The Whole Tone and Diminished Scales

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There are some more scales that are worthy of individual attention. These are the Whole Tone scale and the Diminished scales.

The Whole Tone Scale

As the name suggests, there is a tone between each note.

Spelling 1 2 3 #4 #5 b7

In the key of C:


Interestingly if we start on C# we get the following:

Notes C# D# F G A B

As you can see all 12 notes are covered by these 2 scales (C and C#). Each scale works for any starting note.

Because the scale contains a Major 3rd and a b7 it is used over dominant 7th chords. It will add some extra tension as it brings in the #4 and #5, so this will need to be resolved when playing.

The C Whole Tone scale can therefore by used over the dominant 7th chord of any of the notes contained in the scale - C7, D7, E7, F#7, G#7, Bb7!

It is also used over altered chords, particularly the 7#5.

The Diminished Scales

There are 2 variations of the Diminished Scale, The Whole/Half and the Half/Whole. Again the names give a very big clue to how they are made up!!


The Whole/Half diminished scale is sometimes referred to as the Fully Diminished Scale. The notes in the scale contain the C dim triad and the Cdim7 Chord. This scale is therefore used to solo over dim7 chords.

The Half/Whole diminished scale is sometimes referred to as the Dominant Diminished scale. As this new name suggests it is another alternative scale to use over dominant 7th chords. Again, it introduces tension that will need to be resolved. It is also very useful over the 7b9 chord as the scale has a b9 (the b2 up an octave).

All these scales will introduce some challenges to your playing, e.g. resolving tension, but will also come in very useful when faced with certain chords.

As always, the best way is to play them and hear the sounds for yourself.

And most of all, have fun experimenting and learning!!



-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist


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