Guitar Trill Technique | Hub Guitar

Guitar Trill Technique

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Trills are a great way to condition the fret hand, building finger strength, speed, dexterity and independence.

You can hear a trill in any style of music, but they have a special place in classical, metal, and blues.

Even if you don't end up using this to decorate your playing, it's very useful to boost your technique.

Let's try an example trill between G and Ab on the first string. Basically, it's just a hammer-on and pull off, repeated for awhile. The short hand way of notating it is just to write the letters "tr" over the note.

You can trill your way up a scale. I'll start one from F.

You can also do trills with different fingers to give them each a workout. So you can use your pinky, that one is pretty hard. You can use your third finger or your second finger.

You can trill any two notes together, and you can trill a note with a note above it or a note below it.

The trill seems to really condition the fast-action muscles in the fingers in a way that most exercises don't. So practicing this exercise can really help you build your guitar dexterity.


  1. Fret the note at the IIIrd fret of the 1st string.
  2. Slowly, hammer on to the IVth fret and then pull off
  3. Repeat, slowly increasing speed

What is a Guitar Trill?

A guitar trill is a rapid alternation between two notes on a single string. The very first note is picked, and subsequent alternations are created through repeated hammer-on and pull-off techniques. Most trills are either a half step or a whole step, though trills as large as a major third can be comfortably executed.

A note

Although the trill is very rapid, it should by rhythmically accurate, corresponding to an actual rhythmic value. Simply playing rapidly is not enough. The trill must be in time as well.

Trills are great for developing strength, speed and accuracy in the fret hand. Let’s begin by playing a simple trill with the first finger on the fourth fret of the high “E” string, and the second finger on the fifth fret.

Trill Example

In this example, the notes are rapidly alternated by hammer-on and pull-off. Try playing this example, and then gradually increasing your speed. Trills are usually played fairly rapidly.

The first measure writes out the trill the long way. The second measure shows the standard notation for trills; it consists of a single note with the abbreviation “tr” written above the note. This tells the player to perform the note, and rapidly alternate that note with the next-highest note in the scale.

There are many variations on trill notation. You can consult a music notation reference to learn more.

Trills can also be played in reverse. In the example above, only the first note is picked. We can easily reverse the order of notes by picking the “A” at fret V first, then rapidly alternating it with the G♯ at the fourth fret.

Trill Exercises

  1. Play an F major scale, one octave, using only the high E string, F to F.
  2. Trill each note in the scale with its upper neighbor. (F and G, G and A, etc.)
  3. Trill each note in the scale by a third. (F and A, G and B, etc).
  4. Repeat exercises 1, 2 and 3 using an F major scale on the B string, from C to C.
  5. Practice trills with a metronome. The trill value can be eighth, sixteenth, thirty-second notes or even sixty-fourth. Be sure you’re aware of the rhythmic value of each trill you play.

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