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Whole tone scale application

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Kevjmyers, Jan 9, 2005.


  1. Kevjmyers

    Kevjmyers

    Dec 10, 2004
    Boulder. CO
    I was wondering if you could help me identify when the proper use of this scale would be? Its relatively new to me since its a scale that I've oft overlooked and ignored. Is it mainly a jazz thing? Does it matter if a lot of tones are out of the key signature? Does rock utilize this scale much? What about modes that stem off this scale? This is the scale that I'm attempting to conquer next and I would appreciate any advice!
     
  2. frobie

    frobie

    Jan 7, 2005
    I have no idea about whether or not the whole tone scale has modes, but if i understand it right, there should only be two different whole tone scales (numbering notes 1-12) the odd and the even, so i would think modes don't play as big a part as with other scales. I did use the whole tone once in jazz sort of setting, it was chaotic though, the whole band was directed to play the scale, but play any notes at anytime, making it a huge jumble, but it was really interesting.
     
  3. Bardolph

    Bardolph

    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    The wholetone scale itself is not a mode. In theory, there really are only two wholetone scales, you just use different starting notes.This scale can create a certain tonality used in soloing to sound more "out there." It can be pretty hip sounding if you use it right and don't overdo it. It works well over b5 and #11 chords because of the use of the tritone (6 halfsteps above the root).
     
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think it's definitely a Jazz sound and would just sound "wrong" in most rock tunes - even then as Eskimo says - most Jazz players wouldn't use it a lot and would probably just use it as part of a solo to add dissonance, before returning to more consonant choices...
     
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Primarily it's used over Augmented chords, and like everyone else said there's no modes as it's a symetrical scale.

    Off to General Instruction...
     
  6. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    about the only time i've heard the whole tone scale in rock music is in some of Frank Zappa's music...

    in the 80's, during the guitar solo in the tune 'Zoot Allures' he usually whips out a descending 'A whole tone' lick over an 'A mixolydian' kinda harmonic flavour... it was a bit old hat once you'd heard him do it for the 20th time, but it fitted well in an obviously 'out' kind of way...

    in the 'Zoot Allures' context, the whole tone scale works not by slotting into the existing harmonic environment, but by having its own self-contained identity that exists outside that environment, and resolves itself by a common note, usually the root... (it's easier to hear it than to hear me talk about it)


    in Zappa's 1988 band version of 'Big Swifty' on the album 'Make A Jazz Noise Here', there's an interesting solo section where the backing consists of augmented chords for 2 bars, descending by a semitone each time... Scott Thune's bass on that section is all augmented arpeggios and whole tone scale fragments.. maybe worth a listen for a bass application of the whole tone in rock n roll :)
     
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Err...isn't there a contradiction here.....?
    Surely this is proving that the whole tone scale is a Jazz sound and not rock?

    Zappa is often cited as an electric Jazz artist..
     
  8. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    erm.. i think i'll stick to discussing the whole tone scale and citing examples for the questioner's further listening if that's ok... the 'was Zappa jazz and should we take the names of his albums literally?' topic can be discussed elsewhere
     
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    Well - the above were two of the questions asked in this thread and I don't think you can avoid the "was Zappa Jazz?" question, if you bring him up in this context!! :meh:
     
  10. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Scotland

    If I remember correctly, he also used it on "King Kong"
     
  11. Kevjmyers

    Kevjmyers

    Dec 10, 2004
    Boulder. CO
    Thanks for the input everybody! This scale certainly has a strange color to it and I look forward to deciphering it further. I was certain that at least prog rock might bring out the flavor of the scale but I guess generally speaking rock and even fusion jazz ignore it entirely. Thanks Pacman, it certainly does fit well over an augmented chord and I apologize for starting a heated debate over Zappa's use of the scale. In fact I had him in mind when I posed the question and was just curious if that "out there" sound was detrimental to most rock and fusion applications.
     
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    At risk of repeating what everyone else has posted...

