As with many instruments of all shapes and sizes, the tuba family can trill in a variety of different ways. The lip trill has already been discussed (in C. Lips: ii. Lip trills), therefore this entry will concern the valve trill. This technique is created by simply moving between two notes, moving between them by use of a change in valve combinations. Like the lip trill, the ordinario trill (or valve trill, as it is sometimes called) can be done at a number of rates of speed, with or without a stable rhythm. When done quickly, the valve trill can approach a continuous sound. At lower speeds, the trill will sound like an alternation between two notes.
Depending on the distance between the constituent notes in a trill and the rate of speed, the resultant sound may be disruptive, smooth, or any shade in between. One factor to keep in mind is the potential for a partial split between the two notes of a trill; when moving from one partial to another, there is a varying amount of resistance that must be overcome by the performer. For instance, were a performer on the euphonium to trill between A3 and B3, there would be a partial break between the two notes (going from partials 4 to 5). This particular example is not overly difficult or disruptive, but difficulties will arise in larger interval trills (for instance, between F3 and B3 on the F tuba). These may be overcome with diligent practice, or if the composer is willing to let the trill exhibit some “looseness” in quality in order to compensate for the difficulty of such intervals. When in doubt, the best way to ensure smooth trills (if that is indeed the composer’s goal) is to write trills that can be accomplished within the same partial.
Another important consideration when calling for a trill is to be aware of potential difficulties in certain fingering combinations. While some difficult trills may be tamed via the use of alternate fingerings, a few different restrictions apply. Generally speaking, it is easier to perform a rapid trill that involves the changing of only one or two valves, especially if one or more valves remain depressed throughout the duration of the trill. As an example, a trill between D2 and E2 on the CC tuba, while a difficult trill using standard fingerings (4 to 1+2), is exceptionally smooth when re-valved to 1+3 to 3. Likewise, a trill like A3 to Bb3 on an Eb tuba is incredibly easy to perform (2 to 0). Being cognizant of these differences can mean the difference between a smooth valve trill and one that is clunky (assuming smoothness is the goal; if not, then many of these rules may be disregarded).
The notation of trills is relatively standardized, especially compared to many of the other techniques discussed in this section. The most common method for notating the trill is to combine the abbreviation “tr” with a wavy line indicating the total length of the effect. When necessary, it is useful to also include an accidental, which indicates to the performer what type and tonality of trill to utilize. To be even more specific, it is helpful to include an ancillary note at the start of the trill.
Beginner to Advanced
Works to consider (bolded titles are particularly representative examples of this technique)
Patterns III – James Fulkerson
Concerto for Euphonium – Robert Jager
Vox superius – Melvyn Poore