Whole Tone Scale…Another Improvising Tool

The whole tone scale is a symmetrical scale made up completely of whole tones or major second intervals

This scale is used mainly for improvising over altered dominant chords because of the flat and sharp 5th’s contained in it.

If we were to make chords from this scale they would all be augmented triads, C+, E+, and so on

In most music the augmented chord is only used for a few beats to introduce a new chord. In jazz these altered chords are more common because they are used to replace common chords to add new sounds to a common progression.

Whole Tone – Only Two Scales

C Whole Tone

C Sharp Whole Tone

There are really only two of these scales. This scale repeats itself every major 2nd

The first one would contain half of the chromatic scale and the second one the rest of the chromatic scale.

You could start on C for the first one and then C♯ for the second one

You can play every other note on one string starting with an open note up to the 12th fret for a whole scale

Chromatic Scale

Whole Tone – Chromatic

Here is the whole tone scale compared to the chromatic scale

These are the only two scales. You just start on the note you want and every other note in the scale is two frets away or one whole tone

These are 6 note scales like the Blues scales

Chromatic Scale














Whole Tone One

Whole Tone Two

The whole tone scale is good for improvising over altered 5th dominant 7th chords like these. You may see the second two with a + sign C7+ this is the same chord.

The plus sign means augmented which usually refers to the 5th of a chord unless written like C7aug9. This means augment or raise the 9th one half step or in our case 1 fret

However you may see other ways of writing them because there really is no standard for the world. Different countries may do them differently.

C+9 would mean a ninth chord with a raised 5th. There are set standards for writing chord names but they aren’t always followed so you might have to try two chords to see which one sounds right.

Also there may be more than one way to write a chord. C+7, C7+ or C7♯5 can all mean the same chord.

Dominant 7th Altered 5th Chords

C Whole Tone

This scale is played against a C7♯5 chord.

C whole tone played against a C7 augmented

This scale can be started from any tone in the chord. For the C7♯5 you could start on C, E, G♯ or B♭

These scales are all the same they just start at different points.

I hope you found this page useful.