Take the 2-minute tour ×
Musical Practice & Performance Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm playing a whole bunch of songs that use the pattern half step, whole step, half, whole, half, whole, whole. What scale is it?

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by Matthew Read Jan 14 '13 at 19:25

Questions on Musical Practice & Performance Stack Exchange are expected to relate to music practice, performance, composition, technique, theory, or history within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

A scale is a series of pitches - the number of beats each note lasts is not relevant to the scale. What you're referring to is a rhythmic pattern. I'm not sure if this particular pattern has a name though. –  jadarnel27 Sep 4 '11 at 3:20
I'm reasonably sure that he's referring to half and whole steps, not beats. –  Babu Sep 4 '11 at 3:24
@Babu: Well...that makes alot more sense. I'm crazy. –  jadarnel27 Sep 4 '11 at 3:30
Can you tell us what songs have this pattern? I'm actually wondering if perhaps one of your H's is supposed to be a W or vice-versa. –  Matthew Read Sep 4 '11 at 4:51
An example of a song with this pattern. youtube.com/watch?v=p5Qg5RnfBCE and yes im talking about half and whole steps. I know numerus songs with this pattern. –  Shrage Smilowitz Sep 4 '11 at 5:10

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

/sigh, it's the "Jewish Scale." I'm not being racist here, that's actually one of its names.


The two songs you referenced actually aren't in the same scale, but they are modes of each other. Avraham Fried was singing in a pretty common harmonic minor scale. (Take a typical minor scale but use the major 7th.) The other song was in the Phrygian dominant scale, which is a mode of harmonic minor, meaning that if you play the harmonic minor scale from the 5th to the 5th, you'll be playing the phrygian dominant scale.

Your initial pattern of half and whole steps isn't quite accurate--I don't think you were accounting for the fact that half and whole steps aren't the only options. The augmented 2nd is the interval between the second and third notes of the phrygian dominant scale, and the sixth and seventh notes of the harmonic minor scale. The patterns you're hearing are WHWWHAH (harmonic minor, sung by Avraham Fried) and HAHWHWW (phrygian dominant, or colloquially, the "Jewish scale").

share|improve this answer
I asked the question right after i finished the chapter Major and Minor scales in the for "dummies" series :-) you can imagine how far my knowledge goes. thanks for clearing this up for me. –  Shrage Smilowitz Sep 4 '11 at 16:53
I knew there had to be something missing, haha. +1 for figuring this out. –  Matthew Read Sep 4 '11 at 17:58
@Matthew thanks for a warm welcome into the music world :-) –  Shrage Smilowitz Sep 4 '11 at 18:07

It's an eight-tone scale, also called an octatonic scale. Not one I'm familiar with; I can't find any information on it either.

If you took the last whole step and appended it at the beginning, that's the "standard" 8-tone scale that just alternates between whole and half steps: WHWHWHW(H). For example, C-D-E♭-F-G♭-A♭-A-B(-C). You can also start with a half-step first, i.e. HWHWHWH(W). For example, C-D♭-E♭-F♭-G♭-G-A-B♭(-C). Both of these are called symmetric diminished scales. Presumably the one you're dealing with is an assymetric diminished scale.

The Spanish 8-tone scale is popular; it's HWHHHWW(W). For example, C-D♭-E♭-E-F-G♭-A♭-B♭(-C).

The bebop scales are also 8-tone scales, but don't fit your pattern.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.