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HomeMusic Theory: Scales: Whole Tone Scales

"Whole Tone Scales"
The Dreamy Scale

Scale-c-whole-smlStriking out in the oppose direction from diminished notes is augmenting or streching the notes. 

Augmenting a note is to raise it a half step. This is what the this scale is alll about when compared to a major scale.

The scale of the whole tones have a dreamy quality all there own. 

The diminished scales have a tension and horror film sound to them, but the whole tones takes us just the opposite way.

As derived from the name it means all the tones or notes are whole steps in the scale.

The French composer Debussy used these scales in creating some his works as did Liszt, and the Russian composers.  

You should experiment with them. They can add some exciting new ideas to your composing and improvising.

There are only two whole tone scales. That is - by defining two scales all other staring points on that scale are simply an inversion.


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The Whole Tone Pattern

The significance of this scale is that we start using scales with less than 8 notes.

This scale pattern is whole - whole repeating pattern. That is 6 whole steps in a row. That is only 7 notes to make a complete scale.

The staff below shows the first scale for whole tones that starts on C


Constructing Whole Tone Scales

These scales are developed mathematically using whole steps. To make sure we understand the difference in notes we will build this scale starting on 'C'.

The Intervals
1 - 2 - 3 - +4 - +5 - +6 - 8
The Notes
C - D - E - F# - G# - A# - C
The Steps
S + W + W + W  + W  + W + W   

Here is that pattern shown on the keyboard.


Notice the alternating groups of white and black keys both those played and not played. Swap them and you have the second scale of whole tones.

The Second Whole Tone Scale: Db - Eb - F - G - A - B - Db.

Take a look at the starting on any note in the scale and that you have to only know these two patterns.

Whole tone scale are easy to learn. They have a unique place and really are not used that often. In that contrast you may be able to add something to your playing by using them.

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Learning scales is intimidating for the beginning student.

Don't let them get the best of you.

This Getting It Down Cold Key and Scale Workshop easily leads you through the process step by step.

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