for beginners & novices:
I'm looking for recommendations for teaching scales to
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
Rubank method books - go into the high register too
quickly with no preparation, leading to pinching and bad
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
Altes and Wagner - books 1 & 2 of the Altes method
found on CD-rom called "Methods and Ensembles"
found at www.cdsheetmusic.com under woodwinds/flute, and
orderable ($19 for 200 plus pieces of music including
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.
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
Then G, D, A, E, etc.
to 6 sharps. Reminder accidentals used frequently in
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.
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
Sample: Student plays at own speed, always pausing on the
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
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:
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
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
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.
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
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 www.weisgarber.ca or order from Fluteworld or
other music store.
Karen Smithson's series
of "Playing the Fute" in five volumes:
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
E#, B# and Fb-
Major scales (with sharps) and how to create them-
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-
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)
to Jen's homepage