How to master your scales, as a beginner flutist (in 5 steps)

Flute Q&A #49: How to master your scales, as a beginner flutist (in 5 steps).

Apr 11, 2023

In Flute Q&A #49, you'll learn how to master your scales, as a beginner flutist. These are the 5 steps that I teach all my beginner students, and it's a very effective way to quickly get good at the flute!

The inspiration for this video was from Harry who asked: "Hi Jane - I want to learn scales. Is that possible online?"

So here's the answer - enjoy!

How to master your scales, as a beginner flutist (in 5 steps).

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

I'd love to see you come and tweak your embouchure to instantly get a stronger flute sound!
The Flute Academy that I mentioned can be joined here

And a question for YOU!
What is your favourite scale 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

Fix scales as a beginner flute player

Welcome to Flute Q and A number 49. In this video, you're going to learn how to master your scales on the flute as a beginner flutist, so if you're totally starting out. So this question comes from Harry and there's also a good comment from Nard. So Harry asks, Hi Jane, I want to learn scales. Is that possible online?

Lower octave flute scales

And then Nard also said, I would like to begin some lessons. I'm at the beginning level just playing lower octave scales about 45 minutes a day. So not really a question from Nard, but I thought I would include that because it was an interesting comment that he's playing lower octave scales, which Nard is a good thing that you're doing.

Faster progress through proper flute technique

Okay, so my name is Jane <laugh>. I'm a flute teacher. I teach flute players how to get faster progress by learning proper technique. The little tiny tweaks to your playing of right technique, the right way to play that makes a huge difference to how easy it is to play and how good you sound.

Beginner level flute scales

Now this video is a series of four videos. So this is beginner level, but we also have how to master your scales for intermediate, advanced and how expert flute players master their scales. So we've got four levels. So if you're not a total beginner after this video, you can jump ahead to intermediate, advanced or expert.

Online flute teaching

Harry, I'm going to teach you your first scale in a video. So this is to prove to you that yes, it is possible to learn your scales online. Obviously you need a flute and you'll probably need to have gotten your way around the flute. So had a had a couple of lessons, know what notes to play and know how to get a sound. Now, if you don't know how to do that yet, no problem at all. What I'm gonna teach you can be saved until you're up to that level. So this is how to learn your first scale.

Don't use flute sheet music for scales

So we're gonna do this in five steps. When you learn your scales as a beginner and at any level, it's really important that you use no music. So you don't use any music when you play. Of course you can refer to music to go, oh, okay, what's my key signature? But when you're playing the scale, I don't want your scales to be a reading exercise, a reading music exercise. It's a playing exercise. So do it, learn them without music.

Alright, here we go with the five steps.

Flute scales

Step number one is understand how a scale is constructed. So to do that, you're gonna need to know basically two things. You're going to need to know that a scale steps up in alphabetical order. You'll also need to know the key signature of the scale.

Stepping up for ascending flute scale

For example, we're gonna do this on F major. So F Major has a key signature of B flat. That means every time you play a B, you don't play B, you play B flat instead. All the other notes are natural. So if it's F major, we're gonna start on F and we're gonna step up alphabetically. So F goes to G and then G, excuse me, doesn't go to H, it goes back to A, but it's still going up in pitch.

Stepping down for descending flute scale

Then we have B flat, C, D, E, and F. And then you do that in reverse order and come down and that's your first scale. So step one is to understand what you're doing, understand the construction of the scale and what notes you need to play.

One octave flute scales

Step two is to, oh my gosh, dunno what's going on with my throat, is to learn at one octave. So what I showed you then was one octave, oct means eight, as you know from octopus. And octave is the distance between two notes. So the distance between the bottom F and the top F, it's eight notes in total that the distance is one octave.

When you get better, you can do two octave scales and also three octave scales for some scales. When you're a beginner, totally start with one octave.

Practising flute scales tongued

Step three is to make sure you're doing it tongued. I'll play it for you. So this is F major one octave tongue.

Breath control on the flute

The reason that I get you to learn it tongue first instead of slurred - slurred like that is more advanced for a couple of reasons. One is you need a lot more breath control. And if you're at the stage of just learning your first scale, chances are you'll still yet to really master your breath control. So doing it tongued means that you don't have to think about your breath control so much. It's one less thing to think about.

Flute scales tongued

And the other reason why tongued is better than slurred as a beginner is because the little tiny gap between each note where you're not playing. The little tiny gap gives your brain the teeniest amount of thinking time to switch fingerings. And at this stage when you're playing, you're going to need that time to think.

