The Di­min­ished Scale Pt 2

Join Pete Cal­lard as he continues to un­lock the mu­si­cal se­crets of a scale that’s a favourite among all kinds of jazz mu­si­cians – the di­min­ished.

Guitar Techniques - - Lesson: Jazz -

scale’s deeper ap­pli­ca­tions. We know that har­mon­is­ing the di­min­ished scale gives us a di­min­ished 7th chord, and for solo­ing over a di­min­ished 7th chord, it’s the ob­vi­ous choice. It’s not the only one, how­ever. When har­monised, the 7th mode of har­monic mi­nor ( Ul­tra Locrian: 1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, bb7), pro­duces a dim 7th chord and is an­other solo­ing op­tion ( Ex­am­ple 1). This dim 7 chord on the 7th de­gree of har­monic mi­nor is a par­tic­u­lar fea­ture of neo- clas­si­cal rock due to the V7- Im re­la­tion­ship at the heart of neo- clas­si­cal har­mony. Har­monic mi­nor works here be­cause the chord built from the first de­gree of the scale is mi­nor, while that built from the fifth de­gree is a dom­i­nant 7th.

Any re­solv­ing dom 7th can have al­ter­ations added to it, and one of the most com­mon is a b9. If you miss out the root, a 7b9 chord be­come a di­min­ished - eg E7b9 is made up of the notes E ( root), F ( b9), G# ( 3), B ( 5), D ( b7). If we leave out the E, the re­main­ing notes ( F, G#, B, D) spell out F di­min­ished 7.

We al­ready know that any of the notes in a di­min­ished 7th can be seen as the root, which means that Ab dim7, B dim7 and D dim7 also give you E7b9 over an E root ( Ex 2). This is why di­min­ished arpeg­gios fea­ture so much in neo- clas­si­cal rock; they’re ba­si­cally be­ing used as V7b9 chords re­solv­ing back to I mi­nor. A rule for that style is that, if the root chord is mi­nor, we can move down a semi­tone and play di­min­ished 7th arpeg­gios. Thus, the Malm­steen- style as­cend­ing A dim7 ar­peg­gio in Ex 9 last month is ac­tu­ally mov­ing to­wards a res­o­lu­tion to Bbm ( or Dbm, Em or Gm). Ex 3 shows dim 7th arpeg­gios over a V- I se­quence re­solv­ing to the Im chord ( E7b9- Am).

This V- I re­la­tion­ship is also cen­tral to jazz, but whereas rock play­ers tend not to ven­ture be­yond di­min­ished arpeg­gios, in jazz, we have a bit more free­dom. As a 7b9 chord can be seen as a dim 7th, and the di­min­ished scale works well over dim 7th chords, the next step is ob­vi­ous. Ex 4 ap­plies the di­min­ished scale to the same se­quence; as we’re play­ing di­min­ished arpeg­gios up a semi­tone over the E7b9 chord, we do the same thing with the scale. This gives us F di­min­ished, but we can also think of it as E half- whole di­min­ished. So, over a re­solv­ing dom­i­nant 7th chord we can play mode 2 of di­min­ished, the half- whole di­min­ished scale. In­ci­den­tally, this works equally well re­solv­ing to a ma­jor I chord.

Fi­nally, we can also use the di­min­ished

In rock mu­sic, play­ers tend not to ven­ture be­yond us­ing di­min­ished arpeg­gios, but in jazz, we have a bit more free­dom.

scale over al­tered 13th chords. Al­though not as com­mon as a 7b9, 13b9 chords do crop up in jazz, par­tic­u­larly in II- V- I se­quences where the top of the chord moves chro­mat­i­cally down ( Ex 5 and 6). The 13b9 is of­ten writ­ten as a slash chord, so A13b9 could also be seen as F#/ A. For solo­ing over a 13b9 or 13# 9, one scale that con­tains all the notes in the chord is the half- whole di­min­ished ( 1, b2, b3, 3, # 4, 5, 6, b7 – ie a dom 7th plus b9, # 9, b5 and 13th), mak­ing it the per­fect choice ( Ex­am­ple 7).

The re­main­ing ex­am­ples demon­strates all of this in ac­tion, fea­tur­ing ma­jor and mi­nor II- V- I lines util­is­ing the di­min­ished scale from Pat Metheny, Grant Green, Barney Kes­sel, Mike Stern, Ge­orge Benson and John McLaugh­lin. Have fun!

John McLaugh­lin reg­u­larly em­ploys the di­min­ished...

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