Flute trills

Flute trills are common in music written for flutists. Dainty flutterings of whole tones and half tones, these can be gentle undulations or jackhammer-like key smashing.

Flute trills are marked with a "tr" above the note. Trills start on the note indicated and go back and forth to the note above, either a whole step or a half step, depending on the key of the piece.

You may occasionally see a flat, sharp, or natural sign above the "tr" marking. In this case, the note being trilled to will raised or lowered a half step. The natural sign would remove the flat or sharp accidental that occurs in the key signature.

The speed of trills is related to the speed of the music. If the piece is marked "Andante," don't play the trill as fast as you can humanly move your finger. A rough guide is to trill about four times as fast as the value of the note.

If the note is a quarter note, trill approximately at the speed of 16th notes.

In fast and furious passages, feel free to trill as fast as you can.

Trill endings...
Frequently trills will include a "turned" ending. This is commonly found in music of the Baroque era. At the end of the trill, play one note lower, then back to the starting note.

The turn may be marked with a sideways "S" or it may not--simply left to the flutist's knowledge of performance practice.

The sideways "S" may have flats, sharps, or natural signs above or below it, just as the trill mark can. Just as with the trill, play the note flatted, sharped, or natural, depending on the key signature.

Because flute trills need to be played quickly, and some fingerings are bit awkward, such as from D-flat to D, alternate fingerings are often employed. These fingerings compromise the tone and pitch of the note, but since they are played very fast, this isn't as noticeable as the clumsiness of the real fingering.

There are many books available with flute trill fingerings and alternate fingerings, as well as some great on-line sources.

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