What Is the Whole Tone Scale?

Whole tone scale on C
Whole tone scale on C. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Major and minor scales consists of 7 notes, while pentatonic scales are made of 5 notes. However, the whole tone scale has 6 notes that are all a whole step apart, making its intervallic formula easy to remember - W-W-W-W-W-W.

This type of scale is used in Romantic music as well as jazz music; for example, the music of Thelonius Monk. It is important to remember that there are only two whole tone scales; C (C- D - E - F# - G# - A#) and D flat (Db - Eb - F - G - A - B). If you start a scale on a different note, you are still playing the same notes as the C and Db whole tone scales but in a different order. The sound of a whole tone scale is often described as "dreamlike."