In the first of a new se­ries Pete Cal­lard un­locks the se­crets of the di­min­ished scale, used by jazzy play­ers from Robben Ford to Django Rein­hardt.

Guitar Techniques - - Con­tents -

Pete Cal­lard shows what the sur­pris­ingly ver­sa­tile di­min­ished scale cando.

as an oc­ta­tonic scale due to the fact that it is made up of eight notes (octa mean­ing eight, in the same way the pen­ta­tonic scale con­tains five notes - penta mean­ing five). The di­min­ished scale is cre­ated by mov­ing up in al­ter­nat­ing tones and semi­tones, cre­at­ing what’s known as a sym­met­ric scale (see Ex­am­ple 1 and Di­a­gram 1), leav­ing us with the for­mula 1, 2, b3, 4, b5, b6, bb7, 7. Be­cause of this spe­cific tone, semi­tone con­struc­tion there are only two shapes of the di­min­ished scale, the first one start­ing with a whole step, and the sec­ond start­ing with a half step, the in­ter­val for­mula for which is 1, b2, b3, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7 (see Ex­am­ple 2). If we start from the third note of the scale, we are left with ex­actly the same scale as from the first note, and start­ing from the fourth note gives us the same notes as start­ing from the sec­ond note...etc. As well as only two shapes, this also means that there are only three dif­fer­ent di­min­ished scales - if we start on C, we can also have C#/Db di­min­ished scale and D di­min­ished scale, but then D#/Eb di­min­ished scale is the same as C di­min­ished scale, and E di­min­ished scale is the same as C#/Db di­min­ished scale... and so on.

The first step in us­ing any new scale is to find out what chords it will work over, and to do this we need to har­monise the scale (build

The di­min­ished scale is far more ver­sa­tile than its rep­u­ta­tion might sug­gest.

a 7th chord from it by tak­ing the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes of the scale). Har­mon­is­ing the di­min­ished scale we get the intervals 1, b3, b5, bb7, which gives us, per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, a di­min­ished 7th chord (see Ex­am­ples 3 and 4, and Di­a­gram 2). In­ter­est­ingly, if we har­monise the sec­ond mode of the di­min­ished, gen­er­ally re­ferred to as half step, whole step (or half, whole) di­min­ished, we get the same intervals, mean­ing both scales work over a di­min­ished 7th chord (Ex­am­ple 5). This also means that the di­min­ished scale can be seen as be­ing built from two di­min­ished 7th chords a whole step apart.

Another in­ter­est­ing as­pect of di­min­ished 7th chords is that, as each in­ter­val is equidis­tant (a b3rd apart), any one of them can be con­sid­ered the root note - so Adim7 can also be seen as Cdim7, Eb­dim7 and F#dim7, as they all con­tain ex­actly the same notes, and each of those chords could equally be seen as Adim7. Thus, any time we play a di­min­ished 7th chord we can use any of the four notes as the root, and move it up or down in mi­nor 3rds, as demon­strated in Ex­am­ple 6.

Get­ting fa­mil­iar with a new scale can take time, so one way to help you get the sound of the di­min­ished into your play­ing more eas­ily is with ar­peg­gios. Ex­am­ples 7 and 8 and Di­a­gram 3 demon­strate di­min­ished 7th arpeg­gio shapes.

Re­mem­ber, as with the chords, all of the intervals are equidis­tant so di­min­ished ar­peg­gios can also be moved up in b3rds. Ex­am­ples 9 and 10 fea­ture ex­am­ples of this from the real world with, in a rare gypsy jazz/ neo-clas­si­cal metal cross­over, licks from Django Rein­hardt and Yng­wie Malm­steen! The re­main­ing ex­am­ples fea­ture Scott Hen­der­son and John Scofield lines demon­strat­ing the di­min­ished scale in ac­tion. We’ll be delv­ing deeper into the jazz ap­pli­ca­tions of the di­min­ished next time, so I hope you’ll join me then.

Scott Hen­der­son: im­pres­sive user of the di­min­ished

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