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Do you struggle to play trills cleanly and quickly? You might want to review some flute trill charts to learn the correct fingerings.
I’ve tried trills using standard fingerings, and they just don’t sound as good. I love using trill fingerings, even for fast passages that aren’t technically “trills” but are just too fast for the regular fingerings.
Bottom Line Up Front: Flute players should know the trill fingerings, especially when they’re not the standard. A good trill chart from Woodwind Fingering Guide and an explanation can help you learn the basics.
Before you look into flute trill charts, you should learn the flute range. That way, you’ll know if it’s even possible to trill between certain notes.
Learning how to trill is an important part of learning the flute overall. The flute can play as low as middle C or the B just below that, and it can go as high as roughly three octaves above middle C.
While most trills are easy, some are much more difficult. You’ll need to practice the trills before you can play them well in a performance.
Standard Fingerings for Flute Trills
A lot of trills on the flute use the standard fingerings for both notes. Examples include low D to E, E to F, and F to G, and any other combination that requires you to move one or perhaps two fingers.
You can see if a standard fingering works for a trill by trying it yourself. If you’re able to play the two notes back to back very quickly, it should work.
However, there are plenty of notes that won’t work when you do this. You might not get the right pitch to come out, or it could be a bit flat or sharp, but there are alternate fingerings.
Special Flute Trill Fingerings in the First and Second Octaves
The first and second octaves of the flute have some trills that don’t work well using the standard fingerings. You might be able to make the regular fingerings work.
However, that can be clunky and keep you from playing a fast, smooth trill. Instead, consider the following special flute fingerings to use when playing trills.
E to F#
When trilling between an E and F#, you could use the normal fingering. However, that would require you to move all three of your main right hand fingers.
A much easier option is to finger the F# with the middle finger. Then, you just have to move your first finger up and down to switch between E and F#.
F# to G#
To trill between F# and G# or Gb and Ab, you can finger an F#/Gb as normal. Then, you’ll add the G#/Ab lever to change the pitch to the higher note.
Doing that is much easier than trying to coordinate pressing the F# key then the G# key and so on. If you need to play an E into this trill, you can use the second finger instead of the third finger.
G to A
On the regular C flute and low flutes, you can use standard fingerings for a trill. However, as a piccolo player, I like to move my right-hand index finger over to press on the G key.
My left hand holds an A while my right hand does the trill. I don’t know about you, but my ring finger is a lot weaker, so this option is particularly useful for longer trills, such as in the last movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
G# to A
No matter what type of flute you’re playing, you can use a special fingering for G# to A trills. You’ll finger the usually G#, but you’ll only move your ring finger up and down.
That’s a lot easier than trying to keep your ring finger and pinky moving at the same speed. I’ve found those fingers are both relatively weak, so it’s nice to keep the pinky in place.
G# to A#
If you have a G# to A# or Ab to Bb trill, you can do something similar. Instead of only moving your ring finger from the G#/Ab fingering, you’ll move your second and third fingers together.
You’ll need to practice to make sure you’re comfortable doing this. If you can’t get it, you can move just your second finger, but it can sound a bit flat.
Also, you should add the Bb thumb key or hold the Bb lever with the first finger of your right hand. You can add the F key instead, but that will make the Bb/A# even flatter.
A to Bb
When trilling from an A to a Bb, you can finger any of the three Bb fingerings. You can use the Bb thumb, the lever, or the “one and one” fingering.
The lever and the “one and one” fingering are good if you have to play a B natural before or after the trill. Either way, you’ll finger the Bb of your choice and wiggle your left-hand second finger.
With a C# Trill
One of my favorite flute specs is the C# trill key, and I highly recommend getting it on your next flute upgrade. If you have the key, you have an alternate fingering option for trilling from B to C# or C to Db.
You can finger the regular B or C fingering. Instead of moving your left index finger and thumb, you just wiggle a lever right above the Bb lever with your right hand. It will sound more in tune, and you can keep your flute from moving around.
