Review: Scale Studies for Beginner and Intermediate Flutists by Meerenai Shim

IMG_0607[1]Meerenai Shim is a flutist and flute teacher based in Campbell, California. She published a flute study in 2007, Scale Studies for Beginner and Intermediate Flutists. I have long felt that there could be more choices in flute methods for younger students. There are many books for absolute beginners and a considerable amount of material for advanced students but there seems to be a relative lack of books for the in-between students. (If you’d like to share your favorite intermediate flute method books with me, please do!)

I like Shim’s book. There are brief instructions at the beginning of the book, which encourage the student to use a metronome (and how to use the metronome), play with good tone, practice certain marked exercises until they are memorized, and work with a private teacher. All helpful advice!

She begins the book with C Major, which is a reasonable choice. Immediately, though, we find a variety of time signatures. I think this is an excellent idea. Too often, students become too comfortable with basic time signatures and tend to shy away from “foreign” time signatures, even though they are no more difficult than common time. I think the introduction of a variety of time signatures right away is a smart idea. She also provides a space to write in a metronome marking for each exercise. In some examples, she suggests counting the smaller beat OR the larger beat (as in the case of a 6/8 time signature) and provides a space to write in the metronome marking for each of those.

After C Major, we find a set of exercises on A Minor. There is a brief explanation of the relationship between C Major and A Minor. She also introduces the various types of minor scales: natural, harmonic, and melodic. There isn’t really any written explanation of the differences between these, so a private teacher would be necessary here.

After these keys, we add more flats and sharps to the key signature (F Major, D Minor, G Major, E Minor, etc.) until all major and minor scales have been covered. Shim treats F-sharp Major and G-flat Major separately, which I like. I think it’s useful to be able to read each of these keys separately.

There are a variety of articulations covered from the very beginning of this book. Many of them anticipate a student’s use of the Taffanel and Gaubert method book later on, which sets up a useful transition. There is also good rhythmic variety that becomes more complex as the book progresses. There are plenty of opportunities for the private teacher to make distinctions between rhythms that are sometimes confusing. (I’m thinking specifically of the dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm presented on page 18, followed by the triplet rhythm introduced on page 20.)

The range is limited at the beginning of the book (just over two octaves) and increases as the student progresses. In fact, Shim revisits certain keys that are introduced at the beginning of the book in order to extend the range of those. The very first exercise of the book begins on a low C, which could present difficulties for a brand new student. (Again, a private teacher makes all the difference here.)

The last portion of the book reviews all of the scales presented. The first is a chromatic scale (which isn’t labelled; it would have been nice to have seen this identified), followed by each major scale and its parallel minor. For the private teacher, there is a nice opportunity in this book to show the relationship between major scales and relative minors as well as major scales and parallel minors. Shim suggests that all of the scales in this section be memorized, which is excellent advice.

There is a clear fingering chart on the last page of this method book. It covers from low B through very high D, which surely is plenty of range for the beginning and intermediate student. Shim also suggests a couple of additional resources for fingering charts.

Overall, I think this is an excellent book for beginners (with the guidance of a private teacher) and intermediate students. It does a good job of preparing a modern flutist, including a variety of relatively complex rhythms, expanding to use the entire range of the instrument, and providing a fingering chart that gives the entire modern range. These are skills that modern students — even the younger ones — are becoming expected to know, and it’s nice to see them addressed in a concise method book.

For more information, check out Meerenai Shim’s website: http://meerenai.com/main/.

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