Jan 032011

The Whole Tone Scale

The whole tone scale is a symmetrical scale. It’s called “whole tone” because it contains no 1/2 steps. You can start on any random note and play a scale up or down, always making the subsequent note two 1/2 steps (a whole step) away. The characteristic sound is hard to describe; however, you don’t get a sense of tension and resolution. (This is true of any symmetrical scale). You will hear it in movies and programmatic music. Thelonious Monk was one of the first major jazz pianists that seemed to be fascinated by it. Continue reading »

Dec 092010

Diminished Scales

Diminished scales are 8-note scales and they are symmetrical. There are only 2 (enharmonically) diminished scales: One  is based on a hale/whole step formula; the other based on a whole/half formula.

Eight note scales are easy to practice with a metronome. I have found that the symmetrical nature of chords or scales makes fingering easier on guitar or piano, possibly other instruments.

The half/whole type of diminished scale goes well over a dominant 7th chord; the whole/half type fits well when played over a diminished or half-diminished chord, e.g., a  2-5-1 in a minor key.

In the chart below, the 1st 4 bars are simply the C diminished scale (half/whole) ascending and descending. Continue reading »

Dec 082010

Major Scale

Although just about everyone knows or can recognize the major scale, I include it here to illustrate the whole-step/half-step sequence as a way of thinking about scales. Knowing the interval sequence of a scale will help you to understand any mode of the scale. Here is the whole/half step map (formula) to create the major scale: The first interval is the interval from whatever starting note you pick to the next note in the scale.

  • Whole / Whole / Half / Whole / Whole / Whole / Half.



One way to look at it is that the scale is derived simply by starting at the 6th degree of its relative major scale. Starting on any note, however, the Whole/Half step map below will produce this scale. The first interval is the interval from the starting note to the 2nd note:

  • Whole / Half / Whole / Whole / Half / Whole / Whole.

Continue reading »