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# Diminished Chords Question

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(@scrybe)
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Okay, I always thought a diminshed chord was a triad you could build using a major scale and starting on the 7th note. So, in a C major scale, you'd get B dimished as the vii chord (B,D,F).

I have an old book of guitar chords I've been looking over, trying to work on my theory by identifying which possible scales each chord can be derived from. The book is one of those 500 chords for guitar type of things, but its basically 10 or so chords repeated for each root note.

For C diminished, the chord tones it shows are C, Eb, Gb, A. The first three work with my whole diminished-chord-is-chord-vii-of-a-major-scale idea - in this case the Db major scale. But the A note isn't in the Db major scale. Unless I've somehow screwed up.

Here's how I figure the Db major scale:

T-T-S-T-T-T-S
Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db

The diminished scale is something I'm, uh, vaguely aware of. Like, I know it exists, and it involves diminished thingys. But that's about it. Since the C diminished chord I got from the book involves intervals of a tone-and-a-half, I'm guessing the diminished scale (presumably the C diminished scale) is where it is derived from, and that the diminished scale uses intervals of either a tone-and-a-half between each note, or involves a Tone-HalfTone-Tone-HalfTone sequence. Is that right?

Also, if that is right, is it still also right to call a C-Eb-Gb triad a diminished chord? And is there some kind of relationship between e.g. the C diminished scale and the Db major scale? If not, how/where would the diminished scale be used? some youtube examples or tunes I could check would be useful here - I always figured it was pretty much confined to avant garde music, hence my ignorance of it so far.

Thanks in advance to anyone who can shed some light on this for me.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe

(@noteboat)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

You're right, a diminished triad is three notes, the 1-b3-b5. And the major scale harmonized in thirds produces a diminished triad on the seventh note.

Your chord book is also right - a diminished chord has four notes, the 1-b3-b5-bb7 (yep, a double-flat 7, even though in some keys it's written enharmonically as a sixth because it's easier to read).

That four-note chord is awfully useful - because like an augmented chord, it's completely symmetrical. Every interval in it is a minor third, and it's a minor third from the 6th/bb7th back to the root. That makes it an ambiguous chord... any note in it can be seen as the root. And it means the chord will repeat every three frets on the guitar.

There are two diminished scales, each of which will contain all the diminished chord tones. On has the pattern TSTS... (or WHWH), and the other has the pattern STST (or HWHW). The diminished scale is used over diminished chords - or over chords they can be substituted for.

And that's a lot of chord!. Take a C7 chord: C-E-G-Bb. Raise the root a half step, and you have a diminished seventh: Db-E-G-Bb. So you can use the HW/ST diminished scale over a dominant 7th... the first half step puts you on the root of the diminished chord. Or you could play the WH diminished scale starting a half step above the chord root.

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(@scrybe)
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Cheers for the quick reply Noteboat. The book I was using has three voicings for each chord, so the diminished chord it shows repeats every three frets like you say, and I recalled the symmetry bit from A level music, but there were gaps in my knowledge (mainly due to diminished chords not occurring very much in any of the music I had to study). I feel a lot clearer on it all now.

And thanks for mentioning the augmented chord too - for some reason, despite using augmented chords in a few tunes I've done, it never occurred to me that it was symmetrical (probs because I haven't had to notate them) - I'll have to schedule a little augmented-chords session sometime soon to look at them in more depth and see how I can better employ them (or at least vary how I use them, anyway). every time you think you're done with something.......

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe

(@tinsmith)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 830

I guess I was confused about it until a few moments ago, until I grabbed my guitar.

If you play it from the top down, using strings D,G,B & E, would it be 1-b5-6-b3.....that's what I just got, I think.

------------------------11------------------
-------------------10------------------------
------------------------11--------------------
-------------------10--------------------------
-------------x-----------------------------
-------------X------------------------------

This is the formation I grew up with. Now I think I know what it means.

Am I on the right track?

(@fretsource)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973

If you play it from the top down, using strings D,G,B & E, would it be 1-b5-6-b3.....that's what I just got, I think.

That's right Tinsmith
Just a couple of points to bear in mind. If the note on string 4 (C) is the root of the chord then, strictly speaking, the note on string 2 isn't 6 (A) but bb7 (Bbb) - hence the name "diminished 7th", meaning it contains not only a diminished 5th (C-Gb) but also the diminished 7th (C-Bbb).
The other point is that because the intervals of that chord are all equal, i.e., minor 3rds, ANY of its notes can be considered the root, not necessarily the lowest one. If there's no context, telling you otherwise, you could just as easily call that chord A diminished 7th, and the notes (in string order) would then be spelled C Gb A Eb (the root, A,now being on string 2).

(@tinsmith)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 830

So is it 4 diminished chords in one?

I'm just starting to get into it. I've started studying "The Diminished Scale for Guitar" by Jean Marc Belkadi.

