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Thread: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    For example, I believe I have this situation in a piece of music:

    Trill: plucked note is B, followed by C#
    Hammer-on: plucked note is A, followed by B

    Is the difference that the C# is brief, whereas the (second) B is held?

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    Registered User Bren's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    As far as I know, a trill is a type of sound, involving rapid alternating between two neighbouring tones. Do they even have to be neighbouring?

    Hammer-on is a technique mainly on fretted instruments of playing a higher note on the same string by bringing the fretting finger down hard without striking the string with your pick again.
    Bren

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    For example, I believe I have this situation in a piece of music:

    Trill: plucked note is B, followed by C#
    Hammer-on: plucked note is A, followed by B

    Is the difference that the C# is brief, whereas the (second) B is held?
    The trill isn’t just the one move, it’s quickly repeating. I’ll find you an example. Common in classic music and funk.

    https://youtu.be/w6ZTZete3dI

    So, there are other ways to trill, but it is basicslly quickly repeating the hammer on. On the mandolin you could also, theoretically, articulate both notes of the trill.

    Here's the funk example: https://youtu.be/VltgV3ZsCvo

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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    As far as I know, a trill is a type of sound, involving rapid alternating between two neighbouring tones. Do they even have to be neighbouring?
    Bren, a trill is indeed between neighboring notes. If the interval is wider it is referred to as fingered tremolo, at least on bowed string instruments. It's frequently used in symphonic music to provide a shimmering effect.

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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    For example, I believe I have this situation in a piece of music:

    Trill: plucked note is B, followed by C#
    Hammer-on: plucked note is A, followed by B

    Is the difference that the C# is brief, whereas the (second) B is held?
    Short answer is yes, a "hammer-on" is , IMO/IME, simply a discrete pitch change *up* (vs. a slide) by a rapid finger press that's held until the next note.

    A trill strongly suggests at least a 3 (or more) note pattern without an intervening string pick/finger (or bow change). The starting note depends to some degree on the music style and kind of notation used.
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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Quote Originally Posted by still_fiddlin View Post
    A trill strongly suggests at least a 3 (or more) note pattern without an intervening string pick/finger (or bow change). The starting note depends to some degree on the music style and kind of notation used.
    So, if I have B C# B, I pluck B, then quickly tap and release C#?

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    Registered User Bren's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Another thing:
    Hammer-on is a technique specific to string instruments, maybe even specific to fretted ones.
    Trill is a type of sound often used to describe whistling or birdsong and can be played on many different instruments.
    Bren

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Till the twentieth century a trill was only a semi tone.

    The jazzers brought in wider intervals though I note the terminology above. Thanks @louisem.

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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    So, if I have B C# B, I pluck B, then quickly tap and release C#?
    Yes, but repeating the hammer-on pull-off many times. Think Eddie Van Halen!

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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Here is an interesting explanation of using hammer-ons and pull-offs for trills on classical guitar. She makes the point that there are sometimes trills that have to be sustained so the hammer-on / pull-off is repeated many times. I find this challenging on mandolin.



    There is another thread on trills that suggests coordinating left and right hand, i.e., using the pick rapidly rather than hammer-on / pull-off.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/threads/51588-Trills
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    A trill is an ornament where you usually play a diatonic note above or below the indicated note. Whether its above or below depends on the era of the music. Chromatic notes can also be used in certain situations. As with all academia there is lot of discussion over whats 'period correct.'

    Hammer-on, as I think has been covered, is a physical technique of string instruments. You can hammer on/pull off(slur) a trill on a guitar, mandolin, etc, but you could also pluck it. Classical guitarists use a technique called a cross string trill where you play the two notes on adjacent strings and pluck each of them in succession. This could work on a mandolin as well. Its a really nice effect.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    I would think a trill contains significant back and forth, where a hammer-on is just a grace note without picking the second note.

    The most recognizable trill is the beginning of the second note in the Trumpet Voluntary.
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    Till the twentieth century a trill was only a semi tone.

