The Whole Tone Scale


   Hello, friends. It is nice having you here. Today's lesson is going to be a very distinct type of scale known as the whole tone scale. But by the way, I would like to tell you that if you haven't subscribed, don't forget to do so before you leave this post because it will really be of help to you. By this, you will not miss any of our interesting posts. So let us five into today's bone of contention!

   Just as the major scale and minor scales which are Heptatonic (consisting of seven notes), the blues scale which is hexatonic (consisting of six notes), and the pentatonic scale (consisting of five notes), the whole tone scale is made up of six notes per octave, therefore making it an hexatonic scale. It is very easy to recognise the whole tone scale and it is unlikely to be confused with the blues scale because of their distinct sound.

Also click: The Pentatonic Scale

   One unique feature of the whole tone scale is the intervals between each notes. The whole tone contains equal interval of whole steps between each successive degree of the scale. The interval is a major second, and that is two steps or a full step, also known as Tone. A good way to understand this is comparing it with symmetrical chords like the fully diminished chord and augmented chord. These chords have equal intervals between the chord tones. For that of Diminished, we have a minor second interval, while for that of Augmented chord, we have a major third interval between each chord tone. The same idea is applied in the construction and even application of the whole tone scale. The scale has intervals of only major seconds. I believe that is where the scale got its name(full tone). Therefore, this scale is referred to as symmetrical.

   Another mind-blowing point to note concerning this strange music scale is that, of all the twelve keys, this guy can be built on just only two keys. How unbelievable that is! But it is true. There are only two keys that the whole tone scales can be built upon. The left over ten keys are only inversions of the whole tone scales of these two keys. This idea is also borrowed from the fully diminished and augmented chords. There are only three fully diminished seventh chords and only four augmented triads in music. I have covered the tutorial on the diminished triads and augmented chords, make sure to have a look.

Also check: Understanding the Neapolitan Scales

Constructing the Whole Tone Scale

    This guy is among the category of music scales that can easily be built, even with your eyes closed. I am not exaggerating. LOL. In this segment, I will show you simple ways you can build him all by yourself, and do not forget that there is also the whole tone of all 12 keys in this post. You can use that to verify!

1. The Formula Method
  The first way to build him is what I call "The Formula Method." The formula method has a lot of ways you can represent it. For instance, one can build the scale using this formula:
W stands for Whole.
T stands for Tone
Semitones: 2 2 2 2 2 2

   Each representation above connotes the interval. So you will get the same notes irrespective of which formula you use. I used those three representations above for your easy understanding.
The first formula is directly the same as the second because Whole step means Tone. Whole Step is an interval between two notes in which there exists a single note stacked in the middle of the two notes. This is the kind of interval between the notes of the Whole Tone scale. While the third formula representation means that you count you semitones for you to get the next successive scale degree.

2. The Place and Jump

   The second method of constructing the Whole Tone scale is the Land and Jump method. This method is really fun. What you will do here is to place your finger on a note, then jump over the next note that is a semitone away, place it on the next note after that, jump over the next note, on and on till you get back to your root note. The notes you place your finger on constitutes the whole tone scale in that key. As easy as ABC!


   In this segment, you will be given the scale in each key of the keyboard. Remember, the scales is easy to build because it is just an inversion of the scale in key C and C#.

Notes: C, D, E, F#, G#, Bb, C

C# / Db

Notes: C#, D#, F, G, A, B, C#


Notes: D, E, F#, G#, A#, C, D

D# /Eb

Notes: D#, F, G, A, B, C#, D#


Notes: E, F#, G#, A#, C, D, E


Notes: F, G, A, B, C#, Eb, F

F# / Gb

Notes: F#, G#, A#, C, D, E, F#


Notes: G, A, B, C#, D#, F, G

G# / Ab

Notes: G#, A#, C, D, E, F#, G#


Notes: A, B, C#, D#, F, G, A

A# / Bb

Notes: A#, C, D, E, F#, G#, A#


Notes: B, C#, D#, F, G, A, B

C: C, D, E, F#, G#, Bb, C
C#/Db: C#, D#, F, G, A, B, C#
D: D, E, F#, G#, A#, C, D
D#/Eb: D#, F, G, A, B, C#, D#
E: E, F#, G#, A#, C, D, E
F: F, G, A, B, C#, Eb, F
F#/Gb: F#, G#, A#, C, D, E, F#
G: G, A, B, C#, D#, F, G
G#/Ab: G#, A#, C, D, E, F#, G#
A: A, B, C#, D#, F, G, A
A#/Bb: A#, C, D, E, F#, G#, A#
B: B, C#, D#, F, G, A, B (or B, C#, D#, E#, F##, A, B)

Finally, I will like you to know that on each scale degree, you will find an augmented triad. This supports its symmetrical nature. And due to this, you can use the whole tone scale as solos over augmented triads. For example, C whole tone has:

 C, D, E, F#, G#, Bb, C
Here are the augmented triads:
C E G#
D F# Bb
E G# C
F# Bb D
G# C E
Bb D F#
The C whole tone scale will go with any of these augmented triads.

The Whole tone scale is a very beautiful one. It should never be underestimated, and it should be practised as frequently as you practise the major and minor scales. With this, you will be exposed to brand new possibilities.

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