Typically when describing a scale its very typical to describe the pattern in terms of semitones and tones or half steps and whole steps as follows:

A major scale is a diatonic scale. The sequence of intervals between the notes of a major scale is:

whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half


But there are scales like the harmonic minor and Phrygian dominant that have an augmented second interval which goes beyond the typical semitone and tone or half step and whole step and create situations like this:

The sequence of steps comprising the Phrygian dominant scale is:

half – augmented second – half – whole – half – whole – whole


So is there a better term to use in place of augmented second in these situations?

  • 1
    Maybe semiditone?
    – Tom
    Sep 21, 2015 at 0:48

5 Answers 5


A Whole-and-a-half step. For example, a harmonic minor sequence of steps goes as follows:

W, H, W, W, H, WH, W

Where W = Whole step, H = Half step and WH = Whole-and-a-half step


  • One of the Wiki tables used + for the augmented step. But that's a symbol, not a term.
    – hpaulj
    Sep 21, 2015 at 5:06

I think it's probably the best term. In A minor, for example, the step between the 6th and 7th notes is a second. F to G. When this changes, in harmonic minor, it's stretched to F and G#, the interval is still a second, but is now called an augmented second. It certainly won't be a minor third ! If the letter names remain the same, but the gap is widened, it's augmented. But you knew this already, Dom, I'm sure.


I agree that the combination of "half", "whole", and "augmented second" is not very satisfactory. An alternative would be to use

1/2, 1, and 1 1/2


0.5, 1, 1.5

instead. I've definitely seen this before, at least the first version, but I can't remember the source right now.

  • I personally feel this is suboptimal, because the "default" scale is the diatonic scale, whereas using decimals like that suggests that the whole tone scale is the default. If anything, I think we should just use the number of semitones at that point. Though I suppose it seems like the point is to move away from only whole and half steps anyways.
    – awe lotta
    Mar 19, 2020 at 17:01

I present some alternative ways to describe a chord or scale (assuming 12-note temperament). When dealing with intervals bigger than a tone (like your augmented second), I prefer the integer notation to avoid confusion.

A pitch class set describes the notes when voiced in close position as integers in number of semitones away from the root note.

  • Major Scale: 0,2,4,5,7,9,11

An interval pattern describes the relative intervals, either in integers or other symbols in semitones between each note in close position.

  • Major Scale: 2,2,1,2,2,2,1
  • Major Scale: T–T–S–T–T–T–S
  • Major Scale: W-W-H-W-W-W-H

But there are scales like the harmonic minor and Phrygian dominant that have an augmented second interval which goes beyond the typical semitone and tone

Harmonic Minor:

  • pitch class set: 0,2,3,5,7,8,11
  • interval pattern: 2,1,2,2,1,3,1

Phrygian Dominant:

  • pitch class set: 0,1,4,5,7,8,10
  • interval pattern: 1,3,1,2,1,2,2

Occasionally, as an abbreviation of sorts for "augmented second", I've used "leap". "Leap" covers that pretty well, as long as you don't need to be very specific, and so I'll use that occasionally when I know I'm talking to people who know what I mean. Wouldn't advise it for beginners, though.

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