/05 02:53 AM

tk--

I can't think of a classical piece with tremolos, but I get them a ton with vocal accompaniment. Like Sr. Fritzweil says, they're probably trying to simulate strings, either fast repeats or even just the idea of a note that "fills" the time allotted rather than fading away as a singly- struck piano note or chord does.

If you can imagine those cartoons (like the one about the Canadian Mountie) where the lovely Nell is tied to the train tracks by Snidely Whiplash. Those often have a piano backing that's a minor chord (say a minor 3rd, A-C-E) in the rh and an octave of A's in the lh to denote "sinister and foul deeds." If you go to the piano and play that chord holding your fingers in place somewhat stiffly and rocking your hands back and forth so you are kind of rolling up and down the chord rapidly but evenly one note at a time, you'll get the effect.

My accompaniment of "Cruella de Vil" is chock-full of tremolos, if you're familiar with that song.
Posted by: ShiroKuro

Re: trill vs tremolo, question about the difference - 05/02/05 06:52 AM

Nina!!!!! I'm playing GW's Canon wrong?!!! gyaaaaaaa! This could be very serious indeed... On the other hand, no surprise! Maybe I should actually listen to the CD again...

tk, the version of Pachelbel's Canon (official title "Variations on the Canon") that I'm talking about is arranged by George Winston and is significantly different from most other arrangements. For starters, it's not in D, it's in C-- but don't let that fool anyone into thinking it's easier, I have a standard arrangement that's in D and is much easier to play. Winston's version also has an ending (with the tremolos) that sounds pretty different from other piano arrangements.

BTW, Nina's description of playing a tremolo with the chord A-C-E is the type of thing I was originally thinking of as a tremolo before I started this thread. Obviously that's not the only kind of tremolo, as I'm beginning to realize all too painfully! But rocking or rolling the hand for a tremolo fits my image of "tremolo-esque" more than using fingers 1-3 or 1-2 to rapidly play the same note.

This thread is proving to be even more informative than I had expected! Thanks everyone!