Slurring flute scales is more advanced

If you try it slurred too soon, you likely will become overwhelmed. Having said that, if you can do it slurred and you've got breath control, no problem, awesome. Chances are you're gonna be an intermediate or getting up to intermediate level anyway. So if you're finding there's a lot of things to think about, tongue it. I should say tongue it, that's step three.

Practising flute scales slowly

Okay? Step four, really important. Play your scales accurately. In fact, play them as slowly as you need to go to be able to play it exactly correct. So for example, you might have to think about B flat if you're doing this fingering, C, and here you might have to take a bit of time to get to D. Think as much as you need. You might be able to do some bits quick, but my encouragement for you is to slow down and get it right. Go as slowly as you need to be able to get the fingerings right.

One octave flute scales slowly

The reason for that, I learned an amazing phrase the other day. I think it's the Navy seals that had this, I don't know if this is real or if I just heard it. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. What that means is if you spend time to carefully, accurately do your scales right, which is slow, you will form,  I was gonna say processes - you will form grooves is another way of saying it, in your brain that other right paths, that's what I wanted to say. The paths, you'll form the right paths in your brain doing the right fingerings. And once they've been emphasized a little bit, you will be able to go fast with ease.

Learning the flute scales correctly from the beginning

So slow is smooth, meaning, you know, easeful and then that leads you onto going fast. So in other words, don't play it wrong because you'll be teaching yourself the wrong thing. You'll be forming the wrong paths in your brain. Go as slowly as you need to get it right. Accurate, I should say, rather than right. Right's, a bit general accurate.

Repeat the flute scale slowly

Okay. And then the last step, step five is to be able to play the scale that you are learning five times in a row. Zero mistakes. Slow as you need to go carefully play it five times in a row with no mistakes. And if you make a mistake, you gotta count from zero again. <laugh> It's a bit of a fun game. Now this is easier than what you think. It's harder than what you think and it's easier than what you think. It's harder than what you think. If you dive in and go, okay, I'm just gonna play my scales and I'm gonna like do them really fast, it's gonna be hard.

Slowly to make flute playing accurate

If you understand the concept of go as slowly as you need to get the notes accurate, you'll find it easy. There you go. Five times in a row, zero mistakes. It's the fastest way to learn your scales accurately, which means they'll be right and you'll be able to go fast and you'll be a good flute player.

The Flute Academy

So this step that I'm talking about through here, this is the exact step that I teach in the Flute Academy. Now the Flute Academy is not total beginners. So Harry, it was Harry, wasn't it? Was it Harry? Yes. Harry,  if you are on your first few weeks of learning the flute, hold off on joining the Flute Academy because I want you to get a handle on your instrument just a little bit first, but for anyone who's sort of upper beginner level into intermediate and advance, the Flute Academy's good for you.

Faster progress through proper flute technique

So the process that I've shown you is the same process that I teach students at the Flute Academy. So they're not beginners, but they haven't always learned how that they haven't actually almost probably 99% of the time they haven't learned how to play scales, practice scales properly. And this is how I teach them and it's amazing how fast they go, their progress and their actual scales when they learn this technique. I'll put a link to the Flute Academy below Harry or Nard, in case you're interested or in case anyone else is interested.

Favourite scale to play on the flute

There's something else. Oh, how could I forget? If you are watching this on YouTube, I want you to type below what is your favourite scale as a beginner. So what's your favourite scale to play? Maybe cuz it's easy, maybe cuz it sounds good. Maybe because it's the key to your favourite piece that you like to play.

Intermediate and advanced flute scales

Type in what is your favourite scale to play as a beginner. Now don't forget if you're advanced or you're curious about how, sorry, <laugh>, let me say that again. Don't forget if you're intermediate or if you're curious about how advanced or expert flute players, you could call them elite flute players or even pro flute players, how they get good at their scales, have a look for the other videos.

Free flute mini course on tone

So this is the first one in the series. If you're watching this within a week or two of it coming out, the new ones won't be there yet, but I will record them and you'll see them all together. Now, if you'd like a clearer tone, a clearer, stronger tone, I can easily fix your embouchure to get you a clearer and stronger tone. Join me at sign up for the free minicourse and I'll show you exactly the three steps to fix your embouchure to clearer, stronger sound. I'll see you there and good luck with your scales. And Harry, good luck learning your first scale of F Major. See you later.

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