Topic 4 Symmetricalscales

Up to now we have seen irregular (asymmetrical) musical scales which, are represented by equally irregular geometric figures. But there are also regular (symmetrical) musical scales: this, by analogy, suggests that they will generate regular geometric figures. Actually, the chromatic scale itself is already regular (all the notes are 1 sT apart from each other) and in fact it is represented by a regular dodecagon. But I will give you another one. There is a scale called ‘whole-tone scale’ which is built with only intervals of one tone. It is also called a ’hexatonic’ scale.

The C whole-tone scale consists of the following notes: C D E F# G# A# C. Let’s build it on the chromatic wheel and describe what we get:

The figure representing this scale is a regular hexagon just like, this time, the succession of tones between the notes of the scale is regular.

All sides are therefore equal, therefore we can generalize and say that:

Regular hexagon (1 m-1 m-1 m-1 m-1 m-1 m) = whole-tone scale (T)-(T)-(T)-(T)-(T)-(T)

Now, though, it becomes important to listen to how these scales that we have represented actually sound. Try playing the following scales on the piano:

  • The chromatic scale. How would you describe it?
  • The major scale. What do you think?
  • The whole-tone scale. Weird right?