How To Solo On bIII Diminished Chords – 3 Jazz Standards & 3 Licks

In this video I am going to show you 3 examples of how to solo over a bIII diminished chords. I am going to use 3 jazz standard, explain what scale to use and give you an example of a line. The lesson will talk about not only what to play but also how to craft a line on diminished chords because you need to know more than just what to play.

The bIII diminsihed chord is often causing panic in jazz solos. I have made some other videos on how to figure out the scales and arpeggios for this chord, and I thought that maybe it would be useful to just take some real examples from real songs. A big part of my philosophy is to learn things from songs and this is a great example.

This video will show you 3 songs where you encounter the bIII diminished chord, what scale you need to improvise over it and an example of a line that works over this song.

Learning Jazz Standards – Learning from real music

A huge part of how I learned to play jazz was by studying songs and really figuring out how to play and understand the chords. The fact that you really use the things you learn and can take your knowledge and experiences from one song to the next really helps with building your abilities as an improvisor.

Example 1 – Songs is you

The first example is from the Jerome Kern standard The Song is You.

Song is you is in the key of C major. The bIII dim chord is Eb dim, and the scale I am using to improvise over it is the harmonic minor scale from the 3rd of the key: E harmonic minor.

Key: C major
bIII dim: Ebdim
Scale: E harmonic minor

In this case the melody is really just using the dim arpeggio, and the construction of the line is a motif that develops over the Cmaj7, Ebdim and Dm7 chord.

The lick is using a Cdim triad and using the Eb to target the 9th(E) of Dm7. Targeting the extensions on the Dm7 is really useful because we can pretend to resolve the Ebdim licks as if they are a B7(b9) resolving to Em.

EXAMPLE 2 – Someday my Prince will come

A very common (and great song) is Someday my Prince Will come. Here the bIII dim chord comes along twice in the second 8 bars.


The song is in Bb major, so the bIII dim is Dbdim and the scale is D harmonic minor.

Key: Bb major
bIII dim: Dbdim
Scale: D harmonic minor

Again the idea for making the melody on the dim chord is to use the line on the Bb major as a motif and develop that to fit on the dim chord.

A great Diminished chord melodic trick

One way that works really well to create melodies when moving from a tonic chord like a I or a III chord to a a bIII dim chord is to use voice-leading. This is how I am developing a motief in the above example. The  tonic line is a Bb6 arpeggio and then I can voice-lead that to a Db dim by changing the D and the F to Db and E:

Bb6: Bb D F G

Db dim: Bb Db E G 

notice that I am using the inversion to make the voice-leading clear. 

EXAMPLE 3 – It Could Happen to You

One of my favorite songs! Technically you could argue that this is a #II (or secondary dominant) diminished, but the scale choice is the same and it is nice to have a bit of variation in the examples.

The song is in Eb major, it is a Gb dim chord and the harmonic minor scale from the 3rd is G harmonic minor.

Key: Eb major
bIII dim: Gbdim
Scale: G harmonic minor

The line on the Dim chord is using the b6 which does give it some D7(b9) like sound. The melody is coming out of a motif developement from the Fm7. It is using the same melodic movement in the beginning of the bar before moving to the arpeggio and resolving to the Eb/G chord.

Get you dim chord game further

This lesson shows some practical examples and hopefully you can get some ideas that you can use to make your own licks and get into your playing.

If you want to check out a solo where I also solo over a bIII diminished chord then check out this lesson. 

All The Things You Are – Getting Started Soloing

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bIII Diminished – 3 Standards & 3 jazz licks

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