Expanding Scales!


“Expanding scales” are an exercise that is typically associated with the Bill Adam routine. You start at a comfortable register and play a scale up and down. You then begin a new scale on a lower note and ascend to a higher note than the previous scale. By always starting a tone lower and expanding to one or two tones higher you develop the coordination to play your entire range on one setting. This helps to eliminate any tendency to shift your mouthpiece or lip placement as you ascend into the upper register leading to greater ease in flexibility and a nice warm sound throughout your entire range.

By learning to play high and low on the same setting you train a highly functional embouchure.  This skill can be accessed by focusing on singing “ahh” up and down the scale (rather than making a shift into the “eee” vocal shape for the upper register). Expanding scales are a great way to open up the sound as well as warm up the feel of every note being “right out front” within the first few minutes of playing.

You can use the scales laid forth by Bill Adam HERE (page 2) or you can make up your own very easily. Symmetrical scales work well (Whole-tone, diminished, chromatic) and you can easily find a starting point which will eventually cover the full range pertaining to your particular goals. For instance, if you start a whole-tone scale on middle line Bb up to Ab on top of the staff, and then play each successive scale a half-step down, expanding to a half-step up you will end on a whole-tone scale from low F# to double C. (Thanks, Tony!).

Note; you do not need to be concerned with using these drills as a way to expand your range. Focus on maintaining the same ease of tone production throughout all registers. Simply expand outward until you feel the chops working or the top note is not clear and full in sound. Obviously, you will be the best judge of how expanding scales are applied (if at all) to your practice regime. It is useful to stop before feeling any fatigue and maintaining a disregard for how high you make it. In time you will be able to effortlessly glide throughout the octaves with a nice fat sound. Take it slow and be honest with yourself.

Please let us know how you like to use expanding scales in your practice routines in the comments section! We need all the help we can get!

UPDATE: When practicing expanding scales resist the temptation to take a breath as you ascend. It is important to develop the breath control required to play the longer scales and there may be a tendency to slightly shift the mouthpiece while taking a breath. Remember, we want to be able to play our lowest and highest note on the same setting!

Also, resist any temptation you may have to pull the mouthpiece down lower on the teeth as you ascend. Keep the mouthpiece placement high on the upper teeth. More on mouthpiece position to come!

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