Diminished Scale on Dom7th Chords

In my lesson on scale choices for dominant chords: Dom7th chords One of the examples was using the diminished scale. In this lesson I want to show how I make lines using the major triads in the diminished scale and give a few examples and exercises to help developing that.

Scale and Triad exercises

The diminished scale when applied to a dominant gives you the sound of for example a G7(b9#11,13) chord. To me the 13th sound very major this is because it is the major third of the chord that the dominat resolves to (the E in the case of the G7 to Cmaj7). At the same time the chord contains the b9 (Ab) which sounds minor so it is sort of in between the major (using the mixolydian sound) and minor dominants (harmonic minor or altered scales).

Let’s first try to play the scale:

Diminished Scale on Dom7th Chords ex 1

I never spent a lot of time practicing the scale, and have always use more time on making lines with the arpeggios and structures I took out of it. That said you still need to be able to play it and should know it over the whole neck.

If we build chords by stacking thirds in this scale we will only get diminished chords, but if you start looking at the material you’ll see that it contains Major and minor triads too as well as dom7th and m7th chords. Since the diminished scale is symmetrical and you can moving everything around in minor thirds we can also see that if we have a G major triad, we will also have Bb, Db and E major triads.

To learn the triads and have material to make lines it is practical to learn the inversions of the triads:

Diminished Scale on Dom7th Chords ex 2

Here are 3 of the 4 string sets. Of course there are many other ways to practice this than string sets, but for now let’s focus on these.

Since it could be useful to use more triads in one line it can be a good exercise to connect them and get an overview of where they are placed in one position. One exercise (you can and should make more yourself!) is to play the triads in this progression on one string set: G, E, Db, Bb G, etc.

That might look like this:

Diminished Scale on Dom7th Chords ex 3

You can try to do thi son other string sets and come up with other ideas for connecting the triads and getting an overview of how they a placed in relation to each other.

Example lines

Often when people start working with the diminished scale they use the symmetrical aspect a lot. Probably because it is very practical on guitar and requires little effort in learning the scale or the structures in it. Personally I don’t like those melodies that much so I try not to use that too often and focus more on treating it like I would any other scale, which should be clear from the examples.

All my examples are II V I progressions in C major. For these examples I did not try to stay in one position, mostly because I think that this is material you should check out when you already have that knowledge covered for major and minor cadences.

Diminished Scale on Dom7th Chords ex 4

In the first example I play a simle Dm7 arpeggio followed by a scale fragment. The Diminished line is first an E and then a Db major triad. Notice that I don’t only use root position inversions. After the triads I make a small trill on the b9 before resolving to the 3rd of C

Diminished Scale on Dom7th Chords ex 5

The line on the Dm7 in the second example is very closely related to the one in the first since it is almost a diatonic transposition of it. On the G7 I play the same sort of pattern on a Db and then a Bbmajor triad. I guess this melodic pattern is developed from a RH picking pattern, but it does work well for arpeggios because it emphasizes the top note in the arpeggio. The line resolves chromatically to the maj7th on the C.

Diminished Scale on Dom7th Chords ex 6

In the last line I use an Fmaj7 shell voicing on the Dm7, followed by a scale run from the root to the 5th. The line on the G7 consists of a 1st inversion E triad and a 2nd inversion Bb triad followed by the b9 and the third before resolving to the 5th of C.

As I mention in the video I find the 2 string inversions of triads a useful tool in soloing so it can be worthwhile to check that out, and I will probably make a lesson on that in the future.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here:

Diminished Scale on Dom7th Chords

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.