Tag Archives: diminished chords

Diminished Chords – Beautiful Progressions and How To Use Them

The Diminished Chords are often causing a lot of people trouble, and that is a shame because there are so many amazing sounding progressions that use diminished chords and you can make beautiful chord progressions with them as well.

In this video, I am going to show you the two main categories of dim chords and how you can use diminished chords in some great sounding progressions.

It isn’t that difficult there are just a lot of people telling you to think stuff on dim chords that don’t fit with what you hear, and that is probably getting in your way.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:27 The Two Types of dim chords

01:41 Dominant Diminished

02:16 Common Dominant Diminished Progressions

04:28 Subdominant Diminished

05:20 Resolving Diminished Problems

05:53 Common #IV dim progressions

07:32 Soloing over Diminished Chords

07:40 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

 

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The Most Important Solo Tools For a Half Diminished Chord

I think many consider the half-diminished or m7b5 the most difficult chord to improvise over, but it is a very common sound in Jazz Standards so you do need to figure it out. I often people try to choose another scale and run up and down that without making any sense r really having anything to say, which isn’t really a solution either.

In this video, I am going to go over some solid solutions for this chord that can help you play better solos and have an easier time improvising over m7b5 chords and minor II V I’s in general, and they are surprisingly simple.

The m7b5 chord – Construction

Let’s first construct a m7b5 chord and look at how it fits in a minor II V I cadence. Then I will cover some of the things you can use when improvising including 7th chord arpeggios, triads, quartals and pentatonic scales. You can never have too many options when it comes to material to improvise with. I will also talk about why you don’t want to always use the locrian nat 2 scale.

Arpeggios and Scales I will cover:

  • 7th Chord Arpeggios
  • Triads
  • Quartal Arpeggios
  • Pentatonic Scales

This is pretty simple: Here is a Em7 chord: E G B D and the half-diminished or Em7b5 chord will then be: E G Bb D.

The chord symbol we use is either m7b5 or you use the symbol for diminished but then put a line through it to note that it is not a full diminished chord but a half-diminished chord.

This is one of the few places where my Danish heritage is extremely useful  for learning Jazz harmony since the letter ø is a part of the Danish alphabet and on my keyboard, so for once I have an unfair disadvantage!

Diminished vs Half-diminished

The difference between a diminished chord and a half-diminished chord is that the diminished chord has a diminished 7th which is enharmonic to a 6th, the half-diminished has a

So an E diminished would be E G Bb Db

where the half-diminished is E G Bb D

In this lesson, the m7b5 chord is the II chord in a minor II V I like this:


The m7b5 arpeggio

There is nothing wrong with the m7b5 arpeggio, you already know it and you are already using it. It can be a great idea to expand your options so you have a basic arpeggio melody like this:

But  an arpeggio is a bunch of notes that you can play in many ways, and this is certainly something you want to explore. Here is an example  with a little octave displacement like this:

Triad from the 3rd

If you look at an Eø and the notes in there Eø: E G Bb D then you could choose to not use the root and make some lines focusing on the top 3 notes: G Bb D which is a Gm triad.

For your comping the Gm triad might also prove a useful voicing to explore.


Maj7 from b5

On a m7b5 the arpeggio from the b5 is a great option to get the b5 and the 11th in a line. This arpeggio does contain the b9 which is considered an avoid note, but in this case it is hidden inside the arpeggio so you don’t naturally emphasize that note.

 

Magic Arpeggio

The Magic Arpeggio is a an altered version of the previous example, but now the b9 is changed in to the root so that you don’t have that problem.

Normal Bbmaj7: Bb D F A -> Bb D E A – Bb Magic Arpeggio

In the end it is more important that this arpeggio just sounds great I guess:

 

It’s funny how the magic arpeggio is not allowed to be called maj7b5, on my other video on half-diminished chords I had one guy ranting over the term “half-diminished” Which is weird to me because it is a pretty logical name if you know the theory.

Why not always Locrian #2?

