Joseph Mendoes - cello expert

How to Trill on the Cello

Learn how to trill correctly on the cello

In this video, Prof. Mendoes teaches you how to trill on the cello the correct way.

Released on June 6, 2018

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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

Hello. This is Joseph Mendoes with another video for Today, we're going to talk about trills. Now, Trills, I know it is difficult for a lot of people, but usually there's one problem with the trill that's causing people to have difficulties and that's that they're overemphasizing the putting down of the finger instead of emphasizing the lifting of the finger. Now, there's a little exercise that helps you to get this lifting of the finger to happen more quickly and more articulately to get your trills to feel nice and light and fast. All you're going to do is take your first finger and put it somewhere in here on the cello. It doesn't even have into be in tune or an actual note or anything. And certainly would help if it is. I'm going to play a G on the D-string. So, I'm going to play that note right there, so the third position G on the D-string with my first finger. Now, you just play that note back and forth a little bit, and then at some point, you play a really fast A-flat, very lightly just with your second finger. And you do that until you get comfortable with just really lightly tapping that note, and not really, you know, feeling like that you're having to pound it. You shouldn't pound at all. It should be a very nice slight tap. In fact, you should be able to hear without the bow. It's not a pound at all. It's a very fast finger that's just very lightly tapping on the string, that's all.

Now, once you get that kind of one oscillation done, now you're going to add one more and make it two. So... Now, once you get comfortable with that, add one more and make it three, and then so on. Four, five, six. But really what I found is that most students when they get to three, they're fine after that. Then the trill just kinda takes off. Now, one more thing about trills here. I'm sorry. I skipped ahead. Do that exercise then between all the fingers.

So do it between one and two, do it between two and three, three and four. Two and four, one and three, and then one and four. And I think that'll cover all of them. And then you'll have a really nice easy trill in at least the kind of a comfortable position. Once you move into other positions, the general mechanic doesn't change. So your approach doesn't change, but maybe your arm position will have to change, or other things will have to change a little bit. But once you get that basic mechanic down, it's pretty to translate it to pretty much anywhere in the cello.

So, yeah, it's really about that lifting. And you'll notice too when I do it, that I'm not actually keeping my finger really close to the string. And I know some cellos advocate, and some do it really well. Rostropovich did that really well. He did a trill where he kept the finger very close to the string. And I know really wonderful teachers that teach that. I don't teach it myself because I found that it's more of an anomaly to find somebody who trills really well by keeping their finger close to the string.

That's more of a strange thing to find... The other way to find people who trill who keep the finger a little bit higher above the string. And I know that common wisdom suggested if you leave it close to the string then you can oscillate quicker. But I found that that's not really how the impulses work all the time. That sometimes it works better if you're lifting it higher. And that's why I always kind of start off that way as a baseline with the trill and I think it works best for most people actually. So do it that way.

Yeah. And then just one more thing about pitch. All right. Sometimes trills can sound a little bit flat, and maybe mine in this video sound a little bit flat. I wasn't... So I was paying more attention in teaching and maybe not on the pitch. Maybe they were in tune. I don't know.

But the important thing with pitch and trills has a lot to do with whether or not that string is getting down. Now, I play on gut strings which are pretty low tension and on trills, it's pretty easy for me to get the string down, so I don't really have to worry about this. But on steel strings, sometimes there's a problem where trills sound just a little bit flat. Or not even flat but just kind of a little bit dull. And that's because the strings aren't getting all the way down, and so it might be a little bit flat, just a tiny bit. The easy way to correct that is not to actually try to force the finger down. That's the worst thing you can do because, again, that's going to ruin the whole mechanic of the trill here. The important thing to do is to make sure that you just play a little bit higher on that trill. You just extend a little bit further than you would, so you're compensating for the fact that the string isn't getting down all the way. So you basically just aim a little sharp on the trill.

So, yeah. So that's it. please leave comments on the website underneath this video. Of course, free to leave comments on YouTube if you're watching this on YouTube, but I won't answer them there. I'll answer on the website. So yeah, that's it. Just a brief reminder that I do teach online lessons. I don't think I have any current openings, but if you're interested, go ahead and contact me anyway because there might be some way to work something out. And yeah, that's it. This is Joseph Mendoes for
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