diminished and whole tone scales, any tips?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by 33degrees, Nov 27, 2005.

  1. 33degrees


    Jun 4, 2005
    im just about to start work on my diminished and whole tone scales, is there any tips or advice, special fingering?
  2. eee


    Jan 17, 2009
    I used the search function. Bumpage.
  3. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
  4. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Take a song with a prominent section using these scales- even if it's just one bar. Take several recordings of an artist you like. Transcribe JUST those sections using those scales. It's a fun afternoon project. Now write those licks out in all twelve keys, and practice them until they become natural. Repeat. Or you can be lazy and get stuff out of a book. There are no special fingerings; these scales lay very poorly on the bass for the most part.
  5. theretheyare

    theretheyare Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY
    The key with these symmetric scales is to not practice them running up and down (that sounds very boring very quickly) , but rather to find cool intervallic patterns (jumps) within them. +1 to singing them too. 'Voiles' by Claude Debussy is a famous whole tone scale based piece; I listen to a lot of Olivier's Messiaen's organ music for cool diminished based melodies.

    And dont worry about fingering-just play them, and any fingering will develop by itself. these scales are good for learning to play patterns that spread over 5 or more frets per string, which is IMO good practice in itself anyway. Good luck
  6. eee


    Jan 17, 2009
    Yeah, they DO lay poorly on the bass.

    I'm having trouble deciding where and when to shift positions when playing diminished scales. For a half/whole on the lower portion of the neck, I'll play R-b9-#9-3 on one string, move to the next string for the #11-5, and the next string for 13-b7-R.

    So it looks like
    C Db D# E
    F# G
    A Bb C

    I'm still undecided on thumb position, and how to plan my shifts when playing them up one string. Any tips?
  7. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Half-whole is a scale that lends itself quite well to "extended" techniques such as pivots. HOWEVER, the scales are WORTHLESS without vocabulary. Each diminished lick lays differently on different parts of the neck, and often these licks are used in passing so they need to be practiced in context, not just mindlessly sawing away across the board.

    A lot of students miss the importance of the H/W diminished scale- it can be used as a tension sound over basically any altered chord besides b9 b13.... and often over that one too, in passing. :) It is often used in chunks, in planed symmetrical patterns, but almost never simply run in scalar fashion up and down the instrument.


    Regarding wholetone usage, listen to MONK!
  8. The good thing about the diminished/whole tone series is you really only have to learn two/three different scales and you have learned them all. ;)

    I think you'll discover whatever fingering you need to get through them, but I find myself playing a lot of 2-4, 1-3 ascending fingerings for diminished (assuming scalar). 3/1-4/1-4/etc. ascending chord.

    For whole tone it's 1-4 or similar on the way up. 4-2-1 chord up the strings can go pretty fast.

    I'd listen to some non-bass lines for ideas on patterns. Wayne Shorter on Ju-Ju is a good start. Brecker on the diminished stuff is always good.
  9. eee


    Jan 17, 2009
  10. Lots of guys use minor third intervals (diminished scales) There are all kinds of players and books that show or demonstrate how to use these as scale fragments. This is the internet so I will not try to explain any further. These scales provide a basis for wonderful tensions and as "Chi Doubler" says, they can be used to play over almost any altered chord. Check out Scott LaFaro's work with Bill Evans. He uses these devices all the time. Usually using a diminished scale with 2 note scale fragments in major or minor 3rds, half step enclosures and so on and so forth. Scott reportedly took a lesson or 2 from Ray Brown regarding diminished and whole tone scales. If you have a teacher or found one who was into this stuff, it might involve a few lessons. Then, all of the sudden, the light will go on!
  11. ivanbass


    Oct 15, 2006
    Pamplona (Spain)
    It´s useful playing simetrics scales in patterns. Playing it up and down (scalar way) may sound quite strange. I´ve heard from George Mraz a pattern over dominant b9 13 that it´s very playable. I usually learn difficult patterns that are never succesful playing live. That´s not the case.

    George Mraz pattern: D7(b9 13) all the notes 8ts

    G string F Eb / D C / B A
    D string C B / A G# / F# F etc.

    As you can see...it´s a finger trick (descending mayor 2nd in the upper string, and minor 2nd in the bottom string), moved minor 3th down. You can move up as well, but it´s more difficult. With the upright is more difficult still, because if you get the "capotasto" possitions, this finger-pattern it´s not useful at all.

    Greetings froms Spain.