Mastering Scales and Arpeggios: Become a Professional

Understanding the Audition Process
(Part 2B – Scales and Arpeggios)

Last week, we talked about how important scales and arpeggios are to becoming a great musician – and how important they are to your future auditions! This week we’ll talk about how to practice so by the time you audition, you are a professional.

  1. Start out by choosing 7 schools that sound interesting. It might be years before you start researching colleges seriously, but don’t let that stop you from picking some for this exercise.
  2. Find their audition requirements and print them out.
  3. Next, find your grade and school quarter in the table below. Then, start practicing! Practice every day. Practice until you cannot get it wrong.

If you begin seriously practicing scales when you reach high school, you should devise your own system for mastering the scale requirements. Give yourself at least three months of daily practice before your college auditions begin. If your All-State audition scale requirements are different from your college scale requirements, you will need to master both. Do not rely on one to get you through the other!

We created this table to help you master all the scales for your instrument. Families of scales are across the top. The number of flats and sharps are in the left-most column. The numbers in the boxes indicate the grade and school quarter we recommend you begin practicing each. For example, 7Q1-2 means "seventh grade, 1st and 2nd quarter".


  • The first step to learning any scale is to learn to sing it using the movable "Do" system of the solfege system (in other words, sing a do-re-mi scale using any note as do, which we call the tonic note).
  • An arpeggio is the notes of a chord played one-by-one going up the scale or down.
  • You should play the scale(s) in each octave of your instrument you have mastered.
  • This chart is cumulative. Add new scales and arpeggios to the work you have already mastered. Do not stop practicing the scales you have mastered. Mastery takes continued practice!


  • Special 9th Grade note: At this point, you will be able to perform all major and natural minor scales in all octaves. You will have mastered the chromatic scale at the full range of your instrument.
  • 10th Grade—In September through November, learn to play the major scales and their related arpeggios in the sequence of the "circle of fifths" in all required octaves in under three minutes. Master these in both simple meter and compound meter. In December through May, learn to play all the natural, harmonic, and melodic scales via the "circle of fifths" within six minutes. Master all these in both simple meter and compound meter.

Keep Practicing,

Dr. Randall Bayne, CEO