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Guitar Theory:
Whole Tone Scale and Augmented


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Q: I have been working on my Jazz guitar theory for over a year now and I have a handle on most of the basic ideas. But, I'm heavy into jazz fusion guitar. Scott Henderson is my favorite guitarist! One thing I know he uses a lot are the Augmented scales and arpeggios. Could you please explain what exactly Augmented is all about and how I can practice using it. At this time I only understand that it is a major triad chord (or arpeggio) with a raised 5th interval. But, I don't understand the scale side of it. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated Especially how to sound like Scott Henderson!
- Paul, Memphis TN.

A: Hello Paul. Thanks for writing in! This entire topic revolves around a scale called Whole Tone. The Whole Tone scale is one of a small handful of symmetrical scales in music. The scale is all major second intervals, (a movement of two frets on the guitar neck).

Because of this uniform movement, this scale does not fall in with the world of key signatures. However, due to the scales major third interval, it relates over to the Major Tonality. For our discussion example, let's look at a C Whole Tone Scale. It has a formula of continuous tones (two-fret movements). Have a look at the example layout below for the C Whole Tone scale notes and it's scale degrees:

C D E F# G# A# C
1 2 3 #4 #5 #6 8
      b5 b13 b7  

augmented jam track

In the improvisation I performed at the start of the video lesson, the riff I played over was harmonized out of both Whole Tone scale as well as, the harmony of a G7+5 chord. The use of Whole Tone and it's arpeggio are widely used off of Dominant 7th #5 chords, (also notated as G7+5).

The Dominant 7th #5 chord contains the notes of; Root, Ma3, Aug.5 and Mi7. It's formula is; 1, 3, #5, b7. Off of a G root, the notes would be G, B, D#, F. Because of the major 3rd and the #5 notes, this chord contains the most important color tones of the Augmented arpeggio.

The augmented arpeggio contains the Major 3rd and Sharp 5th tones against a root note. It is found as the one and only chord (remember this scale is symmetrical) built from the notes of the Whole Tone scale.

For example, G+ (+ = Augmented), would contain the notes of; G, B, D#.

The important thing to keep in mind with these patterns on the neck is that any note can function as a root. So, once one pattern is memorized in one region of the fingerboard, you essentially know every pattern in every location. The work will be focused upon getting used to the layout of the shapes upon 6th, 5th & 4th string roots. And, learning licks and lines.


Augmented Handout
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