C or C# to D
If you need to trill from a C or C# to a D, you will finger the C or C# as normal. Then, you’ll want to find the first trill key that sits between the F and E keys your right hand plays.
Use your right-hand second finger to trill that key to produce a D. This is a lot faster than the normal fingerings because the C and D in the staff literally use the opposite keys. So the keys you close to play C are open for D and vice versa.
C# to D#
Trilling from a C# to D# or Db to Eb is very similar. This time, you’ll use the other trill key, which you’ll find between the E and D keys on your flute.
Finger a C#/Db and use your right ring finger to press and depress the trill key quickly. However, I’ve found that on the piccolo, you usually have to swap the trill keys, so you’d use the first key for this trill and the second to trill to a D natural.
Special Flute Trill Fingerings in the Third Octave
The third octave of the flute already uses some very different standard fingerings. Those fingerings can make trills even more awkward without using alternate options.
Luckily, you can find a good trill chart that shows you how to trill between notes in that range of the flute. Here are some examples of trill fingerings, but there are tons more that you can experiment with.
D to Eb
If you need to trill from the D to Eb in the third octave, you’ll use the standard D fingering. However, you should trill the second trill key instead of playing the regular Eb.
You can also play both trill keys, but that will make the Eb sharp. Another option is to trill the G# key, but that can result in a flat Eb.
D to E
Trilling from a D natural to E natural involves fingering the D above the staff. You’ll then want to wiggle your left ring finger up and down for the trill.
Sometimes, it makes sense to use the standard G to A trill from the lower octaves. You can use your embouchure to play harmonics and trill as normal to get a D and E.
D# to E
If you need to trill from a D# to an E, you’ll finger the standard D# for the high octave. Then, you can wiggle the ring finger on your left hand.
Another option is to wiggle your right ring finger, which may be a bit stronger. However, that will produce a flat E natural.
Eb to F
To trill between Eb and F above the staff, you can start by fingering a high Eb. Move your second and third fingers of your left hand up and down.
If you have trouble synchronizing those, you can trill just the second finger. But doing that will make the F sound slightly flat, so it doesn’t always work as well.
E to F
When trilling from E natural to F natural, you can finger the standard E natural in the third octave. Move the second finger of your left hand to produce an F quickly between Es.
You can also use harmonic fingerings for the A and B in the first and second octaves. Use your air to help produce the correct pitches.
F# to G
The basic trill fingering for a high F# to G starts with the regular F# fingering. Remember to use the B thumb and not the Bb thumb because that will turn the F# into an F natural.
Quickly wiggle your left thumb on and off of the B key to produce the trill. You can also use harmonic fingerings for B and C and trill accordingly.
F# to G#
If you need to trill from F# to G# or Gb to Ab, you’ll want to use the standard F#/Gb fingering. You can trill the first finger and thumb on your left hand to change the pitch.
Since I have a flute with a C# trill, I’d use that key instead of moving my left hand so much. That can help offer more stability, especially when playing up high.
G to Ab
The basic trill fingering for a high G to Ab starts with the standard G fingering. You can then trill the first trill key to help produce the Ab or use the C# trill key instead if you have that.
Another option is to trill the G#/Ab lever, but that can produce a flat Ab. It might also be a bit more awkward if you don’t have the strongest pinky.
G to A
Many flutes require a very odd trill fingering for G to A. You’ll use your left thumb and second and third fingers, then add the second and third right-hand fingers, and trill the left ring finger.
However, this is one of the best things about having a C# trill key. All you need to do if your flute has one is finger a high A as normal, then trill your C# trill and first trill key.
G# to A
To trill between a G# and A, you’ll need to finger the usual high G#. Wiggle the first trill key using your right-hand second finger to produce the trill.
You can use the second trill key instead, but that will sound a bit sharp. Moving your left ring finger instead will cause the A to sound slightly flat.
G# to A#
The G# to A# or Ab to Bb trill starts off using the standard G# or Ab fingering. On any flute, you can add the first and second trill keys for the trill, but the Bb will sound flat.
