Wild confessions of a professional flutist.

The Bad Trill

Years ago I was working on a piece for a flute lesson, and I was very worried about a long, high trill.  I wanted it to be brilliant and to really sparkle.  I also wanted it to be long enough, without running out of steam.  I was worried about having enough air to make it all work, so I practiced extra long tones and agonized over all of the breath marks.

At the lesson I did it!  The trill soared and was brilliant!  I was thrilled.

Then my instructor gave this comment, “When I was studying with Samuel Baron, he warned me to not allow a trill to sound like an alarm clock.”

It took me a moment to realize that she was talking about my trill – THE trill.  I was crushed. 

The next day, I quit.  Cold turkey.

After a few days and a bit of perspective, I pulled myself together and realized that she was right.  That long, high, loud, fast trill DID sound like an alarm clock.  My instructor’s criticism was right on the numbers.  And, it was time for me to get back to practicing my flute.

I have never played such an insensitive, assaulting trill since.  (And, to be honest, lots of my students have heard this story, shortly after playing their own alarm-clock-like trill. . .  They won’t do it again, either.)


Comments on: "The Bad Trill" (2)

  1. Suppose you’re aware of Brahms’ (I think) advice to practise trills as triplets?

  2. Yes – and I practice them all different ways now. That incident happened about 20 years ago. I’m still reeling. . .

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