Overall I feel like a fairly competent guitarist, but I've always had a problem with diminished scales, using them and improvising over diminished chords.... They're just hard for me to find in the moment and I can't do much aside from playing the arpeggio or play the scale a little bit starting on the root...I've found recently listening that a lot of the sounds I hear that seem interesting that I don't really have a handle on are diminished licks, so I want to cozy up with them a bit... Does anyone have tips for practicing and applying them?
practicing/applying diminished(9 posts)
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In standart tunes there are usually two types of diminished chords: the ones hiding a V7b9 from harmonic minor that usualally resolves to a minor chord and the ones generated from the Idiminished Imaj7 progression.
Case 1) Substitute the diminished chords with their dominants it's easier to me. Say a tune like How Insensitive; instead of thinking Dm7 C#º I think Dm7 A7b9/C#. Or wehn you have the Ebmaj7 Eº Fm7 F#º Gm7 like in It Could Happen To You I also think Ebmaj7 C7b9/E Fm7 D7b9/F# Gm7. I think this helps a lot having fluency on those chords.
Case 2) There are three variations of this progression a) Cdim Cmaj7 (like the into of "Spring Is Here" but in Ab). Here I usuallt think B7 (b9,#9, #11, 13) Cmaj7. b) Em7 Ebdim7 Dm7 ("Night and Day"). Here I usually think Ebm7 D7(b9,#9, #11, 13) Dm7. c) Fmaj7 F#º Cmja7 / G ("You d be so nice to come home to" in Bb or Blues / Rhythm Changes). Here I think Fmja77 F7(b9,#9, #11, 13) Cmaj7.
Converting these diminished chords into dominants helps me "seeing" the scale and it's also easier to apply all the patterns you usually study for these types of chords, you avoid studying them two times.
On the Case 1 scenario I suggest hearing bebop players, they usually have excellent harmonic minor patterns that avoid the augmented second sound of the scale. On the Case 2 I sugeeest studying patterns from Coltrane, Kurt (or from books, there are a few books that have good patterns).
Hope this helps
Being a simmetric scale, the practice of simmetric patterns can be useful to visualize it better. Even if they sound sometimes old, there is hardly a better way to put the scale under your finger with fluidity.
Check this out, i suggest to print these few pages and practice this:
Diminished scale are really rich, with tons of triads and 4 voices chords inside...still a modern sound.
Forgot to mention triads / triad pairs, as important as patterns on diminished sounds.
Man, I remember having this exact problem when I was struggling to get a handle on incorporating the diminished scale.
What I figured out was that while the symmetrical nature of the scale makes it easy to learn, it makes it confusing to incorporate it into improvising, since it just seems like its own world--it ends up sounding forced.
A few things helped me:
1) practice relating the diminished scale to the tonal scales it's related to. For instance, you might use diminished over a V7 chord. So you can practice alternating between mixolydian and diminished in the same position, paying attention to how they relate. What I liked to do was cycle through all the scales over a dominant chord in each position:
Mel. minor mode V
Harmonic minor mode V
Harm. Major mode III
Mel. Minor mode VII
Harm. Major mode V
The same applies to diminished chords, but it is trickier because dim. chords are often inverted with respect to their function, so you need to figure out what the real root is.
2) Relate the dim. scale to the chord. It's simple, but a basic exercise of going up the scale and down the arpeggio, and up the arpeggio and down the scale is really helpful to train yourself to see how the relationship works.
G B D F Ab | G F E D C# B Bb Ab G
You can also alter the arpeggio:
G B C# F Ab - 7(b9#11)
G B E F Ab - 13(b9)
G B E F Bb - 13(#9)
G B C# F Bb - 7(#9#11)
or use extended ones:
G B D F Ab C# | B Bb Ab G F E D C# B Bb Ab G
3) Really work on the triad relationships in the scale
C, Cm, Eb, Ebm, Gb, Gbm, A, Am
There are also the following chords:
C6, Cm6, Eb6, Ebm6, F#6, F#m6, A6, Am6
You can work on taking these through the scale in various ways, for instance using the C/Gb pair in successive inversions:
CEG, DbGbBb, EGC, GbBbDb, GCE, BbDbGb
4) Make the scales into asymmetrical 7-note scales by omitting one note; this makes them interesting and forces you to think and focus on what you're doing.
C Db E F# G A Bb (no #9)
C D# E F# G A Bb (no b9)
C Db D# E G A Bb (no #4)
C Db D# E F# A Bb (no 5)
C Db D# E F# G Bb (no 6)
Db D# E F# G A Bb (no root)
5) Use triad pairs to construct interesting 6-note scales:
Cm + A: C C# Eb E G A
Ebm + A: Eb E Gb A Bb C#
I've found that in standard tunes, there are only a few uses of the dim. chord that come up regularly:
#ivº7 : this is functioning either as V/iii (VIII7), V/V (II7) or Io7. Io7 and V/iii are very similar.
biiiº7 : this doesn't function as a dominant, but is just passing motion between iii7 and ii7.
Iº7 : this isn't really functioning as a dominant, but it Io7 - Imaj7 is very similar to the deceptive cadence V7b9 - bVImaj7 in the key of iii (VII7b9 - Imaj7).
viiº7 : this one is obviously subbing for V7b9, unless it's going to vi, in which case it is subbing for V7b9/vi (III7)
#vº7 : this is subbing for V7b9/vi (aka III7)
#iº7 : V7b9/ii (VI7)
#iiº7 : V7b9/iii
In all cases, there is a harmonic minor and/or harmonic major scale that retains most of the notes of the key but accommodates the chord.
I like the harmonic major approach (implies Mixolydian b9 13) but like the symmetrial approach better (full diminished scale with #11 and #9 and no 11). Very interesting post gleepblop I guess I knew all that but never organized it that way :)
just shred the 4 note dim arpeggio up + down the neck, the oldschool django/ yngwie way
Hey Jorge and Gleep Glop,
What are some books you recommend for patterns, or anything else that comes to mind as a good read.
All the best!
Hi Ben - to be honest most theory books are absolutely terrible on the theorythecal part of dimished chords. I don't think you will find a much better approach than the one me and gleepglop gave.
About patterns I have some files I can send you, Kurt and Coltrane are two great sources! Bert Ligon, Bergonzi and David Baker books have tons of diminished lines. I think Sheets of Sound by Jack Zucker also has a lot.
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