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Diminished/Half-Diminished Scales

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Johnny L, Apr 5, 2006.


  1. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I don't think I'm getting it. I don't intuitively recognize the scales for the half and full diminished chords.

    C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb on the half and C D Eb F Gb Ab A B for the full? Why the extra note on the full diminished scale, why the Db for the half-diminished instead of D natural, and why Ab for either one of them?

    Maybe it's just a convention to define the scales for these chords as half-whole-whole and whole-half repeating patterns? I've been understanding all the major, dominant and minor chords I've been learning from a major-scale perspective and so this is throwing me off.

    Oh man now I see the aug7 whole tone scale now...

    My reference is Rufus Reid's book FYI

    Thanks,
    Johnny
     
  2. Zedlee

    Zedlee

    Jan 5, 2005
    I believe the half diminished scale is the same as the locrian mode of the major scale...ie the scale starting on the 7th degree of the scale. Harmonized it's the basis for the minor 7flat 5 chord.

    Note: the author is not responsible for the accuracy of the above (LOL).
     
  3. BGreaney

    BGreaney Guest

    Mar 7, 2005
    Sorry, I'm not a jazz guy so if I'm off I'd like to know.

    If you separate the half dim scale into two 7chords, C Eb Gb Bb and Db F Ab C, you create two half dimished 7 chords (dim triad w/ a minor 7th). If you separate the fully dim scale as well, C Eb Gb Bbb (enharmonically A) and D F Ab Cb (enharmonically B), you create two fully dim 7 chords (dim triad w/ dim 7th). Hope this answers your question clearly enough.
     
  4. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    This is almost correct; the half-diminished scale being another name for superlocrian (i.e., 7th scale degree of jazz melodic minor). It's referred to as "half-diminished" beacause while it does contain a diminished 5th, the 7th is merely flattened, not diminished.

    Example:

    D superlocrian = D, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, D

    This will give you (from the perspective of the root note of D) your minor 3rd, diminished 5th and flattened (but not diminished) 7th.

    D diminished = D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb, B, Db, D

    Notice the fully diminished 7th (the B). You can use this over diminished chords of course, but a much hipper use is over dominant chords. In this case, the D diminished scale (there are only 3) will work over E7, G7, Bb7, and Db7 (notice they are in minor 3rds; not a coincidence). Notice that this will yield a natural 13, so it would not be the best choice over an altered dominant (like E7#9).

    It gets pretty involved, but essentially it comes down to the fact that if you flatten a perfect interval (1, 4 or 5), it is diminished. If you flatten anything else, it is minor (minor 3rd, 7th, etc.). If you flatten those intervals again, then they are called diminished.
     
  5. msw

    msw

    Aug 21, 2003
    Massachusetts
    Johnny,
    You are in the ballpark. A half-diminished or minor seven flat five chord takes the scale you posted with the exception of a natural ninth i.e. D instead of Db. Often refered to as the Locrian sharp two. There are cases, however, where the flat two is a better choice.
    A great way of learning the scale of the diminished chord is to think of it as a scale utilizing the notes of a diminished chord i.e. C dim.= C Eb Gb A C and the half tones below each chord tone giving you C D Eb F Gb Ab A B C
    A piano or keyboard will make this all crystal clear. Good luck.
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've never heard of the term "superlocrian" to describe half diminished, but rather the Diminished Whole-Tone/ "Alt" scale you described as the 7th mode of melodic minor. Is that what you meant?

    While the above is often called a superlocrian scale, it's an "altered dominant" scale rather than a half diminished scale. The designation "half diminished" usually applies only to Locrian or Locrian #2 that I know of... with Ø simply being a shorthand for "mi7b5".
     
  7. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    The technical name is superlocrian...it is often also referred to as diminished whole tone (which if you look at the scale, half of it is each of those) and altered. This is usually because that is the scale of choice for an altered chord.


    Locrian #2 (or really, natural 2) is the 6th scale mode of Jazz melodic minor; superlocrian (or altered or diminished whole tone....all the same thing) is off the 7th scale degree. I actually would prefer that on a half dim chord (you are quite correct that half-dim or Ø is shorthand for "mi7b5") since the regualr 9 yields a nicer sound, IMO.
     
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm aware that superlocrian and Dim/WT are the same thing; I just wanted to point out that most people don't equate that scale with Ø chords, especially since many or even most chordal players play an 11th quite often on that harmony, and I can't think of any who play a major 3rd over a mi7b5 chord.
     
  9. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    I'm not sure where you got the idea I was suggesting playing a major 3rd over a min7b5 chord....? I'm pretty sure I never suggested anything of the sort. Anyway, it would seem we're on the same page here, but got side-tracked somehow.
     
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I thought you were suggesting Superlocrian as a scale choice over mi7b5...superlocrian has a major 3rd.

    No biggie. Sorry if I misunderstood! :)
     
  11. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Thanks msw that's a nice trick.

    Well actually all of you are displaying nice tricks...this was just the easiest for me to grasp.