I understand the scale itself is very simple (I think). Only two patterns.....Whole note, half note, etc & Half note, whole note, etc. The fancy stuff comes from flatting the other steps I think. I have not gotten into modes yet. That will be next.

I wanted to try to pick up some of this from listening to the way Jimmy Herring was jamming with Derek Trucks. He's not a shredder & I'm not a fan of shredding but that type of "off color" playing adds to the jam. I'd to be able love to improvise like that.

BTW the book I'm studying seems hard. Confusing because it's different.

(@noteboat)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

Yep, it's four for the price of one.

And although you can think of two different diminished scales, I prefer to think of it as one scale. The C diminished (HW pattern) is the same as the Db diminished (WH pattern).

No sense gumming up my little mind with too much stuff when I play - I just think of the WH scale, since that's the one I learned first. Then if I want to play it over something like a G7b9 chord, I just shift it and play the Ab WH pattern. That way I get:

Ab-Bb-B-C#-D-E-F-G

all the right chord tones without having to think of which scale to use.

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(@tinsmith)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 830

I probably shouldn't use them like this, but I do.

If I'm in the key of D & want to add some effect to the chord I often make a d7 into a d#7dim....in other words, I just add the d# to the D7 chord on the D string.

I'm sure it's probably common practice if I do it.

(@noteboat)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

It's a common substitution, yes... but if you're substituting for D7, you're more likely to be in the key of G :)

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(@tinsmith)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 830

If I notate it D7/D# bass.
I thought it would a D#dim7, A dim7, C dim7 & an F#dim7.

Do I have this all screwed up?

Wouldn't that fact it was a 7th or whatever change per change from the root, since It's:
1-b5-6-b3

(@fretsource)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973

If I notate it D7/D# bass.
I thought it would a D#dim7, A dim7, C dim7 & an F#dim7.

Do I have this all screwed up?

Wouldn't that fact it was a 7th or whatever change per change from the root, since It's:
1-b5-6-b3

Yes - it would be those four chords - but you wouldn't notate it as D7/D# as it no longer has the note D - so it's not any kind of D7.

I couldn't understand the last part of your question - could you rephrase it?

(@tinsmith)
Prominent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 830

If I notate it D7/D# bass.
I thought it would a D#dim7, A dim7, C dim7 & an F#dim7.

Do I have this all screwed up?

Wouldn't that fact it was a 7th or whatever change per change from the root, since It's:
1-b5-6-b3

Yes - it would be those four chords - but you wouldn't notate it as D7/D# as it no longer has the note D - so it's not any kind of D7.

I couldn't understand the last part of your question - could you rephrase it?

If I said in any of the chords, D#dim7, A dim7, C dim7 & an F#dim7, I don't understand how they can all still have the
1-b5-6-b3 of the chord. Would the order of 1-b5-6-b3 change? Is this chord one of the wonderful oddities which always have the same properties in any form the chord is named?

Look at it in the form I gave as an example, 1-b5-6-b3, although I realize there are different dim shapes.

Tough for me to explain.....part of the learning process I guess.

BTW....thanks for your patience & help. All of a sudden the lightbulb will go on......eventually.

(@noteboat)
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Chord structures can be confusing. Because we think of them as separate notes, and they all have spellings, it's logical to think of the chord names depending on the sequence of things... just like letters make up words. You're looking at the sequence of the voicing, 1-b5-6-b3 and wondering how it could possibly be anything else...

But the elements of a chord aren't like the letters of a word. They're more like a mixed drink - if you put the gin in first one time, and the vermouth in first the second time, you still get a martini out of the shaker. Same thing with chords - if it has the right elements, it's that chord, no matter what sequence the notes come in.

Most chords have what are called "inversions" when you change the note sequence. For example, a C chord has the notes C-E-G, which can be played CEG, CGE, ECG, EGC, GCE, or GEC (and even more ways if you double notes). No matter how you choose to play it, it's a C chord - because it's got the right notes for a C chord.

Each one will sound subtly different, because there are different spaces between the notes. We call those "voicings". If you play C-E-G, you have a major third, then a minor third. CGE gives you a perfect fifth and a major sixth, etc. Since there are so many possible voicings, we don't categorize them all... we categorize them by the bottom note: it's either C (which is called "root position" because the root note is on the bottom), E ("first inversion", because the first note above the root is on the bottom), or G ("second inversion"). Chords with four notes can have a third inversion as well, and so on.

But the symmetrical chords are different. There's no difference in overall sound between inversions. If you play a CÂº7 (C-Eb-Gb-Bbb/A) and move the Eb to the lowest note, you have Eb-Gb-Bbb-C. The voices have moved around, but the distance between each one is still a minor third - three frets worth. So a CÂº7 in first inversion is identical to EbÂº7 in root position - or to AÂº7 in second inversion, or GbÂº7 in third inversion. In symmetrical chords, the order of the tones doesn't matter at all - because it still sounds the same!

So yep, it's one of the wonderful oddities that always has the same properties in any form. Another common one is the augmented triad - that repeats every four frets, and can have three different names.

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