Here's the phrase I'm working on, a nice chord progression from the finale of a symphony movement (Dopper 7 mov. 1) that I'm arranging for solo piano.

Sheet music sample

So the B♭ trill in the right hand exists for most of this phrase, but it's not the important part; the fortissimo chords are what the section is all about. The trill is "background noise", pardon my French. So it can be interrupted, as it is in ms 4 and 6, to get the big bold chord in.

I've currently notated this with an eighth rest and make the trill pick up after with a double-dotted half note. This works but I'm not sure if it's the best way; because I am notating two exact durations when really I don't care about the duration much. If a performer wants to let the chord breathe for a quarter note before resuming the trill, that's fine. If they are an acrobat and want to make the jump in the duration of a semihemidemisemiquaver, I say let them do it.

A grace note offers this freedom of duration; the left-hand grace note in ms 3 can be of any short-ish length (and can even be left out in this case) - and it also doesn't affect the length of the note/chord it leads up to. I'm wondering if there's something similar I can notate to interrupt the trill for just a small portion of time to get that chord in, without specifying the duration.

The two options I'm thinking of are: to not notate a rest for the trill at all (letting the performer figure out that it should be interrupted), or to add a tied grace note to every single note on that beat except for the trill.

2 Answers 2


You might very well leave it as such. A decent piano player will try to continue the trill as well as possible while playing these notes. If your want to specify that the trill does not need to be played as continuous as possible you might just annotate the part with something like il trillo con licenza (the trill with freedom) or something similar in the language of your choice such as perform the trill at your own discretion. Adding to much complexity to your notation might not be a good thing to do, as it confuses people, and if you want to encode that you want to leave interpretation entirely to the performer it might do so while conveying information you did not actually want to convey.

EDIT: Another way to do it is to code the less importance of the trill by reducing the head size like this:

enter image description here

  • I think this is basically the best idea. Just write the notes as you want them, even if beginners will say "It's obviously impossible". I don't think it really helps to write something like "at your discretion", because it might suggest not trilling at all. (If you haven't already) I would write "con ped" at the beginning. It might also help to write a trill line all the way through the trilled Bb, which would make it instantly obvious that you have to interrupt it occasionally to play other notes. Similarly no grace note in bar 3. FWIW, I have big hands, but bar 1 is "impossible" ("this margi Apr 23, 2023 at 15:04
  • Ooh, the small notehead option is really clever! Is tying all the B's together usual though? That feels like the whole line should be only one attack somehow.
    – KeizerHarm
    Apr 23, 2023 at 20:19
  • 1
    @KeizerHarm Nes. Yo. Maybe. Tying the notes will make sure no one gets the idea to accent each bar. For percussion (where rolls spanning bars is quite common) and tremolo we’d usually not placer slurs, but for piano it makes sense. Check out the trills of Beethoven’s Waldstein sonata, 3rd movement. And essentially the information you want to encode is a continuous flute or violin trill, so in fact a single attack, I suppose?
    – Lazy
    Apr 23, 2023 at 20:35
  • I will use the small-notes version and add "con licenza" next to the trill sign. Thank you for your advice!
    – KeizerHarm
    Apr 24, 2023 at 7:50
  • I don't like the way you have written bar 3. If you want a grace note, I would write a CC octave as in the Eb-D-C-Bb sequence, jumping up to the remaining three notes. Apr 24, 2023 at 12:56

The comma is generally used as a breath mark, but you could use it here. enter image description here

  • 1
    And Gustav Mahler used this with relative frequency in his orchestral works, so there is precedent.
    – Richard
    Apr 23, 2023 at 12:32
  • That's a novel usage to me, but it does make sense!
    – KeizerHarm
    Apr 23, 2023 at 13:29
  • I do not think the comma is a very good idea, because it indicates a "breath" in the music, which is not what you want here. (See comments below) Apr 23, 2023 at 14:55

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