Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday. Happy Halloween!
We all know that Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Exercises is the Holy Grail of all scale books. Most of us have drilled Exercise #4 over, and over, and over again to practice everything from articulation to rhythmic variations and even pitch bends. It is a great exercise due to its versatility and ability to keep each scale gradually changing and morphing into the next. That’s marvelous! However, if you have been playing this exercise for as long as I have, sometimes it can get a little tiresome and old (no offense, Taffanel and Gaubert – You guys still rock!). We tend to forget that this is not the only scale book on the market (the blasphemy! I know…). Today’s blog is a review of 4 other scale books that I have come to love over the years whenever I need to spice up my scale routines with something new. If you feel yourself entering a scale rut or are just in need of a break from good, old T&G, test drive some of these other options to rejuvenate your daily practice routine. It’s okay! Taffanel and Gaubert will understand.
Technical Flexibility for Flutists by Geoffrey Gilbert. This is a very easy to use, straight forward set of scale and arpeggio exercises that really challenges the users to explore the dreaded extreme upper ranges of the instrument. Let’s be perfect honest – those high register fingering patterns are tricky and many of us avoid them unless absolutely necessary. This scale book makes you face your fears in a type of scale exposure therapy. Another great element of this book is that it proceeds from scales and arpeggios in 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, and 7ths, giving you an valuable opportunity to practice those weird subdivisions that we often encounter in contemporary music. This is a really great book for those of you who are ready to test the bounds of your comfort zone and roll up your sleeves to work on your weaknesses. Be brave!
The Flutist’s Vade Mecum by Walfrid Kujala. Do you remember those books from the late 80s that asked you to select the character’s next step to continue the story? If you think Johnny should walk through the woods by himself to get home, please turn to page 38. If you think Johnny should instead call a taxi with a quarter he found in a storm drain inhabited by a clown with really sharp teeth, please turn to page 56. The Flutist’s Vade Mecum reminds me of one of those books, making it very comprehensive, but never dull. There are so many different studies from basic scales and arpeggios to interval studies using any type of interval you can possibly imagine, to scales in quintuplets, sextuplets, scales that accelerate, broken and varied scales, and “special” scales including modal scales, Hungarian Minor Scales, and Pentatonic scales. This book literally has everything and the kitchen sink. You may practice these exercises as they are written, however if you turn to the very end of the book, there is a guide to practice all of the exercises in various keys in a sequence like the 80’s character books (if you are practicing in the key of C, please turn to page 14 after completing this exercise). Finally, this book contains very well written practice guides before each chapter helping to guide your practice with useful tips and tricks. This is a great option for somebody looking for a lot of variety in their scale and technical studies. If you get bored easily, this is the scale book for you!
Seven Daily Exercises for Flute by M.A. Reichert. I love this book for working on articulation! If Taffanel and Gaubert is the Holy Grail of scale books, this is easily the Holy Grail of arpeggio books. I included this book on today’s list because it is chalk full of really great scale exercises for all major, minor, and chromatic scales that stay fairly regular and predictable throughout their sequences. Within this regularity, you may invent your own articulations, tempos, dynamics, or styles to add a bit of creative variety. A majority of the exercises, however, focus on broken chords and arpeggios using melodic, but predictable, variations. Again, the challenge with these exercises is to invent your own articulations and to practice maintaining the proper stamina to make it from one side of the exercise to another. Finally, I think what is most important for these exercises is to develop a very flexible embouchure. These are no doubt scale, arpeggio, and flexibility exercises packaged in one very useful book. I would recommend the Reichert to those of you that are very creative and enjoy coming up with your own challenges within a predictable framework.
Daily Exercises for the Flute by Andre Maquarre. Do you love the melodic, yet virtuosic, French style? The Maquarre is definitely the book for you! Like the Reichert, this book contains a number of exercises devoted to increasing your embouchure flexibility, extending quite quickly from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low. The scales, however, focus on the development quick fingers, and often use sweeping, yet unpredictable, melodies to help you practice scales, broken chords, and various intervals. Like the Taffanel and Gaubert, there are a number of suggested articulations to help vary your practice of some of the exercises, or you may simply choose to use your own. Be warned: The interval studies at the back of the book are far more challenging than they appear so practice these very slowly and deliberately in the beginning of your studies. This is a really great book for those of you that are planning a recital with a lot of French Flute School repertoire or if you are just someone who gravitates towards the French style. If playing something beautiful really inspires you, the Maquarre is the perfect addition to your daily routine.
Which scale books do you like to use in conjunction with the Taffanel and Gaubert? Have you developed a scale exercise that you like to use? Have you used any of the books mentioned above? Have they helped you develop technical elements differently from that of the Taffanel and Gaubert. Please comment below!