I was attempting to help someone understand all the markings in a piece with which they are unfamiliar. One, however, has given me pause:

excerpt with an E-flat before a D trill.

Now, I know the rule for a trill is that it ordinarily remains diatonic. If a chromatic trill is needed, an accidental will be placed near the tr marking (or occasionally with grace notes).

What I am not sure about is whether an accidental earlier in the measure also affects the auxiliary or upper note of the trill.

In this specific case, should one trill D-E or D-E♭?

(I would like an authoritative answer, as I plan to also use this to tell the people at MuseScore how the trill should work. Currently, they do an E♭ for the first quarter note, but then switch to an E♮ across the bar. I know that's wrong, but I want to have a definitive answer before reporting a bug.)

  • 1
    In Elaine Gould's Behind bars, this remains somewhat open for clarification. She only mentions "this pitch is modified by a key signature" (p. 138). Here, I'd like a clarification like: [and not by accidentals earlier in the bar], but there's none of that. Although I agree on User23017's answer, I also agree Trlkly's inquiry for a better source material than "common knowledge". Commented Mar 8 at 7:14

1 Answer 1


You retain the accidental. In this case, it is pretty unambiguous since the lead note is immediately preceding the note (baroque trills would even start with the upper note). If there is more of a distance to the preceding use of a changed pitch, one would lean towards adding a reminder accidental to the trill.

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    Can you give a little more context to your answer? What I mean is, how are you so sure? Do you have a source? Or are you a professional in notation or some sort of music teacher? Were you taught this in music theory class? Have you written this sort of thing before? I mean, I lean towards it being an E-flat, too, but I'd like to have an authoritative reason.
    – trlkly
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 23:14
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    One could argue this is common knowledge. I don't know how I know this but I do. I know I've played pieces where the accidental is cancelled for a trill with a natural sign, which would only make sense if the accidental were assumed to apply when a natural is not present. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 7:52
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    If it was supposed to be an E nat, the trill notation needs to reflect that. Currently, the notation indications that you should trill to Eb. As far as playback goes, typically, un-altered trill indications in contemporary music signify a whole-step trill, which is why you're hearing the E nat. come back to you. It would be better to clarify your trill notation by providing a small notehead in parenthesis that indicates which note you're trilling to. Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 13:35
  • @ToddWilcox or the natural could be some type of cautionary accidental to remind you that it is a natural ;)
    – michaeljan
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 13:32
  • As MuseScore has since changed this, and they are now using an official source, I decided I't better accept and upvote this Answer.
    – trlkly
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 6:27

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