Altered scale

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Altered scale
Modes I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
Component pitches
C, D, D, E, F, A, B, C
Number of pitch classes 7
Forte number 7-34
Complement 5-34

In jazz, the altered scale or altered dominant scale is a seven-note scale that is a dominant scale [clarification needed] where all non-essential tones[clarification needed] have been altered. An altered scale of C contains the notes: C, D, D, E, F, A and B. (This is enharmonically the C Locrian mode, C-D-E-F-G-A-B, with F changed to F. For this reason, the altered scale is sometimes called the "super Locrian mode".) It is the seventh mode of the ascending melodic minor scale. The altered scale is also known as the Pomeroy scale after Herb Pomeroy (Bahha and Rawlins 2005, 33; Miller 1996, 35), the Ravel scale (after Ravel), and the diminished whole-tone scale (due to its resemblance to the diminished scale and the whole-tone scale) (Haerle 1975, 15) as well as the dominant whole-tone scale and Locrian flat four (Service 1993, 28).

The altered scale appears sporadically in the works of Debussy and Ravel (Tymoczko 1997), as well as in the works of recent composers such as Steve Reich (see, in particular, the Desert Music).[citation needed] It plays a fundamental role in jazz, where it is used to accompany altered dominant seventh chords starting on the first scale degree. (That is, the scale C-D-E-F-G-A-B is used to accompany chords such as C-E-G-B-D, the dominant seventh flat five flat nine chord.[citation needed] See: chord-scale system.

The C altered scale consists of the notes C. D. E. F. G. A. B, and C:

C altered scale with flats About this sound Play .

One way to obtain the altered scale is by raising the tonic of a major scale by a half step; for example, taking the tonic of the B-major scale, B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B,

B major scale with sharps.

and raising the tonic by a half step produces the scale C-C-D-E-F-G-A-C,

C altered scale with sharps About this sound Play .

whose notes are enharmonic (identical, in the equal temperament system) with the notes of the C altered scale.

Like the other modes of the melodic minor ascending or jazz minor scale, the altered scale shares six of its seven notes with an octatonic (or "diminished") scale, and five of the six notes of a whole-tone scale, and thus is occasionally referred to as the "diminished whole tone scale". (For example, the altered scale C-D-E-F-G-A-B shares all but its A with the octatonic scale C-D-E-E-F-G-A-B; while sharing five of the six notes in the whole-tone scale C-D-E-G-A-B.) This accounts for some of its popularity in both the classical and jazz traditions (Callender 1998,[page needed]; Tymoczko 2004[page needed]).

See also[edit]


  • Bahha, Nor Eddine, and Robert Rawlins. 2005. Jazzology: The Encyclopedia of Jazz Theory for All Musicians, edited by Barrett Tagliarino. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-0-634-08678-6.
  • Callender, Clifton. 1998. "Voice-leading parsimony in the music of Alexander Scriabin", Journal of Music Theory 42, no. 2 ("Neo-Riemannian Theory", Autumn): 219–33.
  • Haerle, Dan. 1975. Scales for Jazz Improvisation: A Practice Method for All Instruments. Lebanan, Indiana: Studio P/R; Miami: Warner Bros.; Hialeah : Columbia Pictures Publications. ISBN 978-0-89898-705-8.
  • Miller, Ron. 1996. Modal Jazz Composition & Harmony. Advance Music.[full citation needed]
  • Service, Saxophone. 1993. "The Altered Scale In Jazz Improvisation". Saxophone Journal 18, no. 4 (July–August):[full citation needed]
  • Tymoczko, Dmitri. 1997. “The Consecutive-Semitone Constraint on Scalar Structure: A Link Between Impressionism and Jazz.” Integral 11:135–79.
  • Tymoczko, Dmitri. 2004. “Scale Networks in Debussy.” Journal of Music Theory 48, no. 2 (Autumn): 215–92.

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