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The diminished scale - idea of how to use

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by miltslackford, Jan 15, 2012.

  1. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009

    I'm posting this because I had a personal breakthrough with the diminished scale today and wanted to share with others.

    I was working through the first few pages of a book called 'dominant seventh workout'.

    Anyway it recommended to use the diminished scale over a 7th chord - I've heard of this before. But what I've done in the past is practiced the scale AS A SCALE - as in, I've started at the bottom and worked up to the top.

    But today, I noticed, - and this might be very obvious to others but it wasn't to me - that each pair of notes in the diminished scale (the ones which are a semitone apart) is either a chord tone of a dominant seventh chord or is a semitone away from one.

    So - the formula of a diminished scale is

    If you were playing C7, this would give you the notes
    C, Db, Eb, E, Gb, G, A, Bb

    So basically you have the chord tones
    C, E, G, Bb
    and the notes to lead on to these chord tones chromatically
    Db, Eb, Gb, A

    - Db goes down to C
    Eb goes up to E
    Gb goes up to G
    and A goes up to Bb.

    If you make phrases using this kind of emphasis, rather than just going up and down, then the scale makes a lot more sense.

    I've actually found that I already use this scale loads, I just didn't realise that's what I was doing because for me I was using chromatically adjacent notes to the C7 scale.

    But I think the theory will definitely help me because I'll be able to extend this technique and explore that harmonic idea more deliberately.
  2. ACalbass


    Dec 16, 2011
    Just for the sake of adding something,you said
    **C, Db, Eb, E, Gb, G, A, Bb**

    The way I see it,you are forgetting a note to build the scale.
    In this case,the note E should be Fb,so it would read
    C, Db, Eb, Fb, Gb, G, A, Bb

    Of course this type of 8 notes scales can be noted differently,but keeping all names helps with lots of stuff that relate to the scale,like the chords you mentioned,now changed names too.
    And I presume that some of triads you can take from your scale will have some problems also.
    Like,you know DFA is 1st,3rd and 5th of D,in your scale we would build DEA,where E is not actually the 3rd of D : is 2nd.
    Hope you see it.
    Of course is semantics,but a way to relate to what you already know.
    The note G can also be understood as Abb (so you have FAC triad ), and so on.
    Can be noted
    C, Db, Eb, Fb, Gb, Abb, Bbb, Cbb
    Now triads relate.
    When you read,is simpler to read A than Bbb,and G than Abb,but to study,the double sharps and flats make sense.
  3. lsabina


    Sep 3, 2008
    Try using the extracted triad concept, too, as played by Miles,Coltrane, and Oliver Nelson. From the C half/whole dim scale play:
    C E G
    Eb G Bb
    F# A# C#
    A C# E
  4. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    Along the same lines, you can often think of a 7(b9) chord as a diminished chord (or a diminished chord as a 7(b9) chord without the root).

    For example:

    Db dim7 = Db E G Bb
    C7(b9) = C E G Bb Db
  5. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    Ah... Enharmonics!!

    I thought I'd get a comment along the enharmonic line!

    I've picked the note names to refer in a clear way to the formula of the dominant seventh chord. If there's a more technically correct way of notating it then I'd guess the only change I'd choose would be to rename the flat 3 to a sharp 2, because that relates to the 7sharp9 chord. If there's other ways I'd choose to ignore them personally because I'd prefer to use the stuff and the simpler I can think about it the better. The way I see it, I don't feel a huge need to make the diminished scale any equivalent to the seven-note major diatonic scale, like making series of triads, etc. There are only two chords there really, for me - two diminished chords and the triads are inversions of those two. I don't see any point in making it more complicated by bringing double flats into the equation. If there is a reason that relates to playing then feel free to educate me but I'm not sure what it is.
  6. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    Yes that's true - also a sharp5sharp9 chord right?

    (sorry can't find the hash button on a mac keyboard..)
  7. If you are looking at the scale as a dominant sort of sound I would spell it: C Db D# E F# G A Bb

    That's a dominant 7th with both altered 9ths, the sharp 11 and a natural 13.
  8. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    I just played those notes and it sounds cool - any tunes you can recommend where there are obvious uses?
  9. lsabina


    Sep 3, 2008
    Not as any heads, but check out solos from coltrane's and miles' modal periods. Check out the CD of Nelson's, Blues And The Abstract Truth. Phil Woods would use this lick a lot, too. Finally, arrangers such as Thad Jones would voice a basic chord such as C7 with one of these major triads on top ( in the trumpet section). Such as an Ab major triad over a C7 to sound C7#9b13.
  10. lsabina


    Sep 3, 2008
    Sorry. Just realized I chose to use a triad that isn't extracted from the C half/whole diminished scale.

    How's this one: A triad over a C7 to voice/sound C13b9.
  11. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Interesting use by Coltrane:

    Moment's Notice (i.e., last Eight measures of one of his solos).

    Harmony: || Eb/Bb | Fm/Bb | Gm/Bb | Fm/Bb | Eb/Bb Fm/Bb | Gm/Bb Fm/Bb | Eb | Eb ||


    I can't vouch for the accuracy of the above transcription, as I've seen the first note (C) as a sixteenth in the previous measure. This would make more "theoretical" sense to create the descending four-note pattern: Cb-G-F-Bb, Ab-E-D-G, F-Db-Cb-E, D-Bb-Ab-Db:

  12. ACalbass


    Dec 16, 2011
    The comment was only to widen the spectrum of the concept,not to make it more complicated.
    You do not see any point on double flats,but they exist in music for a reason.
    As I said,is semantics,mainly,still is bringing something else to the table.
    Disregard if doesn't apply.
  13. Fb????????? you hi? :atoz: :bassist: :bawl:
  14. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    Hey guys can we try to avoid any arguments about enharmonic spellings - it's a bit off topic, and could get long-winded and very confusing.
  15. miltslackford


    Oct 14, 2009
    Thanks for your comment anyway - didn't mean to be disrespectful - I didn't know what the use of it was, my ignorance. As it turns out your comment has stimulated some other comments regarding triads etc so it was fruitful from my perspective.
  16. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    I agree. Enharmonic spellings do become necessary when dealing with stacked minor thirds that create inversions of full diminished seventh chords or diminished scales, I think.


    C - Eb

    Eb - Gb

    Gb - Bbb

    Bbb- Dbb (might be better to spell it A - C)

    Dbb - Fbb (better to spell it C - Eb)

    Fbb - Abbb (better to spell it Eb - Gb)

    Abbb - Cbbb (better to spell it Gb - Bbb)


    Seems to make sense, at some point.
  17. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    What you say is true, but it is only half of the story. The half/whole alternating diminished scale does indeed work well over the DOM 7th chord (and particularly over a DOM7(b9) as Febs indicated).

    But you can construct a second diminshed scale from whole/half/whole/half...which works better over a dim7 chord or a minor blues (e.g., C whole/half over C minor blues).

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