How to master your scales, as an intermediate flutist (in 4 steps).

Flute Q&A #50: How to master your scales, as an intermediate flutist (in 4 steps).

Apr 25, 2023

In Flute Q&A #50, you'll learn the 4 ways that help you master your scales if you are an intermediate flute player!

Today I'm answering this excellent question from Roisin:

"I'm playing scales every day but I don't really know how to progress beyond the few that I know."

This was a perfect question to help other intermediate flute players with their scales too, so thank you for your question Roisin!

How to master your scales, as an intermediate flutist (in 4 steps).

Roisin, if you'd like to quickly get a stronger sound on the flute, I recommend you come and do the free mini-course here
The Flute Academy that I mentioned can be joined here

And a question for YOU!
Which scale is your favourite one 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

Master flute scales

Welcome to Flute Q and A Number 50 where you are going to learn how to master your scales on the flute if you're an intermediate flutist. So this video is a series of four videos. There's already one up on YouTube about how to master your scales as a beginner, and pretty soon we'll have one as well about how to master your scales as an advanced player and also how expert flute players master their scales.

Advance in flute scales

So this question, which was one of the inspirations for actually doing this series of four videos, comes from Roisin and Roisin says, I'm playing scales every day, but I don't really know how to progress beyond the few that I know. So this is an awesome question Roisin, and we're going to answer this as how to master your scales as an intermediate player.

Favourite flute scale

Now, before we go on, if you're an intermediate flute player, what is your favourite scale to play? So if you're watching this on YouTube, type in below in the comments what your favourite scale is. So for example, F major scale, or maybe it's an arpeggio, maybe it's a scale in thirds, maybe it's a fancy scale that you just learned. Maybe it's a blue scale, which is you know, slightly jazzy.

Faster progress through proper flute technique

So type in what your favourite scale is and in the meantime I'll introduce myself. My name is Jane Cavanagh. I'm a flute teacher and I teach flute players all around the world in my Flute Academy. How to get faster progress on the flute by learning proper technique. So proper technique is the little tweaks of flute techniques. So the way you play means that you accelerate how fast you progress. I mean that's kind of a tautology there. Accelerate how fast you progress. You progress a lot faster and it feels a lot easier to play because you're using the right techniques.

Intermediate flute player

So let's get onto these scales. So four steps, it's going to be as an intermediate player, if you think of these four steps, it makes it quite easy to get it. Get the concept in your head about how to progress beyond a few scales that you know.

Learn scales with no flute sheet music

Firstly, always learn your scales with no music. Always play your scales with no music. So when I say learn them with no music, by all means, look at music if you need to check the key signature, if you need to check how the actual scale goes, if you're playing an arpeggio and you've never played an arpeggio. By all means, look at music to figure out how it goes, then put it aside and learn the scale or the arpeggio or whatever you're doing with no music.

Scales should be flute tone exercises

Playing scales should not be a music reading exercise. We should not be using that part of our brain. It should be a body exercise, a playing exercise, not a reading exercise. If you take the reading out, you gotta be a whole lot better at your scales.

Change to harder key signatures for flute

Okay, so the four steps. Step number one, increase the number of sharps or flats in the scale. So for example, if you already know F major that has B flat in it, then how about learning B flat major that has B flat and E flat in it. Once you've mastered that, how about you go onto three flats? So B flat, E-flat, A flat, that's E-flat major and of course do the sharps as well.

Consistency in flute practise

It's a good idea if you're learning two flats to then loan the scale with two sharps if you're doing three flats to also learn three sharps so that you're learning scales and sharp <laugh>, oh my gosh, I can't speak today. So you're learning flats and sharps at the same rate.

Order of flute scales

Knowing which scales to learn and in what order, I find is one of the biggest things that overwhelms my Flute Academy students, which is why we focus on that in the scale module inside the 45 day Flute Transformation. There are a whole module unlearning scales and I teach students the exact order in which to learn scales. I call it the Lifetime of Scales sheet. And it has the order in which to learn scales.

The Flute Academy

I call it the Lifetime of Scales because scales are endless. There are so many scales, there's majors, there are all sorts of different minor scales. Then there are all the arpeggios, and then there's all the arpeggios within inversions also called broken chords. Then you can do everything in thirds. Then you can do dominant seventh chords, and chromatic scales.

So I won't play all for all these for you now because you know, we'll be here for <laugh> a lifetime, literally a lifetime.

Lifetime of flute scales 

Anyway, the order in which to learn scales. I find that the students in the Flute Academy are so much less overwhelmed and they actually have direction in how to learn their scales because of the order that I give them. So more sharps, more flats are one way to get more advanced in your scales. The other way is to do them slurred.

Different articulation on the flute

So for example, if you are, let's play D major with two sharps. If you're playing it tongued, there's going to be a natural limit to how fast you can play this. Unless you start learning double tonguing, triple tonguing, or you've got really fast single tonguing, there's going to be a limit on how fast you can play this scale. So we switch it to slurred.

Slurs on the flute

So you can already hear there that was naturally faster. You can naturally go faster when you slur a scale, which makes it harder. And the other thing is there's no teensy little gap between each note. So there's no room for error when you switch your fingers to a different note, there's no room for error because you're slurring it. There's no little tiny gap between the tongues where you can be slightly inaccurate with your switch between say a D and an E.

Harder transitions on the flute when slurring

When you're slurring, there's no room to hide. And if there is uneven switching between anything, you will hear it, it will stick out like a sore thumb. And this is really good because it means that you know then where to focus on in your scale. Fix up. Let's say it's either F sharp, maybe it's sounding clunky like that. When you're slurring, great, it's highlighted an issue and you know how to practice it, which will make you better.

Faster flute scales

The third way to improve your scales as an intermediate player is to play it faster. So I deliberately put this step after slurred because if you slur it, then you can go a whole lot faster. So for example, if you're doing it that fast, then chances are you will be able to manage the next step. Fourth step.

Up to three octaves on the flute

Fourth step, which is to play more octaves. So if you're doing it one octave, try and do it two octaves like this. If you're playing at two octaves, try and play at three octaves. And now I'm regretting picking D major as the example for three octaves cause it goes really high. Okay, I'll do it for you.

Three octaves in one breath on the flute

So you probably noticed that was in one breath. If you can get D major three octaves in one breath, you're in the wrong level, in the intermediate level. You should be up at the expert level. So go and switch to that video. Having said that, there are good things to learn in this intermediate video as well.

So they're the four ways to get your scales more better and learning more of them as an intermediate player. 

Free flute mini course on tone

I feel like there's something I wanted to say. Okay, really the only other thing I wanted to say, I'm pretty sure I'll check my notes in a sec, is if you would like to improve your tone, join me at, sign up for the free mini course and I will teach you how to instantly improve your tone.

Fluffy flute tone

And now the reason this is so relevant for you is if you have a fluffy tone, there is no way you'll be able to do a scale three octaves. To be able to get through a phrase as long as what I did then, or a scale as long as what I did then, you have to have a clear tone because playing with a clear tone is directly connected to how much air you are using.

Faster progress through proper flute technique

So if you have a fluffy sound, you are using too much air. I don't mean you're blowing too hard, you've got air being wasted. Now, if we fix your embouchure, we fix your tone. It means you're being more efficient with your air and it means that you're gonna play for longer phrases. So there you go. Join me at for free. And otherwise don't forget to put your favourite scale beneath this. If you're watching on YouTube, see you later. Oh wait, did I, did I give her anything? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I got everything. Bye.

Faster Progress Through Proper Technique ™

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