Trill Exercises for Bassists

For better or worse, trills grab the listeners attention. If a trill is quick, clear and under the performer’s control it can generate excitement in the listener. If it is slow, clumsy and uncontrolled, however, it can have a most deleterious effect. To ensure trills are at our command, we should train our fingers to execute them well.

The exercise below is just one way to work on the speed and clarity of your trills.

  1. Play the exercise below starting at 60 beats per minute and work up to 80 bpm or higher
  2. Keep the fingers light and move from base joints, avoid making a vibrato-type arm movement
  3. Drop and lift the fingers as late and fast as possible
  4. Make certain every movement is deliberate and each tone clear
  5. When playing with the bow, play mf to f volume
  6. The exercise below is given for the open G string and first finger. Obviously, you should play the exercise on each string, using 0-1 (as written below), 0-2, 0-3, and 0-4
  7. Additionally, play the exercise using every two-finger combination, as well. 1-2,1-3, 1-4, etc.
  8. I advise doing the exercise both in the lower positions (below the harmonic G corresponding with 12th fret) and also in thumb position.
  9. These exercises are appropriate for both electric bass and upright bass.
  10. Trill exercises, such as these, also have benefits for general left hand facility as well. More bang for your buck!
  11. Trill away!

Trill Exercises for Bassists

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at and check out the Bass Coalition at

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  1. then ascend or descend diatonically or chromatically..:)

  2. what is thumb position?

    • its in reference to the upper register of the upright bass. your fingerboard hand’s thumb usually moves from the back of the neck to the fingerboard, this allows your hand to move more freely and you can also use the thumb like a capo, thats why its called “thumb position”