In the ABRSM Music Theory in Practice Grade 4 workbook, it suggests repeatedly that trills should be finished with a triplet, i.e

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Should they be played as such or in a more straight and uniform tempo?

Or is this just to ensure we finish on the trilled note while fitting into a dotted quaver?


2 Answers 2


There are a million ways to realize trills, and people have been writing out examples since at least the 1620s. One problem with these efforts is that real-life realizations often have some flexibility that doesn't fit notated rhythm. (Arguably, they ought to have it?) For instance, I'd probably play this particular Thieving-Magpie trill with just a tiny bit extra time to the very first note. In other settings, I might execute a trill with intentional "accelerando," starting with broader notes and compressing as it goes on. I've even, on one very long trill, written myself some squiggles above it indicating that I mean to get faster, then slower, then faster again. Of course this kind of liberty is possible as a soloist, and this piece is for orchestra. An ensemble, especially a large one, isn't normally expected to coordinate the individual pitches of a trill precisely, but should avoid extreme flights of fancy. Also, the entire ensemble can execute something other than exactly equal durations if they're all informed by the same prevailing unwritten conventions about "taste" and style; I feel like my instinct to broaden the first pitch slightly would happen throughout the orchestra without anyone thinking about it.

The bigger point to take from this notation is that one must not go straight from a C# to an A#. In my opinion they might have just indicated it with a septuplet, and left it understood that the performer is free to bend the rhythm as they please.


The notation with a triplet here is just so the notes fit. In practice they are spread more uniformly.

In this case it's going to be very difficult to fit nine notes into one quarter at a march tempo (even a slowish one), seven would be more likely.

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