Thursday, May 10, 2007

Flute Trills & how to read and play them

Dear Fluters,

Jen's new trill page: How to play trills for flute in pdf: How to read trills in flute music

Update: 2017  See: new blog post on
Ornaments: Grace Notes, Appogiaturas, Trills, Grupetti
2007: This morning I read an email query about a piece of music where the young flutist could not figure out how to read the trill markings, and which note to trill to. This is a topic usually covered in private lessons with an experienced flute teacher, as there are many rules for trilling on the flute, depending on what period of history the flute music was written.

I answered the trill question, and then went to google and tried to look up a "how to read trills" page online; unfortunately, there wasn't a comprehensive "how to trill for flute" page that I could readily suggest. I tried the search terms:

Trill "how to";
Flute Trills;
Reading Trills;
Ornaments and how to execute trills;
Playing correct trills;
description of reading trill notation;
Yes I tried all sorts of other terms in my hunt.
Result? Nada.....d'oh! :>)

So I created my own page for fluteplayers on "how to perform trills on the flute".

Here then, are all the most useful "how to trill" pages and links that I've created or found, including trill charts, books of trills, and references for analyzing trills based on the history of music and musical ornaments:

Jen's new trill page: How to play trills for flute in pdf:
How to read trills in flute music

For further more intricate trilling information, including trill terminations, trill length, and trill styles and counting trills etc. see the trill pages in the $7 old book (don't like this book for my own students, but the trill info. can't be beat): Rubank Method Advanced Vol. 1:
You can buy the Rubank Flute Advanced Method book almost anywhere.

Online Flute Trill charts:

Simple one page flute trill chart by Mark Thomas, printable pdf.

Extensive trill charts of flute fingerings from Woodwind Fingering Guide

Best book for flute trill fingerings, tremelo fingerings, and other alternate flute fingerings: Herszbaum's Flute Fingering Book.

The Grupetto and how to play it. This is another Baroque ornament that you might run into. These grupetto pages are useful for printing out (pdf).

How and when to use alternate fingerings for flute
and trills in Prokofiev and the Ibert Flute Concerto

List of best flute fingering charts.

Extensive historical explanations of how to execute ornaments such as trills, appogiatura, grace notes, grupetti, turns, mordents and other Baroque ornamentation.
Music Theory Online.

Hope this helps the next flute student looking for information online about how to play flute trills correctly.

Best and happy May to you all,
Jen Cluff :>)
Comments (8)
Blogger Sheila said...

Ah, very clever! Yeah, trills can be rather tricky, and having a good sheet about them to keep you from learning it wrong is awesome. Thanks!

Sunday, May 13, 2007 3:39:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Sheila,
Yes, I had another student ask about the more complex rules of trilling and ornaments, so I just wanted to state that the complex rules can be found at this link:

I'm still seeking a better hands-on source for flutists of all the trill rules (starting on upper note? Starting on given note? etc.) but so far, the darned Rubank Advanced book is the only printed source that has all the examples in an easy-to-learn format.
I'll dig that out for my students.

Sunday, May 13, 2007 3:46:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jen,

All your pdf files come out in hieroglyphics on my Mac OS X machine. Maybe something with your font, but I assumer you are creating them on Windows, and not sure why, but I just get junk. Any ideas how we Mac folks can view your .pdf files? They're supposed to be system compliant. THanks, Marcia

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 1:34:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Marcia,
Sorry to hear there is a conflict with the fonts I used and Mac OS.
I created the documents with Sibelius music writing software, and then saved them using primo-pdf (a free pdf document creator)
I tried to google the problem you describe and found the links below.
But I bet the only way for you to read these pdfs (and their strange fonts) on your Mac OS would be to have another computer reformat them for you. I don't know anything, personally, about how to solve it. So sorry.
Links below may be of some help, or perhaps another reader might suggest a solution:
Best, Jen
Sibelius site shows that their latest versions have addressed a Mac reading problem:
Mac OS X: Fixed a problem with PDF file opening where files contained fonts
Jen writes:
This led me to look for other articles where the problem of reading PDFs with Mac OS caused difficulties with unusual fonts (such as Sibelius made into pdfs).

Links to problems with with Mac OS reading PDFs which are font related:,1895,1836105,00.asp

Thursday, July 19, 2007 11:19:00 PM

Blogger Mark said...

Jenn! Hi! I've been reading your stuff forever and ever now but I was shocked to read your comment regarding Armstrong Flutes (re: don't buy the flute, but check out the chart)! Was this intended as a knock on Armstrong?

I've been playing an Armstrong for about 10 years now and I love it! My teacher plays an Armstrong too ~ and I love her's as well (we are actually performing Mendelssohn's Sym. 4 tonight with a local youth orchestra on our respective Armstrongs)!

Would you please give an explanation to your comment? Personally I find Armstrong flutes to be excellent ~ at least my own. Now I know it is a step up instrument, but I am an organist by profession ~ and liked the price range at the time.

Then again, please forgive my question if you meant: now read the chart but don't run and buy a new flute ;)

Thanks! And fantastic fantastic fantastic stuff you produce! All very excellent and unlike any other flute resource on the net! Or anywheres else!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011 2:31:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Mark,
Yes, I should remove that comment because there are some good Armstrong flutes out there in the big world.
However, in my experience, Armstrongs, although good for their price range, would not be in my list for best flutes for my students to invest in. There have been so many improvements to flutes since the 1980s that older companies like Armstrong have been left behind in terms of innovation. But if you have a good one, and your teacher has a good one, then power to you.
Best, Jen

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 6:39:00 PM

Blogger Marmaduke Soddy said...

Your page on trills is fine for music written after 1800. Before then, trills generally started on the upper note. See the literature of the period, e.g. Quantz, 'On Playing the Flute'.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 2:14:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Marmaduke. I'm sure that your comment will help others who are reading this.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 10:19:00 PM


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