How an advanced flutist masters their scales (in 6 steps)

Flute Q&A #51: How an advanced flutist masters their scales (in 6 steps)

May 09, 2023

In Flute Q&A #51, you'll learn the 6 steps to mastering your scales if you are an advanced flute player!

Today I'm answering this excellent question from Arzu:

"I know all my major scales which I'm rather proud of. What should my next step be because I know I'm far from being a really advanced flutist but would like to get there!"

How an advanced flutist masters their scales (in 6 steps)

Arzu, I recommend you (or anyone who wants a stronger tone) do the free mini-course which can be registered for here

I'd love to see you come and tweak your embouchure to instantly get a stronger flute sound!
More info on The Flute Academy that I mentioned for you here

And a question for YOU!
What scale would you love to be able to play on the flute? Let me know in the comments below!

Feel free to ask your flute question for an upcoming Flute Q&A by clicking here

Advanced flute player masters their scales

Welcome to Flute Q and A Number 51, which is where you are going to learn how an advanced flute player masters their scales. So this question comes from Arzu and Arzu asks, I know all my major scales, which I'm rather proud of. Good on you. What should my next step be because I know I'm far from being a really advanced flute player, but I would like to get there. That's awesome, Arzu.

Faster progress through proper flute technique

So I'll show you today the six steps that advanced flute players can use to master their scales. Alright, firstly, my name is Jane. I'm a flute teacher and I teach flute players specifically how to get faster progress by learning proper technique. So I teach flute players how to make tiny little tweaks to their flute playing, the way they play the flute so their flute technique which sees them get a lot better, a lot more quickly than what they've ever experienced before.

The Flute Academy

And it also feels a lot easier to play. So it's quite a shock, like a good shock to particularly the students in the Flute Academy. They have a bit of a shock <laugh> when they join because, or, and through the academy as well. They're just like, oh my God, why has no one told me this before? So it's pretty awesome.

Favourite flute scales

Now if you are an aspiring advanced flute player, I want you to write in the comments below. If you're watching this on YouTube right below what scale you'd really love to be able to play, maybe it's scale in thirds, maybe it's just a straight major scale, maybe a particular minor scale. Let me know which one you'd really love to be able to play because everyone tends to have different favourites and I'm curious to see what it is.

Learn flute scales for memory

Okay, so the six steps. At this stage in your playing, if you're an advanced player, or I should say an advanced player at this stage in their playing knows that they play scales without music. So at this stage, they will never be reading their scales. The way I teach and the way that is, honestly, the right way to teach is to teach students from their very first scale as a beginner from memory.

No sheet music for flute scales

So not using music, of course, refer to music if you need to know how the scale goes, but you never read your scales and think that you're practising scales. It's all done without music. If you just heard me say that and your mind went, oh my gosh, there's no way I could do that without music. Go back a step. This video, this advanced video, is a series of four videos.

Intermediate flute player

So before this, you'll see there's a video on how to master your scales as an intermediate flute player. And before that, how to master your scales or your first scale as a beginner flute player. So if this is too hard for you, go back to those ones. And then also after this one, there's going to be a video on how expert flute players master their scales. So there is a step after advanced.

Key signatures for flute scales

Okay, here we go. The six steps. So one thing you could do, you're probably already playing your scales two octaves and if you're not, jump back to intermediate so that you can learn that. If you are playing your scales two octaves, let's say E major, this has four sharps.

Advanced flute player

At this stage of your flute playing career life <laugh>, you will also be doing them slurred and you'll probably be also doing it in one breath if you're an advanced player. So the first thing that advanced players do to improve their scales is to take them full range.

Multiple octaves on the flute

So instead of playing E major from low E up to E, you know, two octaves above, we take it up to the highest note on the flute that you can play. So if that's a B, great, we'll go up to a B. If you can actually play up to C sharp, which is kind of technically outta the range of the flute, we'll take it up to C sharp.

B foot flute

This scale has a D sharp in it and we're not gonna go up to D sharp. So C sharp will be the highest. Then once you get up there, you go all the way down the scale down to the lowest note on the flute. On my flute, it's a C sharp because I have a C foot, not a B foot. If you have a B foot in this scale, take it down to B and it sounds like this.

Scales as flute exercises

See so we went right up to the top note of the flute. I went up to C sharp in this case all the way down to low C sharp, and then you come back to where you started, which was low E.

Bb major as a flute scale

So image was kind of a bit of a hard one to demonstrate on because it actually goes sort of out of the range of the flute to C sharp. So I'll do another example for you. Let's do B flat major. So this has two flats. So normally two octave B flat major. Starts and ends on B flat. Well <laugh> actually it always does.

Full range of the flute 

I should say the highest note and the lowest note is B flat, but not in the case if you take it full range. So we're gonna take B flat major, we're going to go up to the highest note that you can play on the flute. Maybe it's a high C, I'll go up to high D cause I could do up there. Then we'll go all the way down to the lowest note on the flute, which is gonna be C, and then back up to B flat to where we started.

Flute scales in thirds

So they’re full range scales. Now the second way that an advanced flute player gets better at their scales is to do not just a scale, but for example, a scale in thirds. So we can take any scale, let's take F major, we're gonna change it into a scale in thirds. Firstly, it sounds like this.

