• A Lesson On The Dominant Harmony Of The Whole Tone Scale

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    The harmony of the whole tone scale is rarely explored like traditional scales and modes.

    One of the reasons why the whole tone scale is not really fancied by instructors and performers alike is because it is symmetrical and symmetrical ideas in tonal music can exist in more than one key  at once.

    So, only a few musicians who can handle symmetrical ideas — and if I want to be a little more specific, I’ll say jazz musicians — can explore the harmony of the whole tone scale.

    “You Want To Hear The Truth?”

    I love the whole tone scale and I’ve explored the melodic and harmonic benefits of its symmetry and that’s why I’m here to get you started and most importantly, show you how to add a twist to your playing using the harmony of the whole tone scale.

    Please permit me to refresh your mind on the whole tone scale before we proceed.

    A Short Note On The Whole Tone Scale

    The whole tone scale consists of a succession of notes in fixed whole step intervals from a given note to its octave.

    Starting from C:

    …and moving upwards in a fixed whole step interval:

    C to D:

    D to E:

    E to F#:

    F# to G#:

    G# to A#:

    …then back to C:

    Altogether, here’s the C whole tone scale:

    The Symmetry Of The Whole Tone Scale

    Due to the fixed interval between successive scale tones in the whole tone scale, the whole tone scale is symmetrical.

    Playing the C whole tone scale:

    …from D to D:

    …produces the D whole tone scale:

    “Yes! More Whole Tone Scales Can Be Derived From The C Whole Tone Scale…”

    E to E:

    …produces the E whole tone scale:

    F# to F#:

    …produces the F# whole tone scale:

    G# to G#:

    …produces the G# whole tone scale:

    A# to A#:

    …produces the A# whole tone scale:

    Attention: Keep in mind that the F# and Gb whole tone scales are equivalent, and so are other enharmonic spellings:

    F# whole tone scale:

    Gb whole tone scale:

    Using the Db whole tone scale:

    …the following whole tone scales can also be derived:

    Eb whole tone scale:

    F whole tone scale:

    G whole tone scale:

    A whole tone scale:

    B whole tone scale:

    Now that we’re done with the short note on the whole tone scale, let’s proceed to the harmony of the whole tone scale.

    The Dominant Harmony Of The Whole Tone Scale

    The primary harmony of the whole tone scale is the augmented triad. For instance, in the C whole tone scale:

    …there are two augmented triads:

    The C augmented triad:

    The D augmented triad:

    But in this lesson, we’re going beyond the regular augmented triads that are associated with the whole-tone scale into learning the dominant seventh chords that are associated with the scale.

    Harmony #1 — “The Dominant Seventh [Flat Five] Chord”

    One of the dominant seventh chords that can be derived from the whole tone scale is the dominant seventh (flat five) chord — which is not a regularly played dominant seventh chord.

    The C dominant seventh (flat five) chord (is a classic example and will serve as our reference):


    The C dominant seventh (flat five) chord consists of two mutual major third intervals:

    The C major third interval:

    The F#  major third interval:

    “Check Out All The Dominant Seventh (Flat Five) Chords On The Keyboard…”

    The C dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The C# dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The D dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The Eb dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The E dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The F dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The F# dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The G dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The G# dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The A dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The Bb dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    The B dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    Harmony #2 — “The Augmented Seventh Chord”

    The augmented seventh chord is a dominant seventh chord with a raised fifth. The C augmented seventh chord consists of C, E, G#, and Bb:

    …which are part of the tones of the C whole tone scale:

    Raising the fifth tone of the regular C dominant seventh chord:

    …which is G:

    …by a half-step (to G#):

    …produces the C augmented seventh chord:

    “Here’s The Augmented Seventh Chord In All 12 Keys…”

    C augmented seventh chord:

    Db augmented seventh chord:

    D augmented seventh chord:

    Eb augmented seventh chord:

    E augmented seventh chord:
    V
    F augmented seventh chord:

    Gb augmented seventh chord:

    G augmented seventh chord:

    Ab augmented seventh chord:

    A augmented seventh chord:

    Bb augmented seventh chord:

    B augmented seventh chord:

    Final Words

    The dominant harmony of the whole tone scale is not only suitable but versatile because they can either be resolved to major quality or minor quality chords.

    For example, the C dominant seventh (flat five) chord:

    …can resolve to either of the following chords:

    The F major ninth chord:

    The F minor ninth chord:

    We’ll take a look at the tritone substitution of the dominant harmony of the whole tone scale in another lesson.

    See you then.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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