Trill speed--what is possible?

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UKPiano1
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Trill speed--what is possible?

Post by UKPiano1 » 15 Mar 2012, 13:57

I see many piano works where the tempo is in the 130 beats per minute range and above. In the margins, I see trills written as thirty-second notes (semidemiquavers) for the right hand, where the left hand is playing sixteenth notes (semiquavers). This appears to be the only logical rhythm for the combination of hands.

However, at the tempo mentioned above, at least 18 notes per second are required. Is this physically possible for a pianist?

If not, what is the alternative rhythm for the hand that plays the trill?

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Trill speed--what is possible?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 15 Mar 2012, 16:21

I think first of all, its best not to think in 'seconds' for a trill or anything, but best to think in 'beats'..... unless the music is exactly at either 60 beats per minute (on the metronome) - or 120 beats (half a second) .... seconds as we know relate to REAL time.
As your recommended speed is around 130 bpm, this would be slightly quicker, but again, thinking in seconds may be confusing. Best let the metronome do the work.

Although the trill is fairly easy to understand, and theoretically easy to write 'on paper' - the trill can be very contraversial, according to evenness of fingerwork, light touch, and a good execution needed. I'm not sure though if a group of 18 notes would be suitable for a 'standard' trill - say - in the style of Mozart? Starting on the upper auxiliary note, would require 8 alternations for a crotchet, therefore 16 for a minim (or about one second).... and most trills end with some sort of turn. If starting on the 'written' note, then usually a triplet or irregular group is needed to end the trill on the principal note.

I could probably play the trill at this speed - very fast indeed, and would probably fit well for maybe some Chopin, Liszt etc.... but not Mozart (or other main classical composer). It also depends on your technique, nimble fingerwork and also having an almost light-staccato touch to it ...... and the sustain pedal helps to bind it together.
However, fitting that sort of notation to a LH semiquaver passage would be very difficult at that speed - so a general effect and 'uncounted' trill would be best - a rapid almost shimmer effect. It also depends on the composers intentions?

Again, its not really the only answer here on this forum - you would need to perform your named 'lightning speed trill' to a pianist/ teacher/ performer who can then hear how it is played, and you then compare it to their performance. Also, depending on the style of the trill (and composer), some start with other grace notes, and incorporate a built up (accelerando) to a trill, sort of stretto effect, then some rubato at the end...... this kind of trill is suited to cadenza passages, for example on the last page of Beethoven's Sonata in G major (I think Op 2, No 3.... or other way round!) .... and sometimes trills have to be performed over a LH chromatic passage.... again, cant count in seconds here - you have to perform it best you can 'according to the beat & style of the music' .... and in many cases, taking a minim at per one second - I would never take the music literally.... there also sometimes pause signs, rit. or rall. markings, and also at the end of the main trill section, the music should generally relax and slow down prior to the recapitulation...... so musical maths is not the way forward - just for theory purposes.

Hope that helps......

Colin

ps - the standard sixteen note trill, played in around a second!! .... see below ..
trill.JPG
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UKPiano1
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Re: Trill speed--what is possible?

Post by UKPiano1 » 18 Mar 2012, 16:39

Thanks for all the useful information.

I'm still not sure about the main premise of my question, which is: Can one play 18 notes per second on the piano?

If the answer is yes, then I need to do a lot of technical work to get the fingers to move that fast. If the answer is no--it's humanly impossible--then I can try the various approaches you suggested.

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Trill speed--what is possible?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 18 Mar 2012, 17:19

No one in the world will know if they can play 18 notes within a certain fast timescale!!!!!.... however, if you can post an image (extract) of the music in question, along with the recommended tempo, AND the name of the composer & piece of music (which movement, opus etc) .... I will try to answer your question. But as I said before, it really needs to be heard and compared, or if possible, a suitable recording of the music???

.... and once again, you insist on 'per second' instead of per beat, so I doubt if this query will ever reach a suitable answer for you.... its not musically 'done' to just reckon up 18 notes - the music, style etc must be taken into consideration. There is also no single way to playing a trill - they can be quite unique as I have mentioned.
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Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
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