piano, piano sonata, piano sonatas, piano study, piano teacher

Trills, Trills, Trills and how to practice them!

This week’s post is, in part, a response to a Word Press inquiry about how to approach trills in Mozart’s Sonata in F, K. 332. (Allegro) The measures under examination are those that lead toward the Development section with a modulation to the Dominant key of C Major. These same configured trills return at the end of the movement, but in the home key. For time economy, I uploaded a video that addresses only the initial appearance of the trills. (measures 86-92) Note as well, the appearance of a tricky double trill that ends the sequence.

In short, I recommend first playing a series of measures without the Right Hand trills in order to internalize the melodic contour of the line. (Always practiced behind tempo) As a second step, I support separate study of the left hand, which happens to be a set of 4-note, double root broken chords. These can first be “blocked” for geography and spacing, but more importantly, their carrying a steady pulse is paramount to the “leadership” role of the relentless, broken chord bass. Rotations through broken chords are also needed to prevent stilted, vertical, angular playing. To the contrary, floating, horizontal movement is preferred.

In this vein, the bass must not overshadow the trill in balance, but must provide a well-spaced underpinning. (Without a rhythmically intact bass framing, trills can easily go awry.)

As the third step in trill practice, it’s a good idea to play the steady broken chord bass with the undecorated treble line with musical shape and sensitive phrasing.

Fourth step:

In the melodic realm (treble), I endorse measured trill practice in back tempo, embedded with the bass, but including a decision about fingering and the number of repercussions that will fill the space. Starting on the upper neighbor to the principle note, the trill should not sound compressed and mechanical. In its Mozart era framing, it must be “wavy” sounding and leaning on the upper neighbor as it emulates a “singer” rendering it. (I have chosen a R.H. 3, 2, 3, 2, 3, 2 sequence for the trills with resolution using fingers 1, 2, 5.)

To loosen up the trill as it progresses in increments to an advanced tempo, I urge students to try side to side rotation before rolling out the trill with a supple wrist through the fingers. The arm behind the wrist is always relaxed, and freedom of the breath aids a natural trill outflow. Resolution of the trill is a continuum of the MELODIC thread and should not be squeezed into a tight space. Keeping the thumb very relaxed through the trill, and thinking in groups of wavy notes are also helpful prompts that enhance the shape and contour of beautifully executed trills.

The video below expands upon the aforementioned steps in Mozart, K. 332:

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Supplemental Trill Videos

This one circumscribes trills and fingering options in Mozart Sonata in C, K. 545, first movement. (measure 25 into resolution in measure 26)

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Trills in Granados Oriental, Op. 5, No. 2

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