The Flute Show - flute expert

Great Flute Exercise for Trills

Develop your trills easily with this flute exercise.

In this video, Florence tackles trills on the flute, and gives you a simple, yet effective, exercise to "warm-up" with trills in your everyday practice.

Released on October 1, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Robert: Hi, welcome to The Flute Show with Florence Estrin here on I'm Robert Estrin. Good to have you. We have a viewer question today, "How do you approach trills on the flute?" This is an excellent question. Not that long ago, I did a trill video on piano, and there are many parallels between working on trills on the keyboard as well as wind instruments. But you're going to find some real insights that will translate to your instrument. Thank you so much, Florence. Let's hear about trills on the flute.

Florence: Thank you, Robert. I want to show today, basically a flute trill warmup. I like to call it that because I hate to think of it as practicing trills, because when I was given this by your uncle, Harvey Estrin, one of the great flute teachers of all time. He showed me this exercise, and he called it a flute warm up exercise. That gave me the feeling of, "Oh, it was just to keep my fingers relaxed and get them moving and doing things in a relaxed way." It's interesting because this was just one of the warm ups I did every day, year in, year out.

It was several years later, probably 10 years later, I was playing a rehearsal of Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony. We got to a part in the slow movement and there's a flute solo, and I played it. After I played that, there was a pause in the rehearsal. The conductor was working with the strings, and the first oboist says to me, "How do you do that?" I'm like, "What, what are you talking about?" She said, "That's so hard. How do you do that? Your two fingers doing that?" I was like, "I just, yeah" Then I thought about it, it's like, "Well, I've been practicing this in my flute trill exercise for about 10 years every day."

And so I thought I'd share the exercise, and there's a visual of this. Basically, all the trills are half-step trills except for the B to C#, which is in that Mendelssohn excerpt. What's great about it is that you just try to be relaxed. When you're thinking in terms of playing a trill, instead of just thinking of going back and forth between the notes, just take your time and think of it in groups of three. It keeps your fingers more even. That's a really good way to practice it, start slowly, thinking threes. And then after a while you don't have to be thinking about a pattern so much, but you just can get your fingers working. So, the exercise.

Robert: It kind of covers all the different combinations?

Florence: Well, not every single trill that exists on the flute, but it covers every finger pretty much, that you might be using one at a time or two at a time. There are some other more complicated trills in the third octave. This is just a really great way to get your fingers used to trilling. And because you do it in such a way where you can either measure it in terms of time, so that you're concentrating on how you end your trill. Or not, especially when you're starting. Don't worry about that so much, just try to keep it even.

I remember when I was in college, and we were reading through an overture in orchestra. The whole time there were a lot of trills going on, and the first clarinetist was playing these trills. She was a good friend of mine, and the whole time I'm thinking, "Why is she doing that?" because some trills would be labored and others would be as fast as she could possibly play them. It was all within the same tempo of music, so it sounded really silly. It was just wrong that they would not be the same.

It was kind of funny because right after the rehearsal she comes to me, and she says "Did you hear how fast I did this particular trill?" And I'm like, "Yeah, but it didn't work, because then your other trills weren't matching that trill." And she went, "Oh." Then she started thinking about how to practice her trills so that instead of just trying to be ... As a matter of fact, when she was trilling very, very fast it sounded kind of maniacal and not even. It's not a matter of just how fast you play a trill. You want to really make sure it works with the tempo of the music, and it's consistent with the other trills in that same tempo.

Robert: Exactly. I think the mistake a lot of people make when they see trills they think it's just like some fluttering of notes. They don't realize that it's really just music, and it's just a shorthand instead of having to write out all those notes.

Florence: Right, exactly.

Robert: So if you think of it that way. That's a really interesting technique. I really appreciate that. We thank the viewers for the questions, keep them coming in here at The Flute Show, Florence Estrin. I'm Robert Estrin. Thanks for joining us here on
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Nuria on May 29, 2020 @8:28 am PST
I'm just curious to know whether she's using an open-holed flute with plugs in some of the fingers. When I studied many years ago, closed-hole flutes seemed to be much less accepted than they seem to be now. Now, I just watched this video with what seemed to be like a couple of plugs only, and I wondered what's the expert's opinion about this.
Sebastian on August 9, 2018 @10:18 am PST
Great Video! Will you also do one on microtonal trills or trills between Alternate fingerings? If not, i have a Question About that: Will a trill on the D#-key while playing an E in the lowest octave be noticeable? Or in other words: Approximately how many Cents difference will there be between the two notes?
Laura on February 20, 2016 @5:20 pm PST
This is such a great video, thank you so much! So helpful. What is outro song that is played at the very end of this video? (The song with flute and piano, it is quite nice!)
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on February 22, 2016 @8:45 am PST
Glad you like it Laura! The piece Florence is playing at the end of the video is the beautiful Faure's Sicilienne for flute and piano:
Laura on February 25, 2016 @9:17 pm PST
Thank you!
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on February 26, 2016 @10:03 am PST
You are very welcome! Enjoy your flute playing
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