Trills with pinky?

Edited: September 5, 2018, 12:14 AM · For the life of me, I can't make trills that rely on the pinky in the higher note. It comes as a pathetic woble. I don't have so much trouble with the vibrato on pinky as I do with this.

"just do it and practice" has not showed any improvement in the last months. Is there any recommended exercise or change of posture to make it go faster?

One example below. I trip in each trill asking high note pinky :-P

Replies (21)

September 5, 2018, 1:17 AM · Hello again Carlos. For the fourth finger trill release the first and second fingers--off of the fingerboard. To get better leverage and better angle, rotate the wrist a little bit towards you. Pianists do something like that; I have heard the word "topping". Don't try to trill too fast. All-that example is from Tartini's "Art of Bowing", which is more about trills and ornaments than bowing.
September 5, 2018, 2:02 AM · Thanks Joel. I'll practice that. Yes, that's the work. I picked it up precisely for practice of ornaments and bowings, but -among other parts-, those trills became a big wall.
September 5, 2018, 2:32 AM · I do believe that some of us simply lack the ability to move the fourth and fifth digits independently, for anatomical reasons that are pretty much insuperable. Back in prehistory I cultivated a vibrato-like shake (to the disapproval of my teacher) and still use it!
September 5, 2018, 6:07 AM · Vibrato trills are a legitimate technique, aren't they?
Edited: September 5, 2018, 8:21 AM · I don't have 3rd and 4th finger independence, but I have no problem doing a 4th finger trill. You don't need to move the finger very much.

You need to do things that are a 4th finger workout. Try Schradieck op. 1 no. 1, for instance. There's also the Sevcik op. 7 trill exercises.

September 5, 2018, 9:26 AM · Carlos the more you work on an effective left hand position with nicely rounded pinky with flexible final joint, finger independence, fingers moving from the base joints, things like double-stopped thirds, the works; ...magically at some point you will suddenly be able to execute fourth finger trills. At least that was how it went with me. The art of bowing is a fun etude book!
September 5, 2018, 9:27 AM · I know it's wimping out, but I always use 3 instead of 4. There's always a way to refinger it.
September 5, 2018, 11:03 AM · "Vibrato trills are a legitimate technique, aren't they?"

They can be, and certainly you see many people trilling that way. The question is whether you have control over the trill, or whether the vibrato motion just gives you one speed. Often we speed up or slow down trills for expression, just as we play with the intensity of vibrato.

September 5, 2018, 11:14 AM · To be fair, it's everyone's weaker finger, and I don't believe most players with a few years in the instrument will master them right away. Indeed as Mr. Cole stated, many would refinger a passage instead (it's not wrong if it sounds good.)

I would still practice 4th finger trills
as a way to challenge the brain/hand to deal with the problem, so other more difficult problems become much easier later on. Eventually you will need to play double stop trills, in short to long passages, and it's much more satisfying to do them "right" if you are able to (and I do believe "anyone" can.)

Many passages in the repertoire do benefit more from 2-3 than 3-4 anyway, so don't lose heart and keep working patiently as you are doing. Utter relaxation of the hand, and never thinking the 4th finger must travel much or "work hard" will help (should be rather "effortless" and simple.)

September 5, 2018, 11:31 AM · I think the Schradieck approach makes sense - Work on your 4th finger-falling technique in general and apply that to your trills. You can also work trill specific etudes in Kreutzer, but always slowly. The issue may be exacerbated by your hand position - If your hand isn't positioned in a way where you can pull your 4th finger back relaxed, then that's something to look at. You may also be squeezing your thumb or doing something with your wrist - make sure to keep it straight and relaxed.
September 5, 2018, 11:31 AM · Nathan Cole has two videos about trills and pinkies:

Edited: September 7, 2018, 11:57 AM · --The vibrato trill sounds great for east europe folk styles, but is too sloppy or wild for Mozart. There is a short exercise that I call "taps and lifts", published in several places, including somewhere in the Doflein series, that works just as well as all those tedious pages of etudes. Focus on lifting the finger. The muscles that open the hand are naturally weaker and slower than the muscles that close the hand; who else besides musicians need to do that motion with any force or speed?
September 5, 2018, 1:55 PM · I can't do the youtube implant thing but this is my favourite example of what some androids can do with their pinky that mere mortals can only gasp at:

Kristof Barati of course isn't an android, but seems to be blessed with an extra phalanx and an extra lobe in his motor cortex to control it with.

September 6, 2018, 1:58 AM · Mazas # 13 is designed for exactly this.

It is a good idea to practice the 4th finger trill but in reality your 2nd and 3rd finger trills will always be better and to figure out fingerings to avoid fourth finger trills is preferable in almost all situations.

September 6, 2018, 3:01 AM · Make sure your third finger is not pressing too hard on the string.
September 6, 2018, 8:02 PM · Yeah, I'd just choose a fingering that allows me to use 2 + 3 in almost all situations.
September 6, 2018, 9:32 PM · Thank you all with the answers and suggestions. My teacher has also added the suggestion (or corrected me) to do the trills with the pinky stretched (and adapting the hand for that) instead of bent as I did.

Changing the fingering for a pinky trill or vibratto is what I would normally do, but I am not sure that's the answer when it's a core point of the piece.
I crashed this wall when starting practicing Nicola Matteis' Diverse bizzarrie sopra la vecchia Sarabanda o pur Ciaccona. A really wonderful piece. You may find the partiture: and below is the beginning.

What would be your approach? Adapt all fingerings to avoid trill in 4th finger or bite the bullet?

September 6, 2018, 9:49 PM · I would be using a lot of 2nd position in that piece, definitely. If it's my goal to make the piece sound as good as possible, then it would be my decision to use trills that I'm most competent with.

When a piece is designed/used for the purpose of improving a specific part of our playing, then we can call it an etude.

So if it's an etude, then I'll do whatever fingerings are listed (or follow the instructions if there are any) as a way of "exercising" something. But otherwise, I'll "cheat" as much as possible in order to produce the best overall sound.

September 7, 2018, 3:04 AM · hi Carlos, yes and yes. yes to working on etudes the way they are meant, also if that means fourth finger trills. but on the other hand, yes, on that piece I suppose the normal thing to do for this "F G A Dtrill" pattern is to play FGA in first position and then place second finger on D to do the trill, although there are many more options of course.
September 7, 2018, 7:29 AM · Adalberto's comment about "Utter relaxation of the hand" is of paramount importance. A really fast 4th finger trill is more like a fast fluttering of the very relaxed finger on the string.

A regular part of my warm-up is 4th finger trilling without the bow.

September 7, 2018, 7:43 AM · Thank you all. I can't mention everyone, but I'm reading each comment and I feel (more than listen) ease on the exercise.

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