Leapfrog flute scales

So that's F major in thirds. You started by skipping a note. So you're F, A so you skipped the G and then you go down a note. So G, B flat and you skip one there. So it's like leapfrog. Then next note, leapfrog, then leapfrog. This is pretty cool.

Broken chords on the flute

So that's in thirds. Now another thing that advanced players always practice Arpeggios with inversions sometimes called broken chords. If you don't know what an Arpeggios is, it's the first note, the third note, the fifth note and the eighth note or the top note of the scale. For example, let's do F major again, f a, c, f two octaves. I just did it twice cuz I didn't like my high F on the first one. <laugh>.

Arpeggios on the flute

Now broken chord version or you could say the Arpeggios with inversions sounds like this. So that was F major with inversions or F major broken chord. Now the fourth thing that advanced flute players do to get their scales better, they do it slurred and faster. So let's take G major. 

Slurring flute scales

I have to remember to breathe before I play because I'm talking, I forget to breathe in. Chances are as an advanced player, you're already doing your scales slurred. So just push them faster and think of them in one big sweeping phrase. So rather than da da da da dum and thinking in groups of notes, which is fine as a sort of intermediate player. As an advanced player, you want to think of them as bottom, top, and then bottom.

That was yucky. So you can hear that it's more of a sweep rather than groups of notes. So that's how to think of your slurred and faster scales.

Chromatics on the flute

Now the fifth step for advanced flute players getting better at their scales is to learn their chromatics. Chromatics are so fundamental and really there's only one chromatic scale. It just starts on a different note.  So for example, if we started on E <laugh> with a nice lump in it, that was E chromatic two octaves.

Flute chromatic scales

So you can start on any note and you'll have the same notes in it. However, what I recommend is just practice one chromatic scale and practice C chromatic and three octaves. You can even take it beyond C up to C sharp and D if you can, and down to low B if you have a B foot on your flute.

C chromatic scale on the flute

When I teach my students, this is like the ultimate, the ultimate scale. If you can play C major, sorry, C chromatic three octave slurred fast in one breath. It's like you've made it as a flute player. <laugh>. That's what I think of what I tell the kids anyway. So let me play it for you <laugh>. See if I've made it as a flute player, I think I can do it in one breath. I can't remember.

Yes, I can do it in one breath. There was a lump in there but just ignore that. So that's C chromatic three octaves.

Learn minor scales on the flute

Now the sixth way and the final way that advanced flute players can improve their scales is to learn all the minors as well. So harmonic minors, melodic minors, even different types of minors. If you want to go that far.

Advanced flute players know all scales

So for example, just so that you can hear the difference, I won't teach you how to play these scales because if you're an advanced player, chances are you go to know the construction of this scale anyway.

Spit bubble in the flute key

Just as a reference, this is what A major sounds like. Oh my gosh, what was that? Something's not right with my flute. Hang on, I've gotta check it out, huh? I found out what it is. I have a spit bubble on the A key <laugh>. That's why the A sounded like half a B flat.

Humid day can cause sticky flute keys

Wow, it's raining outside. Humid day more likely to cause spit bubbles. Okay, I think that's clear. So A major as the reference point. Ooh, that was a spit bubble again. Did you hear that note at the end? It's funny how as you get more experienced as a flute player, you know what is your flute and you know, what's you. That was clear as I was gonna say, clear as mud. That's not right. Clear as crystal, that that was my flute. It's a spit bubble. So I'm glad I'm <laugh>. I'm glad it was dribble, not something falling apart.

Different kind of flute scales

A harmonic minor, just so that you can hear a difference in the sound, is this. An A melodic minor. So it's a different quality of sound. So that's your sixth step is just to learn every harmonic minor, every melodic minor, and even other minors if you like.

The Flute Academy

So if you watch the intermediate video, you probably will recall that I said in the Flute Academy, my flute students come to me and they're often overwhelmed. They're like, I have so many scales to learn. I have no idea how many to do. I know I should be practising a million things, but I just don't know. I can't do it all or I don't know what to do. It's overwhelming in other words.

Order of learning flute scales

So one of the specific things that I teach them in the Flute Academy is the order in which to learn their scales like a very specific order. I call it the Lifetime of scales sheet. There are so many scales you could do this for your lifetime.

The Flute Academy

The students find it extremely helpful to know which order to learn their scales in. I'll put a link below to the Flute Academy in case you would like to feel less overwhelmed as well.

The 45 Day Transformation course 

By the way, the Flute Academy is not just about learning scales. I think I made it sound like it is. The 45 day Flute Transformation is a big part of the Flute Academy. It's a very specific course, one little exercise, one little tweak to your technique every day for 45 days. You can go at your own pace, very specific tweak, and at the end your flute playing's transformed. So that's a significant part of the Flute Academy, which you can check out if you would like.

Free flute mini course on tone

Now,  come and join me to improve your tone instantly. Speaking of tweaks, I've got three tweaks for you that are instantly going to change and improve your flute tone. You'll get a clearer, stronger flute sound, go to You can register for the three day mini course for free and I'll teach you those three tweaks that fix your embouchure, improve your sound, like that. It's super, super fast. Okay? So that's it, advanced flutist. Have fun. Bye.

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