Tonal Exercises for Flute

The flute is one of the oldest known instruments.

Tonal exercises for the flute provide the basis for a solid technique in flute playing. Flutists study arpeggios, chords, major and minor scales and tonally based sequences to enhance and develop their technique. These elements provide the flutist with the ability to develop quick fingers, flexibility, and the capability to confront any musical challenge. Tonal exercises consist of any exercise based on the system of major and minor key signatures.


Flutists should not just play scales, they should memorize them. Learn all of the major and minor scales and play them a complete four octaves when possible. This will help to develop your facility in all registers and give you the chance to work through several fingering combinations that may cause problems when performing. To increase your ability, you should play the scales tongued and slurred. Slurring scales makes you pay attention to the speed of your fingers while tonguing helps to improve your coordination. Tongued scales use the tip of the tongue to articulate notes. Slurred scales do not use any articulation and the tongue lays flat.


To improve your flexibility and versatility on the instrument, play major and minor arpeggios. An arpeggio consists of three notes a third apart. To play an arpeggio, start on the low B and play through all four octaves of the flute. For instance, the B major arpeggio consists of the notes B, D sharp and F sharp, then after F sharp, jump a fourth to the next B and continue the series as high as you can go. Next, start a half step higher and play all of the major and minor arpeggios for the next pitch. Continue until you have played all 12 pitches.

Seventh Chord Arpeggios

Once you have mastered major and minor chords move on to seventh chord arpeggios. Play dominant, minor, minor-major, fully and diminished seventh chords. Dominant seventh chords have a major third, followed by a minor third and then another minor third. The minor chords have a minor third, followed by a major third and then a minor third. Minor-major sevenths are minor chords with a major third on top. Diminished chords consist of minor thirds from bottom to top. To determine minor and major thirds, you must use a chromatic scale. Count up three half steps for a minor third and four for a major third. For instance, a major third above C is four half steps, which would be E.


Sequences are short musical ideas that repeat. Playing short sequences of technically challenging materials in several keys will help increase coordination in your fingers. Purchase a book on flute technique for some prearranged exercise or make your own by breaking up major scales into groups of five notes and transposing them into different keys. For instance, play the notes C, D, E, F. G as fast as your are able to, and then return back down to C. Repeat this exercise several times to develop a quick finger technique. Then practice your transposition skills by attempting to transpose your sequences on the spot in real-time. One example of this is to take the C five-note figure and transpose it up a half step to C sharp. You would then play C sharp, D sharp, E sharp, F sharp and G sharp.


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