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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsI’d like to introduce you to a new chord and scale. The new chord is the diminished chord and with it goes the diminished scale. What does the diminished chord consist of? It consist of piling minor thirds on top of each other. If I start with middle C and pile a minor third on top of that I get E flat, a minor third on top of that I get G flat, a minor third on top of that I get A and a minor third on top of that takes me back to where I started from which is C.

Skip to 0 minutes and 37 secondsThat is the chord and the scale that goes with it is what you get if you take each note and you precede it by the immediate partner the semitone.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 secondsIn fact it’s a little bit like the start of the tune “The Pink Panther” … In fact, when people play the scale some people find it easiest to see that diminished chord and then play the scale accordingly getting to each note from a semitone below. It’s called a “symmetrical” scale because it’s made up

Skip to 1 minute and 29 secondsof regular intervals, namely: tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 secondsSo if I put the chord in the left hand, then here is the scale.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 secondsIn terms of fingering - it’s rather strange, I don’t think I have seen fingering in a book of music - but I just use the first three fingers … That’s C diminished. If we go up a semitone we get C sharp diminished or D flat

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 secondsdiminished (that doesn’t sound right) … so same thing: tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone in terms of the scale. Minor thirds piled on top of each other in terms of the chord. If we go up a semitone again, we get D diminished … If we go up a semitone again, then we get E flat diminished … However, E flat diminished has the same notes in the scale as C diminished does.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 secondsSo you can think of the E flat diminished scale as being a “mode” of the C diminished scale. In other words, it is the same notes but rooted in a different position - same notes as C diminished but rooted on E flat. Therefore, in a sense, all the things that we are going to say about C diminished apply to E flat diminished. The only different thing being, of course, the root. What about voicing the chord? Let’s first of all talk about rooted chords. Well C7, an open seventh, consists of the root and the minor seventh. The equivalent to that for a diminished scale is the sixth, because A is in the scale and B flat isn’t.

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 secondsThe analogue of the tenth - taking into account the notes which are in the scale - then the minor seventh becomes the sixth, as before, and the tenth becomes the flattened tenth.

Skip to 4 minutes and 7 secondsAs far as fifth tenths are concerned: once again, the tenth becomes the flattened tenth (the minor tenth) and then you can either flatten the fifth or sharpen the fifth - they are both in the scale … Sharpening the fifth … What about a voiced version of the chord? Well, we can actually play the chord itself - it sounds a bit uninteresting - so what we often do is to add the major seventh which is in the scale and we get that chord. That’s a chord that’s used, for example, by Bill Evans for a diminished chord.

Skip to 5 minutes and 3 secondsBecause we can go up a minor third and get back to the same scale then we can take this and invert it a minor third, and invert it again a minor third, invert it again a minor third, invert it again a minor third and we get back to where we started. So all those chords, in a sense, are equivalent to each other and you can use any of them. I must say that is probably on the edge of being too low - it’s a little bit muddy - that doesn’t sound too bad and nor do the others. Of course when you get up to here then you are pushing the right hand quite a bit up the piano.

Skip to 5 minutes and 50 secondsWhat is the significance of this chord - we’ll be looking at this in more detail later on?

Skip to 5 minutes and 57 secondsOh by the way: fingering - I’ve done C diminished.

Skip to 6 minutes and 3 secondsD flat diminished: again just using fingers 1,2 and 3.

Skip to 6 minutes and 10 secondsD diminished: well actually there I finished on 4 but I could keep going obviously 1,2,3. As I say, we’ll look at that in more detail later on. So what’s its significance? Its significance occurs in developing our blues sequence. Remember, we started off with a skeletal blues, and then we changed the second bar. Now I want to change the sixth bar.

Skip to 6 minutes and 37 secondsInstead of going to the subdominant, I want to go to a semitone above it in the sixth bar and change it to a diminished chord like this … So when we got to the fifth bar we have F7 to F sharp diminished - so notice that we keep the upper note the sixth constant and just move the bottom note up. The we have F sharp diminished scale which is the same as C diminished and then we go back to our standard blues sequence. It’s an enhanced sequence where in the sixth bar you go up a semitone and turn it into a diminished chord. We will make use of this in the next tune that we look at.

Diminished chords and scales

You will learn about diminished chord and scales including playing the voicings of the chords.

You can download the chords referenced in the video and the application to an enhanced skeletal blues sequence in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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This video is from the free online course:

Learn Jazz Piano: I. Begin with the Blues

Goldsmiths, University of London