    To identify a scales potential uses look at the intervals in the scale

    Whole tone = Root, 2nd, Maj3rd, #4th, #5th, min7th

    So, the chord most likely spelt out by these intervals is a V7 chord with a #5 and #11... which I'd say you're more likely to find in jazz than any other genre :)
     
  13. Davehenning

    Davehenning

    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Listen to Bix playing piano: "In a mist" Or Holst's "The Planets." Great stuff.

    As Pacman said, use liberally with augmented chords...
     

  14. I think a scale doesn't necesarily belong to a certain style of music. Some scales come from a specific background but the evolution of music comes from fusioning.. Also "Jazz" or "rock" are only labels and don't describe the music they are referred to quite clearly..

    So a scale such as the whole note can be aplied to any piece of "rock" with a certain change of key where the tones of the scale belong, and yet sound simple and easy listening.

    For example.. playing an arragement or phrase using
    c , d, e, f# in any order over a G major chord or any of its modes, and then shifting to C# Major or any of its modes to use the rest of the tones (g#, a#, c) in any order..

    It's only one key change and can be applied to any kind of music no matter if it's jazz or rock or reggae or whatever.
     
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - the questions asked were "does rock use this much" "is it mainly a Jazz thing" - I think most people would agree that you are much more likely to hear it in a Jazz setting, than rock!! :meh:
     
  16. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    correct.. the only rock applications of the whole tone scale are generally ones where the harmonic language used has been stretched noticably far beyond the typical boundaries of rock n roll (pentatonic/mixolydian etc) harmony

    i.e. Zappa & a few other 'progressive' rock bands

    and now this thread is coming to a close, i'll take the liberty of talking about Zappa... just because a composer uses harmony, instrumentation, form etc from various genres doesn't necessarily make it wise to put them in a certain pigeonhole within that genre... the label 'jazz musician' doesn't seem entirely appropriate for Zappa as he used collages of musical material from all over the modern western musical landscape...

    yes, he definitely liked horns, he liked the harmonic freedom that the 'jazz' sensibility allows, and he liked improvisiation... he also had a fondness for the structure of 'head - solos - head'... and he liked the musicianship that musicians from the 'world o' jazz' could sometimes provide him, but if Zappa himself would deny the 'jazz musician' tag (which he did many times), I don't see why we should try and pin it on him...

    if we look at where he came from, i'd say he was a R & B musician who just evolved in not-normal ways :) the 'jazzy' albums he was most famous for, 'Hot Rats', 'The Grand Wazoo', 'Waka/Jawaka' are really rhythm & blues with an extended harmonic vocabulary... some of them might sound a bit like something from 'Bitches Brew', but they didn't spring from jazz... they came from Zappa's love of R & B mixed with his love of horns & woodwind, which probably came more from listening to modern composers like Stravinsky & Varese than from any jazz musicians....
     
  17. CJK84

    CJK84

    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I'm fairly certain that Eddie Van Halen used a whole scale a time or two in a lead. Early VH material - maybe VHII or Diver Down.

    He does it so fast that it probably has a different effect than when a bassist would typically do it.
     
  18. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    King Crimson - "Fracture"

    Makes pretty heavy use of the scale. Though, it doesn't stick to it rigorously, there are some motifs that step outside it.

    There are probably a number of other King Crimson pieces that make use of it, though I'm not sure which right now (octatonic scales show up more frequently).
     
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But that's how most Jazz came about - it was literally Blues with an extended harmonic vocabulary!!

    I think it's OK to discuss this kind of stuff - but the simple answer, for anyone not familiar with all this history - is that the whole tone scale is a "Jazz sound" and if rock musicians do use it, then that is a big part of why we say they are "Jazzy" or "Jazz-influenced" , etc.

    So - Zappa and King Crimson are often cited as examples of JazzRock crossover.
     
  20. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Do we really care this much about labels?

    Bruce, I thought the whole tone scale was a 'sound', nothing more than that. I've heard it in rock, jazz, classical, etc....