The whole tone scale has no leading tone and because all tones are the same distance apart, "no single tone stands out, [and] the scale creates a blurred, indistinct effect". This effect is especially emphasized by the fact that triads built on such scale tones are augmented. Indeed, one can play all six tones of a whole tone scale simply with two augmented triads whose roots are a major second apart. Since they are symmetrical, whole tone scales do not give a strong impression of the tonic or tonality.
Due to this symmetry the hexachord consisting of the whole-tone scale is not distinct under inversion or more than one transposition. Thus many composers have used one of the "almost whole-tone" hexachords whose, "individual structural differences can been seen to result only from a difference in the 'location,' or placement, of a semitone within the otherwise whole-tone series."Alexander Scriabin's Mystic chord is a primary example, being a whole tone scale with one note raised a semitone, with this alteration allowing for a greater variety of resources through transposition.
The scale is also used extensively in modern jazz writing and jazz harmony. Wayne Shorter's composition "JuJu" features heavy use of the whole tone scale, and John Coltrane's One Down, One Up is built off two augmented chords arranged in the same simple structure as his earlier tune Impressions. However, these are only the most overt examples of the use of this scale in jazz. A vast number of jazz tunes, including many standards, use augmented chords and their corresponding scales as well, usually to create tension in turnarounds or as a substitute for a dominant seventh chord. Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk are two pianists who used the whole tone scale extensively and creatively.
Pythagoras' theory that all the planets had "tones" between them. From the sphere of the earth to the sphere of the moon; one tone; from the sphere of the moon to that of Mercury, one half-tone; from Mercury to Venus, one-half; from Venus to the sun, one and one-half tones; from the sun to Mars, one tone; from Mars to Jupiter, one-half tone; from Jupiter to Saturn, one-half tone; from Saturn to the fixed stars, one-half tone. The sum of these intervals equals the six whole tones of the octave. . Based on some views, this may have been just because Pythagoras wanted it to.
^ Schmalfeldt, Janet (1983). Berg's Wozzeck: Harmonic Language and Dramatic Design, p.48. ISBN 0-300-02710-9.
^ "The Evolution of Twelve-Note Music", p.56. Oliver Neighbour. Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 81st Sess. (1954 - 1955), pp. 49-61.
^ "The Childhood of the Whole-Tone Scale", p.17-19. H. C. Colles. The Musical Times, Vol. 55, No. 851. (Jan. 1, 1914), pp. 16-20. The Musical Times is currently published by Musical Times Publications Ltd.