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Helpful Tips With Symmetric Whole Tone Scale Fingering

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Jazz guitarist and educator Chuck Anderson provides a follow up lesson to his last lesson on the diminished scale.

The concept of a symmetric scale refers to a distinct step pattern that occurs repetitiously in a scale. There are only a few commonly used scales that fit this category.

I recently discussed the whole – half diminished scale with its unique alternation of finger sets 1 3 4 and 1 2 4. This 3 note per string pattern is ideal for an ascending down up down picking pattern. It was characterized by shifting positions.

Another scale that behaves in a similar manner is the whole tone scale. As its name indicates, the whole tone pattern is all whole steps. Because of this pattern, the whole tone is a 6 note or hexatonic scale.

Here is the whole tone scale beginning on a C note. C, D, E, F# or Gb, G# or Ab and A# or Bb. The enharmonic names can be used at will but usually indicate a specific chord application.

It’s interesting to note that the whole tone scale is a scale that can not be confined to a 4 fret span. This assumes no open strings. Here is an interesting fingering that can be used for this scale.

Start on finger 1, string 6 at fret 8. Play 1 – 3 on 6. Shift back to fret 7 on string 5 and play 1 – 3 again. Continue this 1 – 3 pattern on string 4 at fret 6, 1 – 3 on string 3 at fret 5, 1 – 3 on string 2 at fret 5, 1 – 3 on string 1 at fret 4. You’l notice that this fingering ends on the A# or Bb note. If you want to complete the octave, just slide your 3rd finger up 2 frets.

In order to descend, play the 3 – 1 pattern on each string adjusting the position to accommodate the notes. At the bottom, you can slide finger 1 down to 2 frets to compete the octave.

Since this finger pattern uses 2 notes per string, use alternate picking.

The whole tone scale is typically used on augmented chords, 7#5 an d 7b5. Experiment with the possibilities!

More JGT lessons from Chuck Anderson.

And check out Chuck’s 7 album sampler!


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