How should the sound of an Octave-Tremolo on the piano be? I know this is probably open for interpretation. But is it in general better if the higher note is louder than the deeper, or should they sound equally loud. Or does it not matter as long as the first note is the louder (The one on the beat 1-x-1-x).

I noticed that when I increase the speed of my Octave-Tremolos played with the right hand, the sound of the little finger also increases much more than the sound of my thumb. And I don't know if this is bad or not.

  • 1
    I don't know much about piano, but generally speaking: if it doesn't explicitly say the higher note should be louder then it also shouldn't be played louder IMO. Dec 11 '17 at 19:54
  • @leftaroundabout What made me think was the fact that it is an octave between the notes, so the deeper note might be already sounding louder than the higher one, which is not the case with trills having only a few notes in between.
    – Matriz
    Dec 11 '17 at 21:14

In my mind, it depends on the rhythm involved. A tremolo should sound sort of halfway between a "drum roll" and a rhythmically-repeated figure. What that figure is varies from piece to piece.

Here's a fairly slow tremolo from the "Funeral March" in Beethoven's Sonata Op. 26:

As you can see, the notes are 32nd notes in 4/4 time, and are played quite strictly as such.

Now, here's a passage from Beethoven's "Tempest" Sonata, Op. 31 No. 2, with Claudio Arrau:

Now, these aren't octaves of course, but the principle is the same. As you can see here, the notes are 8th-note triplets, in a faster 4/4 time, and have to be played quite rapidly. You can see that Arrau sort of attempts to play them as triplets, but that is quite difficult to do. You have to accent the bottom note of the tremolo in one triplet and the top note in the next. You'll notice that he succeeds in doing that in some places (in particular the ones with two notes on the bottom and one on the top, instead of the other way around), and in others the bottom note is always louder than the top.

Here's another version, with Maria Joao Pires. I think she manages to get that rhythm a little more clearly:

So, my take is that it's important to preserve the meter of the piece when you're doing tremolos. It also isn't one of the most important details, typically (in this excerpt, you're paying a lot more attention to the notes in the bass than the tremolo, for example), but there are no details that are beneath notice.

  • I think putting video timestamps in this answer would help, especially for those who have never heard these pieces before.
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 12 '17 at 1:12
  • @Dekkadeci I did, if I understand what you mean. The videos all start at the passage I'm mentioning. If by video timestamps you mean something other than starting at the point in the video that has the excerpt I'm using as an example, please explain.
    – BobRodes
    Dec 15 '17 at 0:59
  • Ah, @BobRodes, I didn't think to test the YouTube videos because I mainly visit this website on my smartphone and I was afraid to eat more into my data. You're right--they do start at the tremolos!
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 15 '17 at 1:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.