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Topic: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

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  1. #1

    Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    Now that I have all the parts assigned to the most appropriate instruments and I am reasonably sure of how it will sound when played live, I'm starting to focus on the quality of the audio demo. I am going through my score, number by number, part by part, trying to make sure that I am using the best samples for each instrument on each phrase.

    My musical training has been very limited and scattershot. The only instrument I ever played was the piano. So, this might sound like a dumb question to real musicians. I have occassionally used trills in the woodwind parts, which I created initially by playing on my MIDI keyboard. I am experimenting with replacing these with trill sample libraries, on the assumption that they will sound more natural. I imagine that when a reed player plays trills he would blow a continuous stream of air and rappidly alternate his fingerings. But I have no idea what fingerings are possible on these instruments because, on the piano, I can play a trill on any two notes that my fingers can reach (up to an octave in my case).

    I am using the following sample libraries with Trill virtual (Kontakt) instruments:

    - Westgate clarinets
    - VL flute, piccolo and oboe from Dan Dean W/W lite
    - Some flute and piccolo trills from PS Advanced Orchestra

    (The DD and PS instruments were imported from giga format).

    My choices are "Major", "Minor", "Whole" and "Half" trills. So my first dumb question is: what are the intervals used in each? Should I assume that "Major" and "Minor" mean, respectively, Major and minor thirds, or seconds, or what? Should I assume that Whole and Half mean whole and half-step trills? My ears are not trained well enough to hear the difference. All I can detect is that some of these samples sound reasonably close to what I played manually on the piano and others sound a little more dissonant. I also feel like sometimes the alternation between the two notes is slower than I would like it (and slower than I played it on the piano.)

    Finally, if I want to use an interval greater than a second or a third, how do I know what is playable on each instrument? I mean, there is no sense in keeping a trill in a reed part that can't be played. I can use another instrument or change the interval to something that can be played on a reed instrument.

    Thanks.

  2. #2

    Re: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    A trill is by definition a whole or half step. Whole step being major and half step being minor. A good player can play most trills so I would not worry about that. Alternating between notes beyond a major second is called a tremolo.

  3. #3

    Re: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    Fair enough. So how do I determine the ranges for tremelo on the various instruments I mentioned (whether they are playable and, if so, how fast they can be played)?

  4. #4

    Re: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by scpax View Post
    Alternating between notes beyond a major second is called a tremolo.
    I know you probably already know this, but for the sake of clarity, tremolo also means:

    The art of performing or singing the same note over and over very quickly, executed most commonly but not exclusively on bowed string instruments. Tremolo may be measured or unmeasured and has the effect of adding motion to the sound.

  5. #5

    Re: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    Hi,

    In my opinion, it's better to use the "canned' version that comes in the sample libraries as opposed to playing them in live.

    If it's a Kontakt based library, you can change the timing of the trill - make it faster or slower, by using time machine.

    Time machine is very cool for subtle time changes, and works very well as long as you don't go too extreme.

    Take Care,
    Steph

  6. #6

    Re: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    I knew of course about tremelos on strings being rappidly repeated notes.

    Thanks, Steph, for the suggestion to use Time Machine. I hadn't thought to use a tool other than the MIDI controller -- though, God knows, I have a lot of them. Every version of Sonar comes with lots of stuff I never use.

    I agree that I'd rather use the trill samples if the interval is a whole step or a half step. But looking at what I wrote, a lot of the tremelos are between the first and third, or third and fifth of the chord. Simple to execute on the piano. But I worry about whether doing something like this on a clarinet is going to mean changing the fingering so drastically that it won't sound like a tremelo.

  7. #7

    Re: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie Pray View Post
    Hi,

    In my opinion, it's better to use the "canned' version that comes in the sample libraries as opposed to playing them in live.

    If it's a Kontakt based library, you can change the timing of the trill - make it faster or slower, by using time machine.

    Time machine is very cool for subtle time changes, and works very well as long as you don't go too extreme.

    Take Care,
    Steph
    I always play the trills in live, because as I'm using using Vienna Instruments, I can. :>)

    D

  8. #8
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    Re: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    It helps to have finger charts for the instruments your writing for. These give you an idea what is possible to trill/tremolo between. Notes between different registers are usually not good for tremolos. These would be intruments that have a register key clike clarinet or sax. Most instruments can do half/whole step trills. Usually around the register breaks there are alternate fingerings for trills.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the skill level your writing for. Top notch musicians can pull off many things that your average musician just would shake their head at.

    Jim

  9. #9
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    Hi EJR,

    Sounds like you have several good tips from the forum members to steer you in the right direction.

    I can add that there are a few low trills on the flutes that are difficult if not impossible ... low Db-Eb comes to mind. They rely soley on the pinky moving between two keys ... at best you'll give the flutist a pinky charlie horse . The saxes have a few awkward notes, once again at the extreme low end. Clarinets aren't as bad low, but have issues with trills across the break (written Bb-B natural, etc.)

    Several of my arranging books list trills to avoid on various instruments. Haydn's advice really is a good point: The proficiency of the player is very important.

    You may want to simply engage a reed player (who doubles) and show him/her some of your trills and ask if they are "doable".

    Regards,

    Frank

  10. #10

    Re: Some Dumb Questions About Trills on Reed Instruments

    My orchestration books all mention the "problem" trills (half or whole step) but none of them say a word about greater intervals (for example, a third or a fourth). I had guessed that tremelos around the breaks between registers would not be a good thing. But, other than that, I simply don't have a clue. My score is for the musical theater, where players are used to doubling and doing all sorts of amazing things on a regular basis. On the other hand, I don't want to make the music so difficult that it can't be played by amature companies.

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