If your flute has a C# trill key, use that with the other trill keys to produce a more in-tune A# or Bb. There are other trill fingerings, but they’re a bit more awkward.
A to Bb
If you need to trill between a high A and Bb, you can finger the standard high A. Move your left middle finger up and down for the basic fingering, but the Bb will be flat.
You can swap the right pinky with the right third finger and press the D key to get the trill in tune. This is particularly useful on the piccolo as well as other flutes.
A to B
The trill chart I referenced (and linked above) has almost a dozen options to trill between a high A and B. One of the more basic fingerings is to finger the G in the staff and wiggle the first and third fingers of your right hand.
If you have an open hole flute, you can use that same fingering, but only close the ring of your left second finger. Leave the hole open to get a clearer tone.
This is another trill where harmonic fingerings can be useful. You can finger the first octave A and overblow to get the high A, then wiggle your second finger to trill to a B.
A# to B
To trill from high A# to B, you can use the regular high B fingering. Add the first finger of your right hand and the first trill key (using your second finger).
You can also use just the first trill key and only move your right index finger. However, that will make the B slightly flat, so it’s not ideal.
Bb to C
The basic Bb to C trill in the third octave is a bit complex. You’ll use your Bb thumb key and the first and third fingers of your left hand. Add the third finger of your right hand, and place your right pinky on the low C key.
Trill your Bb thumb key, and make sure you have enough air speed to produce the trill. You can swap out the C for the Eb pinky key and add the second finger of your right hand if you need a better response.
B to C
For better or worse, there’s only one good trill fingering for the high B to high C. You can start by fingering the high B, and you’ll trill your B thumb key.
If that’s not quite in tune, experiment with your right pinky. You can take it off, or you can put it on the gizmo key to see if you get a better sound.
B to C#
If you need to trill from a high B to a high C#, you can finger the high B. Use the first finger and thumb of your left hand to make the trill happen.
You can add the gizmo if you have one on your footjoint. If you have the C# trill, you can use that instead of trilling with your left hand.
Special Flute Trill Fingerings in the Fourth Octave
Believe it or not, the flute can play even higher. However, you’ll rarely need to play these notes let alone play trills this high.
If you ever do need to trill in the fourth octave, I’d recommend using the Woodwind Fingering Guide. The website has a trill chart that you can use to learn the fingerings as you need them.
Trills That Are Basically Impossible
While most trills have a decently easy fingering, some just don’t. This applies more to the extreme low notes of the flute, so composers should avoid writing trills this low.
Examples include trilling from a low B to a low C or C# or from a low C#/Db to a low D#/Eb. You use your right pinky to shift between these notes, and it takes a lot of agility to change between them, even without a trill involved.
I’ve actually heard of a pair of flute players working together for a low B to C trill. The main player held a low C, while the other wiggled the B key itself (not the roller).
FAQs about the Flute Trill Charts Guide
Answer: Trill fingerings are different from standard fingerings because they’re usually easier to play quickly. Some trill fingerings only require you to move one finger.
On the other hand, some standard fingerings may require you to move as many eight fingers if you used those for a trill.
Answer: You can practice trills like you’d practice any other flute skill. I’d recommend getting something like the Trevor Wye Practice Books for the Flute.
The book has some good trill exercises in the second section. However, you can also make up your own exercises based on the pieces you’re learning.
Answer: In general, you want to play trills as quickly as you can. Unless the music says otherwise, you should also make the trill sound unmetered (not tied to the beat).
To do this, I try to practice making five trills per beat. Any odd number is usually a good option, so you can experiment to see what works well for you and each individual trill.
Answer: When you play a mordent, you play two notes back to back but usually only once. Most trills involve a couple of switches between the written note and the note above it.
Tremolos tend to use wider intervals, such as thirds or fourths. Meanwhile, trills are almost always a major or minor second.
Final Note on the Flute Trill Charts Guide
I’d recommend getting a book with a trill chart or using a website like the Woodwind Fingering Guide. Then, you can learn trill fingerings one at a time.
For more interesting readings check out: