The trill (or shake, as it was known from the 16th till the 19th century) is a musical ornament consisting of a rapid alternation between two adjacent notes, usually a semitone or tone apart, which can be identified with the context of the trill. (compare mordent and tremolo). It is sometimes referred to by the German triller, the Italian trillo, the French trille or the Spanish trino.
Sometimes it is expected that the trill will end with a turn (by sounding the note below rather than the note above the principal note, immediately before the last sounding of the principal note), or some other variation. Such variations are often marked with a few Appoggiaturas following the note that bears the trill indication.
In modern musical notation a trill is generally indicated with the letters tr (or sometimes simply t) above the trilled note. This has sometimes been followed by a wavy line, and sometimes, in the baroque and early classical periods, the wavy line on its own was used. The following two notations are equivalent:
Both the "tr" and the wavy line are necessary for clarity when the trill is expected to be applied to more than one note (or to tied notes). Also, when attached to a single notehead in one part that corresponds to smaller note values in another part, it leaves no room for doubt if both the letters and the line are used.
The usual way of executing a trill is to rapidly alternate between the note indicated and the note directly above it in the given scale (unless the trill indicates an accidental).
Listen to an example of a short passage ending on a trill. The first time, the passage ends in a trill, and the second, the passage does not.
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