Whole Tone Scale

A scale made up exclusively of whole tones

"Whole Tone Scale" is a type of hexatonic scale, meaning it uses only six notes within an octave.

The Whole Tone Scale is constructed entirely of whole steps, which means there are no half steps between any of its adjacent notes. This unique structure results in a symmetrical pattern, where each note is equidistant from the next within the scale. It is often used to create an ethereal, dreamlike, and ambiguous quality in music. It was widely used in French impressionism.

In Western music, the Whole Tone Scale is commonly associated with augmented chords and other harmonies that lack a clear tonal center. Due to its lack of half steps, the scale avoids creating a strong sense of tension and resolution, giving it a somewhat ambiguous quality that can be used to evoke a sense of mystery or uncertainty.

The Whole Tone Scale gained popularity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in Impressionist and early Modernist music. Composers like Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky employed this scale to create unique tonal colors and evoke atmospheric effects in their compositions.

Because of its symmetrical structure, the Whole Tone Scale offers fewer possibilities for traditional tonal harmonies, making it particularly suitable for creating a sense of otherworldliness or abstraction in music. It's often used for creating special effects, transitional passages, or creating a surreal atmosphere.

Example of Whole Tone Scale

Debussy - Voiles