Whole Tone Scale: Essential Info

Difficulty: Spectrum

I love the Whole Tone Scale, very angular kind of sound and fun to explore. Scale patterns and fingerings are at the same time limited and infinite - there's only really just the one shape practical but you'll find many ways to get creative with it.

SCALE FORMULA

The scale formula for the Whole Tone scale - the name kinda gives it away right - a series of tones. Just six notes in the octave. The formula describes the interval distances between each note of the scale.

T

T

T

T

T

             

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

 

6

             


T = Tone [whole step] • S = Semitone [half step] • TS = Tone + Semitone (minor 3rd interval)

COMPARISON WITH MAJOR SCALE

Scales are usually compared to the Major Scale to find the intervals used, but because the Whole Tone Scale has 6 notes (Major Scale has only 7) it makes better sense to just look at it intervallically.

 

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

     

C Whole Tone Scale

C

D

E

F#

G#

Bb

     

Equation

1

2

3

#4

#5

b7

     

Equation 2

1

9

3

b5

#5

b7

     

You will see above that I have re-interpreted Equation 2 in a way that 'makes sense' - the F# is really a #4 (of course!) but to see the scale in practice it makes more sense as something to use over Dominant chords (3, b7) with a natural 9 and an altered (# or b) 5th.

CHORDS IN THE KEY

Looking at the chords from the scale is a lot less useful than in diatonic context (the 7 note scales) although advanced players might enjoy figuring out how many chords they can derive from this collection of notes, it's a fun exercise if nothing else! Particularly here because the chords in the key are all Major (or Dominant) in tones apart!

Further Reading

If you are studying this scale I would hope you are beyond the need for my Practical Music Theory course but if you're still struggling with chord construction and remembering the notes in your scales it might help!

Whole Tone Scale

- LESSON STEPS -

Grades

Found an issue?

Please submit it. This will help me make constant improvements to better your experience.