🎹 The whole tone scale, also known as the symmetrical scale, is a 6-note (hexatonic) scale. The scale is called whole tone scale because it's built with only whole tones.
The whole tone scale is in contrast to the chromatic scale, which is the collection of all 12 half tones (no whole tones) or diatonic scales, which are built with a mixture of whole tones and half tones.
The whole tone scale contains no leading tone, and so it sounds eerie, mysterious and unresolved. It's is a symmetrical scale due to the fact that all the tones are the same distance apart.
There are only 2 whole tone scales, C and D♭. Playing the whole tone scale starting from any other note will result in the same notes as either the C whole tone scale or the D♭ whole tone scale being played.
All triads built on a whole tone scale are augmented triads. Check out this piano chord tool to play and hear augmented triads.
A good example of the whole tone scale in popular music is in the keyboard intro to You Are the Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder.
Here you'll find an interactive piano reference for the whole tone scale with notes on the piano keyboard, intervals and scale formula.
Whole Tone Scale Intervals
The intervals of the whole tone scale are:
- Root/Prime (1P)
- Major 2nd (2M)
- Major 3rd (3M)
- Augmented 4th (4A)
- Augmented 5th (5A)
- Minor 7th (7m)
Whole Tone Scale Formula
The formula for the whole tone scale is: Whole, Whole, Whole, Whole, Whole, Whole.
Easy enough! 😉
Who Tone Scale Chords
Here's a list of chord types that fit the whole tone scale:
Whole Tone Scale Note Chart
And now here are interactive piano keyboard layouts, one for each key, where you can hear the whole tone scale being played up and down:
C Whole Tone Scale
notes: C D E F♯ G♯ A♯
D♭ Whole Tone Scale
notes: D♭ E♭ F G A B
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