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  • Writer's picturestephmdressler

No. 3: The Path to Technical Command

Updated: Jun 19


Achieving technical command of the flute is a journey that requires both dedication and discipline. Honing your technical skills is crucial for unlocking your full potential on the instrument and having total control of your musical expression. If you want to be confident in your ability to play fast notes with precision, you MUST (no exceptions!!!) memorize and master your scales and arpeggios. 


The Role of Scales and Arpeggios

Scales and arpeggios make up 99% of the pieces you will learn. They form the basis of melodies, harmonies, and the overall structure of nearly all classical compositions. Let’s take a look at two short technical passages that most flutists will encounter and analyze them for scales and arpeggios (chords):

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The above excerpt is from Mozart’s Concerto in G Major, first movement. 


Highlighted yellow = D Major Chord

Highlighted green = A Dominant Seventh Chord

Highlighted orange = D Major Scale

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This is from Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis, Andantino movement. 


Highlighted yellow = b flat harmonic minor scale fragment

Highlighted green = b flat minor seventh chord

Highlighted blue = f harmonic minor scale fragment

Highlighted pink = d flat major seventh chord

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Let’s say two different flutists are sight reading these excerpts. Player A has all arpeggios and scales memorized, while Player B does not. 


Player A will (upon first glance) immediately recognize each of these chords and scales. They have practiced these everyday and have the muscle memory of playing them correctly hundreds of times. Therefore, they will most likely play these lines with minimal effort on the first attempt. 


Conversely, Player B will have to use much more brain power to read and process these notes, and will most likely have to play the measures over and over again to develop the muscle memory of these arpeggios. On their first attempt at tempo, they are much less likely to play this with zero mistakes and will most likely have to learn this at a slower tempo and speed it up gradually. 


So- what scales and arpeggios should you be practicing? 


  1. All major scales

  2. All natural minor scales

  3. All harmonic minor scales

  4. All melodic minor scales

  5. Full range chromatic scale

  6. All major arpeggios

  7. All augmented arpeggios

  8. All minor arpeggios

  9. All diminished arpeggios

  10. All major seventh chords

  11. All dominant seventh chords

  12. All minor seventh chords

  13. All half diminished seventh chords

  14. All fully diminished seventh chords


Once these are mastered, you can mix in the following:


  1. Major thirds

  2. Minor thirds (natural)

  3. Minor thirds (harmonic)

  4. Minor thirds (melodic)

  5. Perfect fourths

  6. Tritones

  7. Perfect fifths

  8. Minor sixths

  9. Major sixths

  10. Minor sevenths

  11. Major sevenths


Congrats- you’re done! Just kidding- add these too:


  1. Two whole tone scales

  2. Major pentatonic scales

  3. Minor pentatonic scales

  4. Modal scales in all keys


Okay, you’re good... for now! Phew! I know it’s daunting looking at all of the elements of music we need to work on (and memorize), but once you do, I guarantee you will be able to play mostly all tonal music you encounter with ease.


Conclusion

Mastering the flute requires a strong technical foundation, and memorizing scales and arpeggios is an essential part of this process. By incorporating these elements into your daily practice routine, you will develop the finger dexterity and musical understanding needed to excel at your instrument. Remember, the journey to technical command is a marathon, not a sprint. With patience, persistence, and a passion for the flute, you can achieve the technical prowess that will allow you to express your musicality to its fullest. This is the secret (not really) to having good technique.


Need PDFs of these exercises? Check out the resources page in the teaching section of this website. 


Happy practicing!

<3 Steph


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