Tag Archives: Whole tone scale

Whole-tone scale for outside playing

The whole tone scale is a nice tool to get some shifting outside ideas on a minor chord and has been used for this by quite a few people since the 60’s. In this lesson I am going to go over how you connect a whole tone scale to a tonic minor chord and demonstrate how you can use it to get some great spacey outside sounds.

When you are staying on Tonic minor chords for a longer period in a song it can be nice to  have some ways of create some tension and a bit of movement. The whole tone scale can be a good choice for this. Among other things because you can create a shifting sound that goes in and out of the tonality.

The examples in this lesson are thought from a melodic minor or tonic minor chord, but you can of course also use it on other types of minor chords if you can make it fit.

Tonic minor: Melodic minor

All the examples I am going to go over are in the key of G minor and are using the melodic minor scale in the 8th position as shown in example 1


The idea is to look at the top part of the chord in bar 2 of example 1. This is a GmMaj7 chord and the top triad is a Bb augmented triad. If we let that augmented triad “lead its own life” we could see it as half of a Bb wholetone scale as shown in example 2:


Some lines shifting back an forth

The form of all the examples are all 1 bar GmMaj7 one bar wholetone and then resolving back to the GmMaj7. The Whole tone sound that I am going over here is shifting back and forth between in and outside which is a nice quite subtle way to play outside. Most other ways are more clashing with the original harmony as in my lesson on Side Slipping

When you work on using outside stuff you are better of paying attention to that you get in to the outside sound and more important out of it in a sensible melodic way. It probably won’t work too well if you have completely separate ideas from in to outside.

Another thing is that you should be aware that simple melodic ideas often work better for outside than complex ones.  This is because if you for example use a lot of chromatic passing notes in your outside line then those chromatic passing notes are in fact probably the inside notes of the original chord sound. For that reason it’s good to keep the outside lines a bit basic.

The first example is actually a quote from Wes. He uses this licks in a few of the Four on Six solos. I start out with a GmMaj7 chord and then a GmMaj arpeggio where the top triad moves up from Bb to C to D where it is of course back home and resolves to the  9th of GmMaj7


In the second example the first part of the line is based around a stack of 4ths spelling out a Gm6/9 chord. This is followed by a scale run. Then it transitions into a whole tone idea. Again using the different triads to sort of shift in and out of the chord sound. In this example I am mixing up how I connect the lines. so that it is less like a triad voiceleading through the scale. When I hit the high D  I resolve to a Gm6/9 (using the first stack of 4ths under it as a voicing)


The last example starts with a Gm(add9) arpeggio idea that then continues to some parallel major 3rds. Moving around these symmetrical chord constructions is very easy in the whole tone scale and you could do it with complete augmented triads as well. I really like the 3rd intervals. That is what I use in the intro video of the lesson as well.


I hope you can use the ideas I went over hear to add some new lines and ideas to your tonic minor vocabulary. There is a lot of experimentation possible with this idea.

If you want some more insight into how I improvise then you can check out this lesson on a solo on how high the moon that covers some other ideas to use over the harmony and some poly rhythmic phrasing ideas as well!

How High The Moon – Solo Etude

If you want to study the examples I went over in the lesson you can of course also download them as a pdf here below:


If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you want to hear.

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Dominant 7th Chord Scales – part 1

I’ve had a few questions about what options there were for scales and sounds on dominant 7th chords so I decided to make a lesson demonstrating a few of the common ones and talking a bit about what I think characterizes them and how I approach improvising with them.

I set out to just make a few short examples, but in the end I talk a bit about how I use the scales and about the lines so the video became a bit long. In the end I thought the information was useful so I left it in there.

As I mention in the video I often uses the chords when learning scales so if I want to learn to improvize with a certain scale at some point in a progression or song then I find a chord that really sounds like that scale and play that in the context of the song to hear how it sounds.

Mixolydian or F7 from Bbmajor

In this example I am “just” using the Bb Major scale. It seems logical as a starting point and as a reference. I did try to make a melody on the F7 that was at least not cliché. I do that by using Drop2 or Open voiced triads, something that might be a subject for a later lesson too as they are a very good way to incorporate larger intervals in lines without sounding too fragmented.

Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 1

Mixolydian b9b13, F7 from Bb Harmonic Minor

In this example we borrowed the dominant of Bb minor in the cadence. It works well with a lot of different chord types to borrow an equivalent from the minor scale. Mixolydian b9b13 is also more or less the first choice for a scale on an F7 that resolves to a minor chord, so for that it is important to know it. I chose the F7(b9) chord as an example because it has a 5th and a b9 which in context gives paints the F7 from Bb harmonic minor sound (to me anyway).  Part of the line on the F7 is based on the A diminished arpeggio which is also diatonic to Bb Harm min. and is a good arpeggio to check out when using that scale.

Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 2
The Altered Scale

Playing F# melodic minor is on an F7 chord is mostly described as the F7 altered scale. The melodic minor scale has a strong augmented sound in it and the scale also sounds a bit like the whole tone scale as I demonstrate in the video. Making lines on F7altered I find it a good starting point to use the fact that F# melodic minor also contains the B7 which is the tri-tone substitute of F7. As an example I use the  B7 and F#m triad arpeggios in the line. If it is difficult to hear the F7 altered then it can be good to really just play/think B7#11 and resolve that to Bbmaj7 to get used to the sound.
Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 3

The Diminished scale

The diminished scale is another good scale to apply to dominants. It is to me charactereized by the fact that it has alterations on the 9(which to me sounds minor), but has a natural 13 (which sounds like major), which is why it has some things sounding like minor and some like major. This mix of minor and major extensions makes it a bit difficult to use in some situations.

One important aspect of the diminished scale is that it is symmetrical, so everything can be transposed in minor 3rds and still be in the same scale. This is handy in terms of guitar technique because it is easy to move a phrase like that on the guitar, but often the phrases you get when you make melodies like that are very predictable and (to me) not very beautiful.

The way I mostly approach making melodies with the dimninished scale is to mix up the triads that it contains, for the F7(13b9) chord there are 4 major triads contained in the scale: F Ab B and D, so I mix those up to make lines, of course there are many other ways to make lines, this just happens to be what I mostly do (right now anyway).
Dominant 7th Scales - Part 1 - ex 4

The Whole tone scale

The Whole tone scale was until now a bit of a special effects scale to me. But as has happened before, when I make a lesson on something I get to rediscover shings. In a way the Whole tone scale is the opposite of the diminished scale because it has a natural 9 and altered 5th or 13. Since it is a scale consisiting only of Whole steps there are not that many options for chords, everything is augmennted triads and dominants, so that is what you have to work with when making lines.

As I also mention in the video I sometimes use the wholetone scale as an effect in situations where the chord contains an augemented triad, in a way letting the triad decide what Whole tone scale to use even if that does not fit with the rest of the chord. As an example a AmMaj7 where the chord contains the Triad C E G# so you could play C D E F# G# Bb on it, a similar trick could Work on a D7(9#11)).

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the examples: Dominant 7th Scales – Part 1

I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.