In music and music theory, a hexatonic scale is a scale with six pitches or notes per octave. Famous examples include the whole-tone scale, C D E F G A C; the augmented scale, C D E G A B C; the Prometheus scale, C D E F A B C; and the blues scale, C E F G G B C. A hexatonic scale can also be formed by stacking perfect fifths. This results in a diatonic scale with one note removed (for example, A C D E F G).

Whole-tone scale

Main article: Whole-tone scale

The whole-tone scale is a series of whole tones. It has two non-enharmonically equivalent positions: C D E F G A C and D E F G A B D. It is primarily associated with the French impressionist composer Claude Debussy, who used it in such pieces of his as Voiles and Le vent dans la plaine, both from his first book of piano Préludes.

This whole-tone scale has appeared occasionally and sporadically in jazz at least since Bix Beiderbecke's impressionistic piano piece In a Mist. Bop pianist Thelonious Monk often interpolated whole-tone scale flourishes into his improvisations and compositions.

Whole-tone scale Play (help·info).
Whole-tone scale Play .

Mode-based hexatonic scale

See also: Synthetic modes § Hexatonic scales

The major hexatonic scale is made from a major scale and removing the seventh note, e.g., C D E F G A C.[1] It can also be made from superimposing mutually exclusive triads, e.g., C E G and D F A.[2]

Similarly, the minor hexatonic scale is made from a minor scale by removing the sixth note, e.g., C D E F G B C.[1]

Irish and Scottish and many other folk traditions use six-note scales. They can be easily described by the addition of two triads a tone apart, e.g., Am and G in "Shady Grove", or omitting the fourth or sixth from the seven-note diatonic scale.[citation needed]

Augmented scale

See also: Synthetic modes § Hexatonic scales

The augmented scale, also known in jazz theory as the symmetrical augmented scale,[3] is so called because it can be thought of as an interlocking combination of two augmented triads an augmented second or minor third apart: C E G and E G B. It may also be called the "minor-third half-step scale", owing to the series of intervals produced.[3]

Augmented scale Play (help·info).
Augmented scale Play .

It made one of its most celebrated early appearances in Franz Liszt's Faust Symphony (Eine Faust Symphonie). Another famous use of the augmented scale (in jazz) is in Oliver Nelson's solo on "Stolen Moments".[4] It is also prevalent in 20th century compositions by Alberto Ginastera,[5] Almeida Prado,[6] Béla Bartók,[7] Milton Babbitt, and Arnold Schoenberg, by saxophonists John Coltrane and Oliver Nelson in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and bandleader Michael Brecker.[3] Alternating E major and C minor triads form the augmented scale in the opening bars of the Finale in Shostakovich's Second Piano Trio.[citation needed]

Prometheus scale

Main article: Mystic chord

The Prometheus scale is so called because of its prominent use in Alexander Scriabin's symphonic poem Prometheus: The Poem of Fire. Scriabin himself called this set of pitches, voiced as the simultaneity (in ascending order) C F B E A D the "mystic chord". Others have referred to it as the "Promethean chord". It may be thought of as C Lydian b7 without the 5th degree.

Prometheus scale Play (help·info).
Prometheus scale Play .

Blues scale

Main article: Blues scale

The blues scale is so named for its use of blue notes. Since blue notes are alternate inflections, strictly speaking there can be no one blues scale,[8] but the scale most commonly called "the blues scale" comprises the minor pentatonic scale and an additional flat 5th scale degree: C E F G G B C.[9][10][11]

Most common "blues scale" Play (help·info).
Most common "blues scale" Play .

Tritone scale

The tritone scale, C D E G G() B,[12][unreliable source?] is enharmonically equivalent to the Petrushka chord; it means a C major chord ( C E G() ) + G major chord's 2nd inversion ( D G B ).[13]

Tritone scale on C Play (help·info).
Tritone scale on C Play .

The two-semitone tritone scale, C D D F G A, is a symmetric scale consisting of a repeated pattern of two semitones followed by a major third now used for improvisation and may substitute for any mode of the jazz minor scale.[14] The scale originated in Nicolas Slonimsky's book Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns through the "equal division of one octave into two parts," creating a tritone, and the "interpolation of two notes," adding two consequent semitones after the two resulting notes.[15] The scale is the fifth mode of Messiaen's list.

Two-semitone tritone scale on C Play (help·info).
Two-semitone tritone scale on C Play .

See also


  1. ^ a b McCabe, Larry (January 21, 2011). You Can Teach Yourself Song Writing. Mel Bay Publications. ISBN 9781610654883. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  2. ^ Brown, Jimmy (June 5, 2012). "Guitar 101: Learning Harmony Through Six-Note Hexatonic Scales, Part 4". Guitar World. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Workman, Josh. Advanced: "Secrets of the symmetrical augmented scale", Guitar Player 41.7 (July 2007): p108(2).
  4. ^ Advanced: "Secrets of the symmetrical augmented scale". Josh Workman. Guitar Player 41.7 (July 2007): p108(2).
  5. ^ Johnson, Timothy. "Modernism". Ithaca College. Archived from the original on December 11, 2012. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  6. ^ Corvisier, Fernando (January 2000). "The ten piano sonatas of Almeida Prado: the development of his compositional style". University of São Paulo/ Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  7. ^ Bartok, Bela (1955). The Miraculous Mandarin. New York: Boosey & Hawkes.
  8. ^ J. Bradford Robinson/Barry Kernfeld. "Blue Note", The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Second Edition, London (2002)
  9. ^ Ferguson, Jim (2000). All Blues Scale for Jazz Guitar: Solos, Grooves & Patterns, p.6. ISBN 0-7866-5213-6.
  10. ^ Arnold, Bruce (2002). The Essentials: Chord Charts, Scales and Lead Patterns for Guitar, p.8. ISBN 1-890944-94-7.
  11. ^ Harrison, Mark (2003). Blues Piano: Hal Leonard Keyboard Style Series, p.8. ISBN 0-634-06169-0.
  12. ^ Busby, Paul. "Short Scales", Scored Changes: Tutorials.
  13. ^ C–G is a tritone interval.
  14. ^ Dziuba, Mark (2000). The Ultimate Guitar Scale Bible, p.129. ISBN 1-929395-09-4.
  15. ^ Nicolas Slonimsky (22 December 2000). Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. Music Sales Corp. ISBN 0-8256-7240-6. Retrieved Jun 2, 2009.[page needed]