Whole Tone Scales

In this lesson, our first look at Symmetrical Scales, we will be exploring one of the most commonly used non-modal scales, the Whole-Tone Scale.

This scale is named quite literally, as it is built completely with whole-tones, one after the other, producing six unique tones that form the scale as a whole.

If you were to build this scale from the root C, you would get:

C D E F# G# Bb


R 2 3 #4 #5 b7

I use the interval b7 here instead of #6 because the underlying chord that is built from this scale is a 7#5 chord, or sometime written 7(#5,#11) to account for both the raised 4th and 5th notes in the scale.

Here is how that scale looks like on paper in both Tab and Notation from the root-note C.

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Whole Tone Scale Fingerings

To help you get started in your exploration of this scale, here are two common fingerings for a C Whole-Tone Scale, one with a 6th-string root and one with a 5th-string root note.

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After you have learned these two shapes, try expanding them to all 12 keys across the fretboard, and begin to apply them to your soloing ideas either over a 7th chord, where you want to bring in a #11 and #5 sound, or more specifically when you see a 7#5 chord symbol on any tune you are soloing over.

Test Your Theory Chops

Write out all 12 keys of the Whole-Tone Scale in the comments section below, using the "spoiler" tab on the left side of this screen, and I will be happy to go over your work to see how you are doing with writing out this fun and important scale.

Do you have any questions about the Whole Tone Scale? Post any questions or comments below and I will be happy to answer them for you.