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Written by Edward Johnson

Many people have asked about the C# trill and what it does. The very name of the key causes confusion. Actually, this mechanism is one of the most useful on the flute. Basically, it moves several left hand movements to the right hand and simplifies a number of trills. It also provides an additional vent which clarifies several notes and octaves. The following examples will illustrate some of its many functions.


B to C# in the first and second octaves: Simply finger B and trill the C# trill key. The intonation is better and a two-finger trill is eliminated.

High F# to G#: Finger high F# and trill the C# trill key. Anyone who has played The Grand Canyon Suite will appreciate this one.

C to C#, both octaves: This is a faster trill and allows for a more comfortable feel.

High G to A-flat: Better in tune, and far more comfortable.

High G to A: Finger high G and trill the C# trill and the upper trill key. This trill alone is worth the price of the key.

High A-flat to B-flat: This trill, which shows up in many Mahler symphonies, is played by fingering high A-flat and trilling both trill keys and the C# trill key. The trill will be in tune.

Tremolos and Shakes: First octave C, B, B-flat, A, A-flat, and G can be tremoloed with C# by just using the C# trill key. The same note can be tremoloed with D natural by using the C# trill and first trill key, in combination. These notes may require some pitch adjustment, but there is no easy way to do these effects.

The use of trill keys and the C# trill in combination can produce many startling effects, and experimentation can be very rewarding.


Pianissimo high A-flat: How many of us have tried to play this note softly and keep pitch and sonority? Play middle A-flat with all the left hand keys depressed, and the C# trill and the high A-flat will appear softly, and in tune.

Debussy C#: The middle C# which opens LÉapres-midi dÉune faune is often raw and hard to color. Use the C# trill while fingering B natural, and you will get a C# which is full and able to be colored without losing pitch, since the resistance of the note is increased.

A word about the mechanism is probably in order. Since this key has its own rod, it will not interfere or complicate the existing mechanism. The placement of the key lever is not clumsy, since it is above and to the left of the B-flat shake. A few moments of playing will convince the player of the ease of operation of both keys.

Careful comparison of identical flutes, with and without C# trill keys, have convinced us that the additional hole does not affect the tone.

There are many other effects which the C# trill could produce, and the ingenuity of flutists and composers will create and fulfill new demands. The modern flutist would do well to consider the C# trill an integral part of the instrument.

© 1984 by Edward Johnson
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