Di­min­ished re­spon­si­bil­ity

Ex­pand your vo­cab­u­lary

Guitar Techniques - - Front Page -

John Wheatcroft ex­plores how di­min­ished chords and arpeg­gios can be com­bined and used in all styles of mu­sic.

Di­min­ished chords are among the most use­ful de­vices in mu­sic. They are a cor­ner­stone of three-note har­mony, along with Ma­jor, Mi­nor and Aug­mented. When ex­tended to in­cor­po­rate a 7th de­gree, our three-note triad goes in one of two di­rec­tions: to cre­ate a four-note Half-di­min­ished chord or ar­peg­gio; or the four-note Di­min­ished 7th. We call this chord sym­met­ri­cal, as each note is sit­u­ated a mi­nor 3rd (three frets) apart, di­vid­ing the oc­tave into four equal parts.

The pur­pose of this les­son is to de­fine the con­struc­tion and sonic prop­er­ties of th­ese chords, mov­ing on to high­light a se­lec­tion ap­pli­ca­tions for both ‘Half’ and ‘Full’ Di­min­ished across all mu­si­cal styles.

We can find ev­i­dence of a Di­min­ished triad in the Ma­jor scale: when ex­tended to be­come a 7th chord, we see the Half-di­min­ished or m7b5. You also find ex­am­ples of this chord in both Melodic Mi­nor (R 2 3 4 5 6 7) and Har­monic Ma­jor (R 2 3 4 5 b6 7) scales too.

To find the full Di­min­ished 7th chord we need to look else­where. A po­ten­tial lo­ca­tion for both va­ri­eties is the Har­monic Mi­nor (R 2 b3 4 5 b6 7); and no Di­min­ished scale search would be com­plete with­out look­ing at the Di­min­ished scale it­self (R 2 b3 4 b5 b6 bb7).

To­day we’ll be putting th­ese scales to one side and re­strict­ing our gaze to chordal ap­pli­ca­tions, fre­quently used se­quences and sub­sti­tu­tions that are com­monly used in mu­sic from a broad range of com­posers and song­writ­ers across all gen­res, from pop to heavy metal, and jazz to clas­si­cal.

I have de­vised 15 mu­si­cal ex­am­ples, each show­ing di­min­ished har­mony at work, ei­ther as a triad, the Half-di­min­ished chord or ar­peg­gio, or the com­plete Di­min­ished 7th. We end with a mu­si­cal piece based around a re­har­monised mi­nor blues se­quence, two cho­ruses in length, with all the con­cepts we have looked at ex­pressed in both chord and sin­gle-note form. Once you have worked through th­ese ideas, make sure you in­vent your own short etudes with a view to in­cor­po­rat­ing them in the mu­sic that you play. Make sure you support all this study and prac­tice with an equiv­a­lent amount of lis­ten­ing and anal­y­sis. It’s vi­tal to con­nect your body and all your senses when you cre­ate

My sis­ter brought home some Gabriel-era Gen­e­sis records, and they had in­verted and di­min­ished chords, which made the songs ex­tremely in­trigu­ing. Yng­wie Malm­steen

mu­sic, so your tech­niques are com­mu­ni­cat­ing clearly with your mind, ap­ply­ing the cor­rect pat­terns and shapes and mon­i­tor­ing all this au­ral ac­tiv­ity care­fully as we go - so re­mem­ber: fin­gers, brain, eyes and ears!

The­ory tells us there are seven nat­u­ral notes, la­belled al­pha­bet­i­cally from A to G, along with the five as­so­ci­ated flat or sharp notes in the tone gaps be­tween, with the ex­cep­tion of E/F and B/C, which are a semi­tone apart and there­fore re­quire no bridg­ing tone. For many pur­poses th­ese notes can be con­sid­ered to be one and the same, so Bb and A# oc­cupy the same fret lo­ca­tion and are es­sen­tially iden­ti­cal. From a the­ory per­spec­tive, how­ever, they serve dif­fer­ent pur­poses, gov­erned as they are by a num­ber of rules re­lated to scale con­struc­tion, in­ter­val­lic re­la­tion­ships and so on.

The nu­meric value of an in­ter­val re­lates to the num­ber of al­pha­bet­i­cal steps needed gov­ern its spell­ing. So, a mi­nor 3rd up from C must be an E note of some kind, although in this case the re­quired dis­tance dic­tates this note needs to be flat­tened, so the cor­rect an­swer would be Eb and not D#. Like­wise, a flat­tened (di­minin­ished) 5th from C would be Gb and not F#.

When we look at full-di­min­ished 7ths we get into the world of dou­ble-flats. Es­sen­tially this is the same dis­tance as a ma­jor 6th but, the­o­ret­i­cally, if we were to use C as our root, the cor­rect an­swer for a di­min­ished 7th would Bbb and not A nat­u­ral. The spell­ing for C di­min­ished would be C, Eb, Gb, Bbb and not C, D#, F#, A, although they live in the same place on the fret­board and sound the same.

When pre­sent­ing parts con­tain­ing di­min­ished har­mony, one has to find the bal­ance be­tween read­abil­ity and the­o­ret­i­cal ac­cu­racy. The spell­ing of a note has great sig­nif­i­cance when it comes to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween it and the sur­round­ing har­monic and melodic op­tions, so it’s good to know the cor­rect spell­ing. But my band mates would kill me if I pre­sented them with a score full of dou­ble-flats, dou­ble-sharps and so on, es­pe­cially if I’m ex­pect­ing them to read this at first sight. There­fore, a work­ing com­pro­mise needs to be made to at­tempt to bal­ance th­ese two fac­tors, so it’s not un­com­mon to see know­ingly ac­cept­able ‘mis­spellings’ in lead sheets, scores and tran­scrip­tions.

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