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.
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...