Tag Archives: diminished chords guitar

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. 

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bIII Diminished – 3 Standards & 3 jazz licks

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Secret to play over Diminished Chords

Everybody find Diminished chords troublesome to play over, but actually it is not as difficult as you think. In this video I will go over how I improvise over a diminished chord and give you the tools and knowledge to add it to your guitar solos.

Three main types of Dim Chords

A diminished chord is a collection of notes that always want to resolve. They are never used as a tonic chord, but always as a means of tension towards or suspension of another chord. The first thing to notice is that diminished chords have different ways to resolve, in fact there are three main types of dim chords resolutions you will come across. These are shown in example 1 here below:

Dominant Diminished Chords

The first diminished chord is a G#dim resolving to an Am7. This Dim chord functions as a dominant and could easily be replaced with an E7.

I assume you know how to play a dominant resolving to a minor chord like E7(b9) to Am, so I won’t spend a lot of time on this type in this lesson.

Sub-Dominant Diminished Chords

The other two are #IV diminished chords. These are not dominants but are sub dominants and resolve in a different way. The easiest way to think of them is as #IV dim, but you are also (or most even) likely to come accross them in inversions (as you will see in the examples)

The two most common progressions where you will come across these are the #IV-I and #IV-IV. In the first case the Fdim to Fmaj7, where Fdim is an inversion of Bdim, which is #IV in F major.

The last part of example 1 is a #IV dim chord (Ab dim or Bdim/Ab in this case) resolving to a subdominant chord: Gm7. This is a very common dim chord to encounter in turnarounds and is also found in a lot of standards like The Song is You or Embraceable You.

So we have three types of progressions where one is easy to play because we can treat it as a V I progression.

How to not use the diminished scale

The scale that you need to use in a context not the diminished scale. Primarily because the diminished scale is a symetrical and synthetic construction and not really what fits any type of tonal song. Most jazz standard progressions, where we find the diminished chords, are tonal.

The best way to approach this is probably to take a look at the scale that is the key. In this case that is F major as shown in example 2. If we alter this scale to contain a Dim chord then we get either an A harmonic minor scale or you could also choose a C harmonic major scale.

In most cases the A harmonic minor scale is more familiar so for now we can just stick with that. The C harmonic major option only differs one note and the difference is not that big.

The Secret Trick to Dim Chords

The secret trick in this case is to use the target notes that we associate with the V I resolutions, so in this case we coud resolve the dim chord to an A or a C over the Fmaj7 or Gm7. In Example 3 I have written out some simple exercises so you can hear how it sounds.

It’s all about target notes

So instead of making lines that resolve to the basic chord tones of the chord you can make lines as if you are resolving a dom7th chord and get used to how they sound over the chord you want to resolve to.

Idim – Imaj7

This type of progression is fairly common in songs like “I Remember You” or “You Do Something To Me”

Using the target notes of A and C in this situation is not so difficult since the A and C are both chord tones on an Fmaj7: F A C E.

Below are to examples of simple lines resoving to first the C and then the A.

The material I am using on the Bdim is really spelling out an E7(b9). E7(b9) is of course also what you are left with if you take an A harmonic minor scale and leave out A and C. 

The bIII dim resolving to IIm7.

This is usually the dim chord situation that is causing the most problems. It is also the example where you end up playing towards extensions over the II chord that you are maybe not as used to resolving to or hearing.

The first thing you want to be used to is the sound of the dim chord resolving to Gm7 as I wrote out in example 3.

For the bIII dim chord I have a few different examples. The first two are in the context of a III bIII II V I progression. 

1st Turnaround example

The Am7 line is a basic Am triad which is followed by a dim arpeggio from B to Ab. The Ab is then resolved to A on the Gm7. The A is then used as a top note in an Bbmaj7 arpeggio.

2nd Turnaround example

The 2nd turnaround example is using the C over the Gm7 chord.

The line starts with a scale run from A to C on the Am7. The Abdim line is a descending arpeggio run from the 3rd(B). On the Gm7 the line first resolves to C, which is the target note, and from there continues with a Bb major triad played in a 153 pattern.

Longer bIIIdim lines

To help you get used to the sound I have also included two examples where you can hear the resolution and I am adding the chord under the target note so that you can easily hear how it resolves.

The first example is using a dim arpeggio pattern followed by an E7 arpeggio that resolves to 9th(A) over Gm7.

The second example uses a similar arpeggio pattern that is followed by an E7(b9) fragment. This resolves to the 11th(C) on the Gm7 where I again have added the chord under the target note.

How to work on this material

The important thing is that you train yourself to hear how these target notes work and sound over the chords and in that way get the lines that you already have in your system as dominant lines to work in this other context.

Adding the chords under the target notes or just sitting down to voicelead chords towards with the target notes in the melody can be very useful besides all the exercises I covered in this lesson!

Get a Free Ebook

If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Get the PDF!

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Secret to play over diminished chords

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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