Jennifer Cluff

Canadian Flutist and Teacher

Scales for beginners & novices:

I'm looking for recommendations for teaching scales to young (9-12
years old) beginning students. What books/methods have you used with success for such young students?
Answer: Dear K: I have tried and discarded the standard methods that I've found readily available and am also interested in better methods.
The standard scale methods that I *wouldn't* use again were:

Rubank method books - go into the high register too quickly with no preparation, leading to pinching and bad tone.

Pares Scale method - written in a complex manner, with two voices per line, often, and entering the high register too quickly.
Mind you, for students who are slightly more advanced than 9-12 yrs. old, I *do* enjoy the inexpensive methods by:

Altes and Wagner - books 1 & 2 of the Altes method found on CD-rom called "Methods and Ensembles" found at under woodwinds/flute, and orderable ($19 for 200 plus pieces of music including duets!).

In the above, I use certain exercises and develop them by adding harmony at the lessons. I simply play with the student in thirds or sixths, and you wouldn't believe how much they start to look forward to this. (Altes Method does this too---which is great.) I've also had some success with the two flute, or flute and piano book by Louis Moyse that has scales followed by a lovely duet in that key, as a reward for having accomplished the scale. This book is called: "The Flutist's Primer" [Pub: Schirmer 1979]

The Wagner Method is clearly printed and easy to use for slightly older or more rapidly advancing highschool students or energized adult learners, and has the advantage of some really great rhythm exercises so that scales, rhythm and patterning are all included in one method book. I really like this book. The explanations are clear and the book is nicely presented and easy to read along in.
Now, to the method I find BEST:

I have found that the most satisfying way of teaching scales is to introduce an easy duet or piece in the same key right after the scale is learned, so that there's a reward for learning it.

My current method of teaching scales to beginners goes like this:

One or two new scales learned a week from a handout where I've written the scales out as follows:

F, Bb, Eb, Ab, etc. to 6bs.

Then G, D, A, E, etc. to 6 sharps. Reminder accidentals used frequently in beginner version.
Notes written out very clearly, printed BIG, with lots of room to add pencil markings, empty lines for writing in improvised motives that the student may come up with, and suggestions of how to vary the work. There are clear dynamic markings that indicate to crescendo when ascending, and then to crescendo again while decending. Pauses are allowed to be added over any note that needs to have the tone 'cleared up' before proceding. Repeat marks indicate that any section can be repeated until 'stunningly beautiful' and the rhythm is "free" (no meter.) to encourage student to vary the rhythm to suit their mood and their finesse level.

Jen's beginner scale sheet title: SCALES FOR TONE:

In the example below I'll use F Major, which as the page says is to be played with free rhythm, light fingers, all slurred, listening for TONE and keeping great tone throughout.

Sample: Student plays at own speed, always pausing on the tonic.
F Major:

F----------( pause over whole note; hold as for longtones and listen carefully, experimenting with sound re-establish great tone.)
FGF-------( any speed, repeat, pause on final F to keep great tone.)
FGAGF--------(any speed, repeat, pause on final F)
FGABbCBbAGF---------and so on up to one octave F, breathe, and repeat top F, and then descend. Follow with major one-octave arpeggio played twice.

Go to music sample showing F Major scale.

In the lesson:
The teacher plays in thirds with the student once the student has got the concept that they MUST use great tone, and each group of one-to-eight notes, all slurred, is played twice (or more if the tone is less than wonderful. ) The teacher starts a third higher, or lower and play the same key signature along with student, matching their speed, and coaxing out musicality and fullness of sound. This is also great for imitation of tone as well as intonation.

The teacher and student should also use faster air as they ascend, which I teach as "Cresendo to the top and then crescendo again to the bottom so that the low notes sound rich and full too." Crescendos are written under each of the groupings.

This is followed by a short sightreading fun period (no expectations, just fun reading) from the Louis Moyse book mentioned above, or the Rubank Vol. 1 Selected duets in the same key as the scale. This is the reward for having discovered all the notes in that key, and made the fingerings easy and natural.

Now, I've also almost finished the section of my own flute book "The Magic Flute" where all scales, arpeggios and scales-in-thirds are played in harmony with the teacher.
Using my new book, the student can play *both* parts during at-home rehearsal, going from part one to part two, or can record themselves one day, and play WITH themselves in duet form with the tape recorder, the next day.

Played this way these patterns are beautiful!! And they keep you from having to play mindlessly or mechanically, as the duet part is a variation that sounds quite musical and flowing.

I can't wait to get this book out and have people start using it!!!
It's so much fun!!!
I got the idea of "scale duets" from the Altes method on the "Ultimate Flute Sheetmusic"
CD-rom of "Flute Methods and Ensembles" so definitely give that a look, as the students enjoy scales much more when they make harmonies.

Other sources for scales:

There is a well-printed simple two-pages of one-octave scales and some excellent finger exercises in Mizzy McCaskill's ~ Indispensible Scales/Etudes (Mel Bay) book.
But the rest of the book is at a level more in keeping with the 13-16
yr. age group.
However, the above is a VERY nice book, full of winner etudes and full scales two octaves, including thirds and arpeggios and minors.

But I await for some other Flutenetter to mention whether or not there are some NEW scale methods out these days that are more fun and more interactive than the the old boring methods.

One new book that I thought was going in the right direction, was Karen Suzanne Smithson's "Playing the Flute" series. You can use these books to systematically teach, if you don't already have a method to hand. A brief overview follows, and there's a book review (see Flutey book reviews) on my
Flutenet Files. To see the books go to or order from Fluteworld or other music store.


Karen Smithson's series of "Playing the Fute" in five volumes:

List of topics covered in this series by book:

Volume I: Flute care - Making your first sound- reading music-
tonguing and slurring-
basics of rhythm and counting-
three fingerings for Bb-
Sharps & Flats - Dynamics.

Volume II: Eighth notes-Dotted Quarter/Eighth-
E#, B# and Fb-
Major scales (with sharps) and how to create them-
Sixteenth notes.

Volume III: Major Scales with flats-
Triplets - Cut time-
Compound time (6/8, 9/8)-
Intervals and arpeggios

Volume IV: - Staccato - Syncopation - Portato - Minor Scales -
Appogiaturas - Grace notes - Trills.

Volume V: 32nd & 64th notes - double dotted notes -
2 against 3 and 3 against 4 -
Double and Triple Tonguing -
Dim and Aug triads - 7th arpeggios -
Mordents- Turns- Harmonics-
Cadenzas -
Modal/Pentatonic/Dim and Whole tone scales.
Hope this overview helps.

And DO email me with other titles you think are good.

Always looking. Best

Jen Cluff :>)
(updated Aug 04)

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