Some tips on lip trills.
In a lesson with a community college student on a Mozart concerto I needed to explain the lip trill. I demonstrated one – which at one time I could do very well – and much to my surprise, it sounded terrible.
Since the harmonics of the French horn are close to one another in the range above g1 on the F horn and c1 on the B-flat horn, horn players have an unique alternative to valved trills. It is possible to “wiggle” between two close harmonics. It is an effect that when well-executed produces a very elegant-sounding trill.
That being said, it is a technique that needs regular attention. If you don’t use it, you lose it – as I have discovered. To help organize the various techniques I have used to work on trills I created a PDF for myself and for my students.
Dividing trill practice into four areas of concentration, this PDF focuses on starting, controlling, sustaining and refining lip trills.
- The “kickstart”
In a way, lip trills are like controlled yodels or “clams.” These exercises focus on jump-starting the process with harmonic “flips.” For some, using the syllables “O” and “E” help with this exercise. (O-E-O …. O-E-O, etc.) As you go higher the syllables “E” and “Ah” can help.
- The “wiggle spot”
I once read an analogy that lip trills are like a cat walking on the edge of a thin, wet fence. The cat walks on the edge of the fence and wiggles between the two sides. This exercise helps to find that “fence” – the slippery spot between the two trill notes. With the lips only, blur the two notes together as much as possible.
- Working the locomotion
The typical exercises that concentrate on speeding up and slowing down the trilling motion.
- “Extreme” techniques
Flexibility exercises using expanded intervals, and trills in sustained crescendo/decrescendo, long-tone formats.
This PDF contains only the basic outline for these exercises. It is up to the user to “fill in the blanks” – it should be relatively self-explanatory.
- My Trills Stink [1.8 MB download – Adobe Reader required]