Music theory > Lessons > Pitch of sounds > Modes > Whole-tone scale

Whole-tone scale

In a whole-tone scale, all music notes are separated by 1 whole step united states of america (tone united kingdom), and all note has the same importance the same function, so there is no tonic.

Below is an example of a whole-tone scale:

The whole-tone scale is one of the modes of limited transposition, because there is only transposition of this mode.

The whole-tone scale: A mode of limited transposition

Below are the only 2 transpositions of the whole-tone scale:

All others transpositions are by enharmony one of the two versions above.

For example, If you transpose this a major third upper:

It results in:

whole-tone scale

Which is (by enharmony) the same as:

whole-tone scale

And because there is no tonic, it is the same as :

Examples of whole-tones scales


Mozart did not wait for the birth of Olivier Messian to use the whole-tone scale, he used it in Ein musikalischer Spaß (A joke musical) K. 522, Divertimento for 2 horns and string quartet.


Another example of whole ton scale in Voiles for piano (book 1) by Claude Debussy:

whole-tone scale in Voiles for piano (book 1) by Claude Debussy

Some compositors and pieces which use the whole-tone scale

Below are some pieces which use the whole-tone scale:

- Franz Schubert: "Sanctus" from the Mass No. 6 in E-flat major, D. 950
- Hector Berlioz: Ouverture Francs-Juges
- Debussy: la mer
- Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
- Franz Liszt
- Maurice Ravel: Jeux d'Eaux
- Béla Bartók
- Igor Stravinsky: L'histoire du soldat
- Olivier Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time (movement 6, "Danse of Fury, for the seven trumpets", cello part)

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