Robert Estrin - piano expert

What Are The BEST Trill Fingers?

Discover the best fingers to use for trills on the piano

In this video, Robert tells you what the best fingers to use for trills on the piano are.

Released on March 17, 2021

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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

Welcome to I'm Robert Estrin. Today the subject, as you might have guessed from the intro, is what are the best trill fingers? Sometimes people see trills and they think, "Oh my gosh, I just got to play as many notes as possible." I've talked before about how trills must be measured. You have to know exactly how many notes you're playing in a trill. Even though when you listen to a trill, it sounds like a free form explosion of notes going back and forth, trills have to be measured so you know exactly how many notes you play. Otherwise, ending a trill is impossible because you're leaving it to chance whether you end up on the right note or not.

What are the best trill fingers? Well, sadly, you don't always have a choice. And there are some instances, for example, in Bach Fugues where the fingers down here are doing something and you must trill with four and five, which is the worst fingers to ever trill with. If you can avoid it, you try to avoid four and five as trill fingers, because they're really difficult to trill. Now, a lot of people will think, "Oh, of course three and two are the best trill fingers." And indeed, three and two are pretty strong trill fingers.

But for those of you who, "I'm trying to guess, what are the strongest trill fingers?" The answer, I'm going to give it to you right now, three and one. Three and one are the strongest fingers. Why? Because your thumb is the strongest finger and the third finger is probably the second strongest finger. Three and one are terrific. Four and two could work nicely, by the way. There are a lot of different possibilities. Three and one are great when you have that possibility. Three and two are good too. It depends where you're coming from and where you're going in your score to determine what the right fingering is. Not only that but if you have other lines within the same hand, sometimes as I said, in contrapuntal writing of Bach and Fugues, you might not have much of a choice as to which fingers to use for trills.

Now, I'm going to give you one final trill fingering tip. And if you've never tried this, I'm going to give you something that's really interesting and it ties right in with the idea of measuring your trills. And if you measure your trills, you might want to try this, which is three, one, three, two.

By using those fingers, you actually reduce the load of the trill to three fingers so none of the fingers have to work quite as hard because you're giving it a break. Not only that but it helps you to measure trills. Even if you don't end up using three, one, three, two as trill fingerings, it will help you to make sure that you're playing the right number of notes in your trills, which is the most important thing.

You never want to think of trills as something abstract from music. Just imagine that every single note is written out and just play it as it's written in the score. If you're figuring out your own trills, find something you can play reliably. Don't worry about trying to make the fastest trill. What's important is that it's musical, it's repeatable and dependable. And if you can use three and one, or at least three and two, you're going to be way ahead of the game. I would like all of you to try that three, one, three, two, and let me know how it works for you.

Again, I'm Robert Estrin. This is, your online piano resource. Lots of videos to come. Exciting news coming for you in this new year. I want to thank all my subscribers and pass it on. Ring the bell. Thumbs up. All the good stuff to share it with the rest of the world. If you love piano, as much as I do, you will want to do that. Thanks again. We'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Nesta Mae Horton-Johnson on April 26, 2021 @5:48 am PST
Thank you, I am learning a piece Sakura, that ends in a trill E. The score suggests, using EF EF WITH FINGERS 2/3.
I'll give 1/3 a try also.
Ioannis Raftopoulos on March 22, 2021 @1:41 am PST
I've read your tip, and I saw that you insist that trills should be measured. that is good news for me, as I like all things defined, even in music! however, I really like to know how trills could have been writen as notes on a pentagram. Are they 32's? are they faster? and y first gues about which notes to play was for example for a D and E trill DEDEDE...etc.Later I found out this is not correct. It is rather EDEDED...etc. or is the pianist free to chose between various combinations of speed and notes? My proble becommes evenmore coplex if there is an ending for a trill like EDCDC! sorry for asking too elementary questions, I am an amateur self-taght old pentioner, who just found fun in playing this so wonderful intrument. thank you anyway!
Robert Estrin on March 24, 2021 @8:05 am PST
Ioannis Raftopoulos on March 25, 2021 @1:51 pm PST
thank you for the above article it has been very helpful. I'll hollow the practices proposed.
Robert Estrin on April 26, 2021 @2:57 pm PST
It's good to hear that!
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