    The jazzers brought in wider intervals though I note the terminology above. Thanks @louisem.
    Sorry, but that is not correct - trills were often a whole step or a half step depending on the scale.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trill_(music)

    "a musical ornament consisting of a rapid alternation between two adjacent notes, usually a semitone or tone apart, "

    https://www.cmuse.org/baroque-trills...ed%20otherwise.

    " a trill marking in a piece of music indicates to the performer that a rapid alternation of the written note to upper note is required; either at the interval of a tone or semitone."


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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Sherry --

    Keep in mind that a trill is a rapid back-and-forth alternation between two adjacent scale notes. If you're playing something that's from the American folk, Celtic, oldtime, or bluegrass traditions, then the chances are pretty good that any hammers-on or pulls-off that you've come across are NOT trills. Trills are mostly found in classical music -- although some European folk traditions have these, and a few niche applications in other traditions, as well (but rarer).

    In particular, hammers-on and pull-offs are used quite a bit to ornament bluegrass pieces, oldtime fiddle tunes, and Irish traditional music. More often than not, they're found together as triplets. They usually involve going to a single alternation to the note above (in the relevant scale), performed as a hammer-on, followed by a pull-off back to the original starting note. In musical notation, this ornamentation might be indicated by the actual notes played, or indicated instead as a mordent (or "upper mordent" -- going to the scale note below would be a "lower mordent." The term "mordent" has changed since the Baroque era somewhat). In modern usage, a mordent is not a trill -- there is only a single alternation to the adjacent scale note, and not a repeated one.

    Anyway, on a mandolin or guitar, a hammer-on is a single left-hand finger action that quickly frets a note above one that's already fretted (or open) and plucked, causing the higher note to sound without picking it with the right hand. Similarly, a pull-off is a single left-hand finger action that sounds a note below one that's just been played, causing it to sound without picking it with the right hand. Neither a hammer-on nor a pull-off is a trill -- nor a mordent, either!
    Last edited by sblock; Sep-30-2021 at 1:14pm.

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Can you trill a chord or double stop?
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    I am not sure that this is universal in all classical mandolin music but when I played in all of Carlo Aonzo’s workshops he directed us to pick all notes of ornaments including trills.
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    A trill is a birdsong, a hammer-on is driving a nail into wood.
    Charley

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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Can you trill a chord or double stop?
    Yes, but it's not so easy!

    piano:

    https://music.stackexchange.com/ques...-double-trills

    violin:

    https://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/16705/

    "It has a double stop - fingers 1 and 3 - and trills with fingers 2 and 4. Has anyone got tips on double trills? "

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Sounds like a worthy goal to accomplish this.
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    Joe B mandopops's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Yes, you can trill a double stop. & as my friend, David, said it’s not easy. At a lesson w Mr. Vicari something about trills came up & he was demonstrating how to play them. Then he went into some double trills. I think he was showing off. He had a devilish little smile after he played them.
    For a trill, he did pick each note, not a hammer or pull.
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    I may be wrong, but I remember reading somewhere that trills originated as an accommodation. It was a way to simulate a passing note on brass instruments that didn't have valves and so were not chromatic.

    There are a lot of beautiful ornamentations and decorations that originated as a way to get 'er done on some instrument, and then have been translated to other instruments. Its really wonderful stuff.
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    One of my favorite hammer-ons - series of hammer-ons actually, with some slurs - starts around the 2:50 mark. His entire quote of "Strangers In The Night" is done with his right hand - er, fretting hand. (Yes, for you younguns, this is not a mirror-image selfie; he was left-handed.) Granted, his use of feedback is helping the strings vibrate, but still, it's a remarkably long passage for hammer-ons. It's a fully formed melody line, more than just an ornamentation. Usually hammer-ons are done in place, without moving the fretting hand on the neck. Just the fretting finger is moved.

    Things get stranger later, as is famously known. I included this because of this passage, which is what I always think of when someone mentions hammer-ons. He also used trills a lot, usually two-fret ones. "Gypsy Eyes" comes to mind.

