I still don't understand what the proper way is to playing trills and tremolos, even though I've read a lot about them and watched a lot of videos. Worse it seems like all the people explaining it do them differently.

What confuses me is the movement of the forearm. I don't understand if the movement for a 2-4 trill or an octave tremolo solely comes from the forearm, meaning no movement of the finger muscles at all or if the movement comes from the finger with a little forearm rotation.

If I use only forearm rotation (the way I would rotate a door knob or change a light bulb), then I get extremly slow and watching other pianist doing tremolos or trills, it seems to me that the movemet comes from the finger and there is very little forearm rotation.

The second thing which I don't understand is the movement of the wrist. Especially when I trill on 2-4 and keep my wrist in motion then it feels very awkward to play a trill.

I know there are many questions about trills, but I still don't understand it after reading them.

  • Hint: the entire arm is often used to put energy into your fingertips, like a lever.
    – user43681
    Dec 17, 2017 at 21:43

3 Answers 3


I don't have any direct experience in doing trills on piano but I have have experience in other musical areas which may relate to your problem.

When playing guitar I once used only my arm to strum. This bad technique caused lots of muscle pain after playing for long periods. I then was told to add in a twisting of my forearm in combination with the initial movement to decrease pain in my arm and sound better. This greatly helped me. Later when this good technique was learned I started to add in a finger movement that I had seen many Spanish guitarists use to achieve fast strumming.

I believe that theis will relate to you in the way that while you have to have a twisting of the forearm motion in piano trills, you also have to add in a finger movement to increase speed and technique.

Try this:

Extend your whole arm level with the floor in front of you. While keeping your fingers loose and untensed, twist your forearm back and forth as if you are doing a trill on a piano. Now do this same thing but have your fingers hitting a tabletop. Then move your fingers so they increase and decrease pressure on the tabletop after a period of ten or so forearm rotations.

Do this whole thing but with your fingers tensed. Does this feel more coordinated? It shouldn't.

Anyways, I hope you can understand what I am meaning. Good luck. :)


I'm only an amateur jazz pianist, but I once told a professional jazz pianist that I couldn't do those octave trills that others seemed to be able to do easily. When I showed him how I tried to do it (on a table), he said immediately: "I see what your problem is, you're not moving your fingers!" So definitely a large part of the movement should come from the fingers, although the wrist/forearm should help. He also noted that some finger independence is needed to do it well.


One thing that helped me was learning to make the keypress movements very small. Just considering the physics of it, it takes more energy to move a greater distance in the same amount of time. So, to use less energy (and therefore make it easier, and less tiring), you make the movement smaller. Translating that to piano playing, the fingers shouldn't lift too high off the keys, if at all. In fact, you can even play a trill without letting the keys return up to the full, at-rest height.

  • The key does not have to return to its full, at-rest height. Pianos are built with what is called a "double escapement". That mechanism allows for keys to be replayed without fully returning to the at-rest height.
    – Aaron
    Aug 27, 2022 at 5:54
  • Aaron: Yes, though not all pianos have that.
    – Pistos
    Aug 27, 2022 at 5:56
  • Fair enough. Upright pianos generally don't. Any grand piano built in the last 150 years does.
    – Aaron
    Aug 27, 2022 at 6:00
  • Are you therefore saying you should be using mostly - perhaps all - forearm rotation?
    – Dekkadeci
    Aug 27, 2022 at 12:56
  • @Dekkadeci: For me, it depends on the fingers being used. If the thumb is involved, then mostly rotation, yes. For other fingers, not so much.
    – Pistos
    Aug 28, 2022 at 3:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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