    Yeah this is what tossed me off the boat with the mi7b5 chord. My initial impression of a scale to cover mi7b5 would simply be laying over a major scale but just noting the 3rd, 5th and 7th notes being flat...which would support the maj2...rather than imposing a melodic minor scale starting at the 7th and suffering the min2 (thanks everyone for the explanation hope I'm understanding correctly!).

    O.K. and as for the fully diminished chords, my initial impression would have been similar: minor chord with a b5 and bb7 to yield C D Eb F Gb A and then I'm done...but no there's Ab and B in the mix and I'm still in the fog. I can sort of reason out the B from a minor scale but why the b6? Is the diminished scale just something that got made up and had a chord built on top of it (like a prehistoric Schoenberg concept)?

    Hmm yeah I'm still, thinking-wise, wanting to box everything as variations of the major scale and not wanting perhaps some things (like whole tone scales) a place to graze. That and I'm completely ignorant of musical history and evolution.
     
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I don't use superlocrian or any mode ofmelodic minor over a Ø chord unless I happen to hear that sound. But I think the term "suffering the b2" is a bit strong...if you think about it, the b2 of a Ø chord - which is usually the "iiØ" of a "iiØ - V7alt-i" progression - is really nothing more than the b3 of the key of resolution, which makes it a much more "inside" note choice than the "natural" 2. The natural 2 can sound nice, but for beginners I don't recommend it unless the person playing it can sing a line that uses it first....but then I usually would apply the "if you aren't hearing it, don't play it" rule across the board anyway. :D

    Not quite sure what you're getting at in the first part, but to answer the second question, sort of. My understanding is that the diminished scale came about as a way to create/play scalar lines (i.e. - stepwise) over diminished 7 chords. While diminished 7th chords occur naturally as part of minor harmony, the diminished scale(s) is a synthetic symmetrical construction. The two diminished scales that are built on C are:

    C D Eb F Gb Ab A B (symmetrical whole-half)

    or

    C Db Eb E F# G A Bb (symmetrical half-whole)

    In jazz, the latter of these is commonly used to play over 7b9 chords, while the former is (theoretically speaking, anyway) more commonly used to cover a dim7 harmony.
     
  13. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Yeah, I re-read one of my posts. I could have worded it better, so I can see where it might appear I was suggesting that. As you said, no biggie.
     
  14. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Neat...what inspired all this mumbo to begin with has been my continued exploration of Tale of the Fingers. It's in the key of Bb and it sounds major to me.

    I'm not completely clear on the notation still learning , but I think it's
    I - IIIØ - VI7 - ii7 - V7
    and then back to I where PC ends on the root twice (and so does John Goldsby) just in case I didn't get it the first time around. Hmm on second thought I don't really know...maybe in reality there's other stuff going on to make the whole cycle of chords much simpler I'm still learning see...

    But yeah with your progression I see what you're saying and yeah that is a nice trick in nodding to the b3 of the i while inside the ii chord.

    I guess Rufus has my back after all... :bassist:

    Thanks for the lesson I appreciate it, Chris!
     
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I think you're still on the right track. If you think about it,, with a "iiiØ VI7alt ii V7 I" progression, you're still dealing with a minor ii-V-I progression within the larger progression. In this case, the "b2" of the iiiØ chord is an Eb, which is both the 3rd of the ii chord (C-7) and the 4th of the key (Bb Major). :)
     
  16. RD

    RD

    Jun 17, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    TB, is a great resource! Even for musical illiterates like me.
    RD
     
  17. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Oh man I lost my post crap! :mad:

    Anyway, iiiØ not IIIØ o.k. I'll remember that...and I totally missed the ii-V-I pattern inside that's really cool.
     
  18. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    There was a kid near me holding a Jim Stinnett book with Paul Chambers lines in it at the jazz camp. I thought it was cool and bought it. Just noodled around on the lines for the first song a couple of days ago and haven't worked with it much.

    But I've just now been looking at the chord progressions for that song and started seeing 2-5-1 changes everywhere (4-7-3-6-2-5-1)...and then flipped through some other songs and saw those changes.

    They're freakin' everywhere man it's freaking me out!!! :eek:
     
  19. philip sirois

    philip sirois

    May 29, 2006
    NYC
    Of all the pearls of wisdom offered here on talkbass, this one, offered up in different forms by the wisest of the elders here, is the thing that has changed my idea of playing more than anything else anybody has ever told me. It makes the whole thing about art,
    and not just an arcane secret code to be puzzled out. Thanks again Chris, and all the others wise ones up here in this joint.
     
  20. Wilbyman

    Wilbyman

    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    TB'er (on the BG side) jzucker has this cool Half-Diminished harmony lesson on his website. I think anybody taking a look at this thread would be interested in it. It kind of takes you from just playing the half-diminished scale to applying it over changes in real-time....

    http://www.sheetsofsound.net/lessons/dodecaphonics.htm
     

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