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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    One of my favorite hammer-ons - series of hammer-ons actually, with some slurs - starts around the 2:50 mark. His entire quote of "Strangers In The Night" is done with his right hand - er, fretting hand. (Yes, for you younguns, this is not a mirror-image selfie; he was left-handed.) Granted, his use of feedback is helping the strings vibrate, but still, it's a remarkably long passage for hammer-ons. It's a fully formed melody line, more than just an ornamentation. Usually hammer-ons are done in place, without moving the fretting hand on the neck. Just the fretting finger is moved.

    Things get stranger later, as is famously known. I included this because of this passage, which is what I always think of when someone mentions hammer-ons. He also used trills a lot, usually two-fret ones. "Gypsy Eyes" comes to mind.

    Whee....love it. Should give the folks from the thread that were disliking Thile and Punch Brothers.................pause. Didn't seem like the crowd there was into it at all. Must have been Rock "purists".

    And yes, that is a tease. Or a troll.

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    Registered User Paul Cowham's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    One of my favorite hammer-ons - series of hammer-ons actually, with some slurs - starts around the 2:50 mark. His entire quote of "Strangers In The Night" is done with his right hand - er, fretting hand. (Yes, for you younguns, this is not a mirror-image selfie; he was left-handed.) Granted, his use of feedback is helping the strings vibrate, but still, it's a remarkably long passage for hammer-ons. It's a fully formed melody line, more than just an ornamentation. Usually hammer-ons are done in place, without moving the fretting hand on the neck. Just the fretting finger is moved.

    Things get stranger later, as is famously known. I included this because of this passage, which is what I always think of when someone mentions hammer-ons. He also used trills a lot, usually two-fret ones. "Gypsy Eyes" comes to mind.

    Thanks Journeybear - love a bit of Hendrix, and like you say, this really shows off these techniques.

    That said, an electric guitar with feedback, light strings of a low tension and a single course is far more suited to this than an acoustic mandolin - in my experience at least!
    This may work well though

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Paul Cowham; Oct-01-2021 at 8:20pm.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the difference between a trill and a hammer-on?

    Well, of course, it's not the same. for all the reasons you and I mentioned. But it's a very clear demonstration of the technique, in case anyone wasn't quite "getting it." I dom't think it was necessary to include the video - it's overkill, esp. as I was making a relativrly minor point - but anyway, here we are.

    That said, I tend to throw in hammer-ons at the second fret on the G string whenever possible - well, I guess I should be saying "trills" as now I know the difference. - if a song in the key of A has ended and I'm trying to stretch out the ending a bit. Or sometimes I'l just go there between songs, because it's kind of fun, and a Hendrix reference, in case anyone picks up on that. B| Generlly speaking, these techniques are available as a means of adding a little variety to the proceedings. There are so many "colors" in the musical "pallette." Might as well use them - judiciously and tastefully, of course.

    Quote Originally Posted by ajh View Post
    Didn't seem like the crowd there was into it at all. Must have been Rock "purists".
    Yeah, I've wondered about the editing during this for a long time. The impression I got the first or second time I saw the movie, was that I enjoyed seeing other musicians in the audience - Michelle Phillips, Mickey Dolenz, and especially Mama Cass seen mouthing, "wow" - getting their minds blown by what Hendrix was doing. Then I started noticing some things ... like some of the audience footage seems to have been shot during the day, with a light-colored sky, though Hendrix played at night. Also, audience shots tend to fall into three categories - paying direct attention an expressing astonishment; paying indirect attention, possibly just listening intently with eyes closed; apparent indifference, as festival-goers often do whatever they do with their friends and such that has nothing to do with the music on stage. This was a documentary, more or less, right? I don't understand footage being mixed together out of chronological sequence. I'll admit, it's possible there was still some light in the sky, as this was just before the solstice, the longest day of the year. Anyway, I'm just saying I think you're exaggerating how many people onscreen fall into the last category. IMO, natch.
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