The following chart includes special fingerings designed for rapid alternation between two notes at an interval of a minor second (semitone) or a major second (whole tone) apart. Many of these fingerings can also be used as alternate fingerings for some fast passages.
Keys to be trilled are indicated in red. When more than one key is to be trilled, the keys should be pressed and released simultaneously.
When a note has the letters “tr” above it, or a long squiggly line, that's a trill. (In very old music, trills may also be notated with a “+”.) What you have to do is to rapidly alternate between the written note and the next note-name above it, in the key signature. This second note is usually not written out. As a rule of thumb, in modern music you should start on the written note, while in music written before 1800 the trill generally starts on the note above. This second way of playing is sometimes explicitly requested by preceding the written note with the upper note as a small note (an acciaccatura).
Let's make some examples:
- If you find an A with a “tr” symbol above it, and you have no sharps and no flats in the key signature, the upper note is B.
- If you find an A with a “tr” symbol above it, and B is flat in the key signature, the upper note is B-flat (Bb).
If the composer wishes you to trill to an upper note which is not in the key signature, above or next to the trill symbol there will be an accidental indicating what the upper note should be. That accidental can of course be a flat, a sharp, a natural, a double-sharp or a double-natural.
Searching the chart
The chart below shows both the lower and the upper notes of a trill. You should search for the couple that has your written note on the left and the upper note (figured out as explained above) on the right.
If you don't find the notes you are looking for, that's usually because no adequate alternative to the basic fingerings exists. In many cases, particularly in the first two octaves, the trill fingering and the regular fingering are the same. We have omitted such basic trills in order to keep the chart small and readable.
Another possibility is that the trill you are looking for is found here with another enharmonic name. For instance, you should be aware that the trill C#–D# has the same fingering as the trill Db–Eb.
The speed of a trill should be related to the global speed of the music. If a piece is marked “Adagio”, don't play its trills as fast as you can humanly move your fingers.
Also, you will probably notice that adding in a bunch of trills and grace notes can be tricky when first learning a piece. So try playing the piece first without the ornaments, and then going through slowly and adding in those extra notes.