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What Makes a Good Trill on Guitar?

"Trill - The rapid alternation of two tones either a whole or a half tone apart..."

There are several elements that assist good technique for this type of movement on classical guitar, or any style of guitar for that matter. Because it is made up of smaller movements, we should first examine what those movements are. The complete technique on guitar consists of ligado or slur movements both up and down. If you are an electric guitar player these movements would simply be known as hammer-on, and pull-off so don't be bothered by the term.

Firstly we'll start with the upper ligado or hammer-on. This just means the slur is being played from a lower pitched note to a higher pitched one. Here is an example of how slurs are written from "F" to "G" on the 1st or "E" string of the guitar...

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Back to Trill...

The way you play it is to hold "F" with your 1st finger and play it as normal with your right hand. Then snap your 3rd finger down quite firmly on the "G" note without striking the string again with your right hand. You should use the very tip of your 3rd finger to execute this movement as using the "pads" can often lead to unwanted muting or string noises.

The lower ligado or pull-off starts with your 3rd finger on the "G" note and as you play the note you pull your 3rd finger in a downward movement towards the floor dragging the string with it (slightly, don't overdo it). Next the "F" is sounded. This has the effect of making the ligado tone very crisp and snappy, which is what you're aiming for. It's the reverse of the upper ligado...

Once you have mastered these movements (very slowly of course!) you can join them up to complete this technique. It is nothing more than these two movements joined together in a continuous movement for, however long it is indicated. It is often quite faster than a normal ligado. In music notation,  it is indicated as "tr" (and a squiggly line) and looks like this...

Here's a great video to highlight this technique in action...

Click here for more information on the trill...

When you perform the ligado don't forget that the only note that is struck with the right hand is the first one, unless the music indicates otherwise. The sounding of the succeeding notes is from the left hand in a trilling motion. You can see that there must be a firm technique involved otherwise it will sound shallow and weak and trail off. You'll need to build strength in your hands and fingers over time.

It all comes with practice and patience so don't be put off. Practice slowly and regularly and you too will get it perfect. Check out the delicate use of technique when you've mastered this technique on this Aguado Allegretto...

Good luck!

Here are a few related pages in which you may be interested...

Here's more information on the trill...

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Welcome to LCG! I'm Trevor Maurice, owner of this site. I hope you find inspiration in these pages to help you with  your journey of learning to play the classical guitar. You can read more of my story here...

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