ABSRM separately publishes books of scales and arpeggios for each instrument. See this for example

But surely the scales are the same no matter the instrument.

I couldn't find contents lists for the books online.

I imagine there could be practical differences such as whether you need to play a scale slurred or not and which scales should be learned first for early grades but this doesn't seem worth another book

I don't recall seeing any notes about fingering in them or something like that. Is there any reason to have another book if you had one of the others? (its possibly not worth any kind of book once you are sufficiently proficient musically).

  • I imagine various levels could require different number of octaves, and yes, there could be performative requirements like slurring a certain number of notes. I'm not experienced with ABSRM, but in auditions I've taught for (the American "AllState" program), the requirements are fairly flexible. If it asks for a C major, three-octave scale, in 16th notes with quarter note equaling 70 bpm, slurred four to a bow, then it doesn't care about your fingering or whether you choose to include the "turnaround" (do mi re do re mi fa sol...). Oct 8, 2021 at 14:29
  • The syllabus for each instrument tells you the exact requirements for each grade. There's no need to buy those books.
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 8, 2021 at 15:03

4 Answers 4


Consider elements like range of instrument. In the lower grades, there may well be little difference, but higher, a double bass, for example, won't be playing the same notes in scales as say, a flute. And, piano plays 3 octaves two hands, meaning a four octave span - way more than some instruments.

In higher piano grades, there are scales in thirds, etc. Imagine playing those on a flute.

I guess also that certain scales are easier played on certain instruments - mainly fingering-wise. So I'm sure the same scales aren't expected at the same grades for all instruments.

As I've said before, a call to ABRSM will never go amiss. They have answered all (but one!) of my questions over the last few decades. I very much doubt AB publish guitar tab - and the sight-reading part of the syllabi will inevitably be dots. And - tab for guitar doesn't mean that's the best place to play anything.


When you learn a scale on an instrument you learn (at least!) two skills.

One is a transferable skill - you learn the pitch relationships between the notes of the scale. So you could hear someone else performing the scale on a different instrument and be able to tell whether they're playing the right notes.

You also learn non-transferable skills - the technical hurdles you have to overcome on your particular instrument type to perform the scale.

For instance, brass players take a long time to build upper range, so brass scales in early grades are one octave or so, starting with low, easily manageable notes. But range isn't an issue for pianists, so two and three octave scales are common for early grade pianists.

If you use a scale book for a different instrument type you may be presented with scales that are straightforward on that instrument but hard on your instrument.

A non-scale example here: a non-pianist can walk up to a piano and play chopsticks, but trying to play chopsticks on a trumpet (lots of pitch leaps and so on) is something no novice trumpet player could achieve.

Music that is easy to perform on one instrument is not necessarily easy on another instrument, and this is true of scales too.


Books of scales for different instruments can involve substantially different notes played notation-wise (i.e. in different octaves) or even different reading systems. It's hard to imagine a guitar book with no tabs or an organ book with no low notes for the pedalboard, for example.

Guitar Scales and Arpeggios, Grades 1-5 by ABRSM explicitly "Provides suggested fingering" according to https://www.google.com/shopping/product/14636474167897834246/specs?q=abrsm+scales+and+arpeggios&client=firefox-b-d&biw=1920&bih=927&prds=cid:14636474167897834246,cs:1,eto:12297231946932198697_0,sgro:od. This fingering is less than helpful for piano.


Not a practical difference in exam requirements, per se, but a possible reason to buy multiple books for learning purposes: some instruments are notated in different clefs than others. For example, trumpet is typically written in treble clef, viola in alto clef, and cello in bass clef.

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