Jen Cluff ~ Flute Scales for intermediates

Canadian Flutist and Teacher

Starting Scales & Technique as an Intermediate

Question: My previous 'less-than-perfectionist' flute teachers have left me with an incredible amount of work to do - technical finger-work - it is baffling me.  My sound has always been pretty good and very versitile.  Do you have any tips with the finger-work? And any teachers, please take note - I'm gona be pretty tough on my students from now on as it will be far easier for them in the

Jen replies:
 I know exactly what you're talking about.
You may want to read this
fascinating report of Suzanne Lord's about the teaching of "technical facility" by Peter Lloyd.

I also have answered this question for myself, my students, and lots of folks on the net who've hit the same workload. The thing is to make it FUN!!!

 For example: Once you've learned a scale, memorized it, played it for tone, made it perfectly even at faster and faster tempi, then you just have to break into an improvisational *passion* and play freely for a few minutes (or until the passion morphs :>), so that you've really incorporated all the levels of finger and lip dexterity, while making MUSIC.

It's a short recipe that takes a lifetime.

But there's a free pdf scale and arpeggio book that you can download in pdf, and please help yourself to it. (40 pages in pdf - totally free scale book!)

Part 1  -   Part 2  -   Part 3

The above book was written for novice to intermediate flute students to go along with a James Galway 30 day Scale Challenge using Moyse books.

Some creative ideas are offered for scales on my flute blog too.

And here is a full scale KIT, with links to all free pdf flute scales.

How fast?

Here's a good article on how fast to play scales:

Scale Books:

If you're preparing for University music programs:

Trevor Wye has also written a series of books that will "walk you through" all possible flute scales for exams.  Start with "Practice Books for the Flute (vol. 1 through 5 all one volume)" in the OMNIBUS edition. It's about $40 but it's fabulous.

Walfrid Kujala has a great book (with facilitating fingerings, which can make your finger work TRULY smooth) called "The Flutist's Vade Mecum", which I think is really worth owning.

There's also 17 Daily Exercises by Taffenal & Gaubert, the stock material that all conservatory students have used since the 1900s :>) and most teacher's fave book for older students who need to find speed and accuracy in their hands after freeing their bodies into better balanced positions:
Fiona Wilkinson's "The Physical Flute". I prefer the latter.

All books are given a thumbnail sketch of uses and how to order on my
Fave Repertoire page.

But there's also a really great flute scale pattern system that I've been working on, that you can have for free as a download pdf from my blog (2011.) Check it out here.

For more advanced students, the fabulous advice on how to practice scales and technical facility that are given in the following books is very useful and interesting:

The Gilbert Legacy by Angelita Floyd

Kincaidiana by John Krell

The Flutist's Vade Mecum by Walfrid Kujala

Gammes et Arpegge by Marcel Moyse

You can look up the publishers and how to buy these books here. You can also find them at

Additionally, online you can download a whole scale workbook with many scale patterns and ideas of how to vary your work. See:

Download the Lindholm scale workbook:

Herbert Lindholm's full book of exercises, warmups, fingerings, scales, trills and technical practice ideas are in his FLUTE BASICS manual. This is the Basics flute book when you scroll down on his "free flute sheetmusic" webpage.

Go directly to the scale pdf here:

Lindholms manual is in four parts. The first has one octave and two octave scales, Blues scale, chromatic scale etc. Part two has patterns to use as daily scale exercises (uses your brain and trains your fingers!) lip flexibility exercises, and Parts three has tone exercises, octave and third patterns, tonguing, multiple tonguing and vibrato. Part four has both trill and basic fingering charts. All four parts print out as 41 pages that can be hole punched and put in a binder. Help yourself: Lindholm is a smart flute teacher and very generous. :>)


Flute Teacher's Scale Help:

Here's a point to be made:

How you and your teacher approach this aspect of your technical development is key. You want feedback and input that keeps you engaged and excited about your progress.

Ask your private flute teacher to coach and help with strategies for your practicing of tone, technique, intonation, articulation, etc. etc.---and to help focus your attention on which exercises to learn first, and how to develop your own creative listening to your technique.

As a teacher, I also have found that it's more fun in lessons to play technical exercises in harmony (I just make up the harmony--usually playing in third, sixes or holding drones while the student plays the prepared material. My new book will be all about these patterns, but meanwhile, just see if your teacher is willing to perform in thirds with you, or use a tape recorder to play in harmony with yourself, too. Very fun.)

