Close this search box.

Michel Debosts Scale Game with revisions

Molly Alicia Barth | January 2011

    Editor’s Note: This version of Michel Debost’s original Scale Game has been revised by Molly Alicia Barth. Some dynamics and tempo markings have been altered, and numbers 10, 11, 17, 48-50, and 57-60 have been added to reflect the current need for flutists to be trained in contemporary flute techniques. Please refer to Taffanel and Gaubert Exercise No. 4 from 17 Big Daily Exercises.

     The 60 Style Drills (see the right two columns on the chart below) are applied to Taffanel & Gaubert’s Exercise #4, which is repeated twice through in its entirety. Six keys are actually repeated more than once because they are also played an octave higher. By starting with a different scale each day and continuing down the left side of the chart in order, you will be thoroughly entertained by playing all scale patterns with all sorts of styles (dynamics, articulations, and rhythms). The transitional passage at the end of each key should played as fluidly as possible, slurring all notes together in a slow, gorgeous manner.
     At first this may seem cumbersome, but after getting the hang of each Style Drill, you will be able to make it through the entire 60 scales (24 keys + 6 octave transpositions x 2 = 60) in 30 minutes. This is a great way to play the Scale Game through in its entirety each day, when your schedule allows.
     First and foremost, have fun!  Stretch your limits. For example, when pianissimo is indicated, see where the breaking point is. When does sound no longer come out? Once you find that point, you can ride along the line just above this breaking point, while pushing the breaking point softer and softer each day. 
     Similarly, if a passage is to be played slur four/tongue four (#24), ask yourself: “How short can I play the staccato notes? How much can I connect can the slurred notes?” By carefully considering these ideas, you will soon discover in yourself a beautifully centered tone that you can play in all ranges, at all dynamic levels.
     Each day I enjoy choosing an emotion with which to play each drill. For example, I might convey Anger while playing #40 (halves and 16ths, slur, forte, fast) on a D-flat major, 8va scale. I might choose to soar through a B-minor scale during #34, playing as if riding on the wind, or I might be a mouse quietly scurrying through my rural house during #43. I could possibly curl up by the fire, lulling me to sleep with its warmth, during #3.
     While it is important to be critical with yourself so that you play these drills as accurately as possible, this game is not designed for you to sit on one drill for an hour until you get it right. That would quickly lead to boredom, which is entirely not the idea here. Keep going; make a mental note of problems that arise, and fix them the next time the same problems pop up. Enjoy the Scale Game!

Key Rotation
     Taffanel & Gaubert #4 is played all the way through, twice every day, but  each day you start in a different place in the exercise. The style drills you apply, however, always begin with #1 on the chart. Therefore, you are applying various articulations, dynamics, and tempos to different keys than you did the day before. Where 8va is marked, replay the section you just played at the higher octave, then proceed to the next key.

For Example:

     First Day: Begin at C major with style drill #1 (Slur, mf, medium). After playing the C major section, go back to the beginning and play the C major key again an octave higher. As you reach the next key marked in the key column, change to the next style. So C major 8va would be played in the second style of slur, ff, fast. When you finish this key, begin playing the A minor section using style drill #3. Continue through the keys and style drills through #30. Don’t forget to include the keys marked to be played an octave higher. You will play the first 30 style drills on the first time through the exercise. Then repeat the key column (C major through E minor)with style drills #31-60.

     Second Day: Begin at C Major 8va; with Style Drill #1 (Slur, mf, medium); work on down the key column, changing keys and octaves as indicated while also moving through Style Drills 1-30, which are now displaced by one number. In other words, C major 8va, with style drill #1, A minor with style drill #2, F major with style drill #3, D minor with style drill #4, and so on. When you finish the E minor section (playing #29), go back to the beginning of the exercise and play the C major key with style #30. Then start back at C major 8va with style #31 and continue through the keys again.

     Third Day: Begin at A minor in the key column with style drill #1, and continue through the keys, their repetitions, and style drills, which are now displaced by two numbers. In other words, A minor with style drill #1, F major with style drill #2, D minor with style drill #3, and so on.
     Continue in this fashion for 30 days until you have once again reached the first day. Keep track of your daily starting point by placing a paper clip next to the key for the next day.
When you are pressed for time, just play through the key column once with the first 30 style drills (15 minutes) and play the other 30 style drills on the following day.

How to Read the Chart

TT = single tongue
TK = double tongue
TKT = triple tongue
KK = single tongue using “K” as the only articulation
“Hu Hu” = short, pointed articulation using only breath and abdominal muscles
pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff = dynamic indications
very slow, slow, medium, fast, very fast = tempo indications