Monday, March 24, 2008

Thrills and Trills

Trills --- once the bane of my existence --- and I are negotiating a fragile peace treaty. In the past I've never liked trills. In my early piano lesson days, I struggled to play a right hand trill with an Alberti bass line or with any sense of rhythmic integrity. Flash forward to adulthood, determined to banish my handicap, I learned Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata to conquer my fear of trills. I mastered the ornamentation in that sonata (it turned out that the trills were the least of my worries with that piece!) which did help me to play those trills with confidence, however, I never really lost my self consciousness about playing ornaments in works by Bach. So many variables (especially in Baroque playing) --- speed of the trill, start the trill above the note (but of course there are exceptions), how and when to terminate the trill, coordinate the trill with the other hand (almost always difficult), and there are more than just trills --- mordents, appoggiatura, suspensions, turns, etc.

So at my lessons with Tamara Loring my trepidation with ornaments has come up. Tamara told me to forget about the ornaments....easier said then done. Then she told me that the ornament is a way for a keyboardist to extend the harmony and melody --- like a string player would do with a bow or a vocalist would do with breath. It was my ah ha! moment. I'm now playing the E Major Sarabande (a minefield of ornamentation) without the trills and am playing appoggiaturas with the supporting harmony to really hear how the notes line up as chords and to hear the dissonant notes that will be part of the ornament. Tamara feels that this will provide me with the harmonic content to improve my tone production on the Sarabande which up to this point has been pretty timid.

Since I'm not practicing the trills in the piece, I am working on trill exercises. I play a trill figure starting on each scale tone for one octave with my right hand. I then repeat the pattern using different fingers until all of the fingers have practiced playing the trill. I repeat again until all twelve major keys have been played. Then I repeat the same process for the the left hand. Sometimes the trills are measured (even groups of notes - 4, 6, 8) or uneven trills with a pattern of three notes followed by five or five notes followed by seven with the termination part of the trill.

Wouldn't it just be easier to play the trills in the piece?

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