Of course, it makes more sense to choose arpeggios and structures so that they don’t contain notes that don’t really sound good with the chord. At the same time, I think that with the m7b5 chords it has become a trend to use Locrian nat 2 because it does not have any avoid notes. There are a few problems with that:

1. You are better off worrying about what to play and find things that sound good, and not spend time on what you shouldn’t play
2. You should choose the scale so that it contains what you think sounds better in the context if that 9th is important then play that, but chances are that is not what you hear in the music.
3. It is not a good strategy to choose a scale so that it has no avoid-notes and you can run up and down it at random. That is not how you make music.

Quartals

If you are coming up short when looking for things to play over a chord then going over the quartal arpeggios in the scale is almost always a great idea.

The quartal arpeggios in the scale would be this on the middle string-set:

 

In this example I am using thequartal arpeggios from

Bb: Bb E A and A: A D G

 

 

Locrian Pentatonic

Another great resource to explore for a chord is finding some pentatonic scales that work. There a few that could work, and especially this one which is essentially a minor pentatonic with a b5:

Em pentatonic: E G A B D E
E Locrian pentatonic: E G A Bb D E

You could play that like this:

 

A line using this scale could be something like this:

 

What you want to notice is that I play the scale using 2 notes per string and then try to exploit that when I search for melodies. In a way that is using the strength of pentatonic scales.

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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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Diminished Chords On Guitar – Only One Useful Extension

On The Guitar Diminished Chords can be difficult to use and really get into your playing and it is tricky to add extensions and make melodies with them. This video will go over how to add extensions, play the chords and some examples of using them in a melodic way in your playing.

Suprisingly the Diminshed Chords Guitar voicings really only have one good extension, but as you will see in the video you can do really a lot with it.

A Very Common Diminished chord

The Diminished chord that I want to focus on are the one found on the bIII of a major scale. These are very common in jazz and appear in a progression like this:

Am7 Abdim Gm7 C7 Fmaj7

A way to play them in could be something li

ke this:

Another way of playing this higher on the neck is:

Finding a Scale and adding extensions

If you want some more freedom and possibilities when comping it is useful to also figure out what extensions can be added. To figure this out you need to place the chord in a scale related to this key.

The example is in F major: 

F G A Bb C D E F

The Dim chord is: Ab B D F

If you want to fit that into the scale then you need to can alter the F major scale like this:

F G# A B C D E F

Which is the same as A harmonic minor.

The Single Important Extension

The way to find extensions on a chord is to have a scale that the chord belongs to and then take away the chord tones. This leaves the rest as possible extensions to try out.

If you do this for this diminished chord and the scale we split the A harmonic minor in:

G# B D F as chord tones and A C E as extension options

Taking a closer look at those options: A and C both are not suited  as extensions because they create a b9 above a chord tone.

This leaves the E, the b6 as our only extension.

You can do a lot with one extension

But there is a lot of great melodies to be made with this extra note as you can hear if you play the example below:

Some other ways to add this note to chord voicings are shown in the example here under:

The other Scale and an Extra Extension

But if you really want more extensions then that is possible. You can use a different scale.

In the first example the A harmonic minor was reached by making the G a G#, but it is also possible to make the A and Ab:

F major:

F G A Bb C D E F

The Dim chord is: Ab B D F

If you want to fit that into the scale then it is possibel to alter the F major scale like this:

F G Ab B C D E F

Which is the same as C harmonic major: C D E F G Ab B C

If you split this scale in Chord tones and extensions we have:

Ab B D F and C E G.

The C is still not a great extension, but the E and G are both viable options.

More voicings and ideas with the Maj7

You can add this extension to the voicings like this:

And the top note melodies that you can make using these two extensions with rootless voicings is shown in example 9:

A more solo guitar take on that is shown in example 10

Melodies and comping

One of the main ways that I developed my comping was by harmonizing a lot of melodies. Working with chords in combination with melody is a very strong way to develop an ear for both. One way of working on this is to work on chord melody which you can check out via this lesson:

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Diminished Chords on Guitar – Useful Extensions and Voicings

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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!

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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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