Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tricky Trills

Question of the day, about tricky trills:

Dear Fluters,
I wonder if anyone has any additional alternate fingerings for trills in the 3rd register: E3 to F#3, G3 to A3, and B3 to C#4.
They occur in a modern piece I'm playing, and they tend to sound uneven, forced, sometimes shrill and plain out of tune.
So I'd appreciate suggestions.
I've already checked out the online flute fingering guide, and been paying attention so that my fingers don't really leave the keys most of the time (or are very close).I'm wondering if adherence to this could also be limiting the trill ability. Any help out there? B.

Dear B.
I think that one of the best books worth buying for any serious flutist is Nestor Herszbaum's book. He gives tons of alternate fingerings for all combinations. It's massive! :>) And easy to use too.

Other advice about fast trills is given in an older article on mine called FAST TRILLS, but I'll add some more information too.

Here are some useful trill fingerings for the notes in question. It would also help to see the exact piece you're working on, to find out which are easiest in situ.

The steps I would take in working out complex trills for an advanced intermediate flutist would be these:

Firstly, and most importantly:
If there is any question of a leak in a pad that's causing you to have to squeeze a key shut, have the flute serviced. You'll be amazed by how easy the hands and arms accomplish tricky trills when a good technician has gotten rid of pad leaks.

1. Learn the piece without adding the trills at first. Focus on the tone quality and intonation of the principle note (without trilling it.)of each section of music. Discover the airspeed, embouchure, air angle and dynamic level, all without trilling. This will prepare the basic pitch and tone and re-balance the hands.

2. Go over the small section of music (two or three notes at a time) that will later contain the trill, but play very slowly, freely, and without tension. Be aware of keeping the arms, hands and shoulders balanced, free of strain, and as relaxed as possible. You can say to the body: "Show me how you'd play this as naturally and as freely as you can." Then let your body respond to show you the easiest way to play.

3. After several practice sessions, and when the piece is very polished, add only a single mordent at first (trill only once) on a trilled pitch. Stay aware of the balance of the hands in holding the flute steady, and easily.

4. Experiment with the angle of the air to keep the single, slow-motion mordent in tune. Listen carefully to the pitch of the mordent (single trill) in slow motion. Hold each note out clearly and listen.

5. Try different trill fingerings and listen to each. If another trill fingering is better in tune, create the air angle that will improve the tuning of the trill fingering that is easiest.

6. Practice the trills away from the piece, with eyes closed, perhaps, to better sense any additional instability or tension that can be stabilized and relaxed further.

Hope this helps.
Best, Jen Cluff :>)
Comments (5)
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any good fingerings for going from high F# to high A on the piccolo?

Saturday, May 08, 2010 7:51:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Do you mean LEAPING quickly from F#3 to A3, or tremelo from F#3 to A3?

Saturday, May 08, 2010 9:37:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Tremelo chart for 3rd octave is:


Saturday, May 08, 2010 9:39:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are looking to buy a flute for our grand daughter. We have come across a Zeus brand. I don't see where you mention it on your site. Are you familar with this brand and if so would you recommend it?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 11:54:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Judy,
I would hesitate before purchasing an unknown brand. There are new brand names every year that are essentially cheaply made copies of actual flute brands. Every year a new dozen appear with strange names. They have no track record, and no guarentee to perform as an established brand name flute. If you want quality, go for flute brands that have a proven track record. A flute should last for ten years minimum (wear and tear and annual repair).
These cheap flutes usually last less than a year and then are very difficult to get quality repairs on as the metal is soft and ill-fitted.
Check with a good flute technician for the longest lasting brand names.
Cheap flutes are like cheap watches. When they wear out, they are not worth anything on resale. Good quality flutes can be re-sold for 60% of what you paid for them, which is where the real savings actually is.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 12:06:00 PM


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