As far as order of learning skills, you simply start at the basics, and move forward in a daily pattern of learning and practicing each skill:

For my students I teach in roughly this order;
- Tone, longtones, Bell's Warmup, breathing, posture etc.

Then always all slurred, all two octave (unless student needs one octave at first, and some younger or less balanced ones do.)

- 2 Octave Chromatic scales for tone (Paula Robison's Orange Juice Warmup)
 - Chromatic scales done for evenness (metronome)
- Major scales done for tone (lower octave, then higher octave, then finally two octave plus expressive arpeggio---all slurred, dynamics, pauses added as required to keep tone pure etc.)
- Major scales done for evenness 9in triplets, groups of four, using metronome, chunking into one-inch chunks, using metronome to create new rhythmic groupings, add pauses, and change accents etc.)
- Major scale swoops, cadenzas, improv. and dynamics/expression....all the creative things you can think of......
- Major Arpeggios wih stabilizing fingerings as needed.

- Trills. basic low-fingered, controlled, gentle trills
- Minor scales (how to create them--theory.)
- Melodic minor scales done for tone, done for evenness

 - Melodic minors by memory - Melodic minorscale swoops, cadenzas, improv. and dynamics/expression

- Arpeggios major/minor
- Etudes in major and minor keys
- Harmonic minor scales done for tone
- Harmonic minor scales done for evenness then memorized, then scale swoops, cadenzas, improv. and dynamics/expression
- Scales in thirds, all slurred, then add articulations.
- Dominant Seventh chords, all slurred then add articulations.
- Arpeggios in various forms (closed form, open, intervallic patterns)
- Scales & - Arpeggios done in articulations
- Trills with and without terminations and anticipations
- Intervals, all slurred, gradually getting wider and wider. [4ths, 5ths, 6ths etc.]
You'll find quite a bit of information on the books I use, and the manner in which I teach technique and technical praciticing in the articles section of my website (see novice levels as well as intermediate levels, to get the whole picture).

Go to the following list of articles and look for novice and intermediate articles on scales, technique, arpeggios, tone development, high register etc:

I wouldn't worry too much or be TOO hard on *your* flute students. I think it's important that you teach only what you already know (or at least have a clear idea of.)

You can burn a child out if you teach them technique in a punitive way. I know that I've subconsciously made a
face when I've spoken in the past to students about their flute exam scales, and I've just propagated my own teenaged-year negative attitude and ambivalence. So I realize that I had to grow in my own way, develop a creative way to approach scales, and make it into something I could believe in. :>) See creative scales here.

I avoided pure technique for a reason---when I was a teen; I thought it sounded boring and un-musical. And I meet tons of flutists every year who agree.  That's why I'm always re-writing scales and arpeggios for artistic reasons.

A flute teacher needs to convey the creativity and freedom and LIBERATION that clean, fast technique gives you. There should always be a musical prize for all those cumunlative hours of chunking scales, longtoning tricky arpeggios, experimenting with airspeeds in overblown harmonics, and all the other bits that go into making a great "technique".
It is indeed, NOT all fingers! :>)
Alot of it is embouchure poise, fast airspeed and flute stability in the hands.

The trick for any intelligent young flutist who needs technique is to start at the simple end (chromatic scales, major/minor scales and arpegg), incorperate it into your daily practice, gradually expand outwards, and be sure and let yourself develop musically EVERY second of your practice.

Always break away and improvise, and add passion and spark to what you're doing.
Always vary the "voice" you're singing in.
Always vary the emotion you're depicting.
No one wants to hear a machine in micro-increments like a Swiss watch unless the piece that's being performed is supposed to be mechanical sounding. :>)

If you're learning scales, and it sounds wooden and boring, then burst into improvisation and create your own compositions in mid-air with the pattern you're working on.
Slow down, enliven, enrichen.
That's what it's really all about.

Hope this helps, and ask more questions as you get farther ahead in
your practice.
Jen At-43-can-finally-have-fun-with-scales
P.S. The most FUN reason to learn scales that I've used recently, in order to take a break every 15-20 minutes, is to play J.S. Bach 24 Concert Studies, Cello Suites, and excerpts from Bach Oratorios.

Now THAT'S what a genius can do with SCALES! :>D

Scale links for intermediates:

Lindholm manual of basic flute technique:

Minor scale theory for beginners:

Minor cale theory for intermediates:

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© Jennifer Cluff