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Diminished scale theory and other scales

Diminished scale theory and other scales
That was a standard which employed the melodic minor ascending scale. In the next section we’ll look at the other important scale the altered scale. But for completeness, I just want to finish off discussing the diminished scale and a few other scales. We’ve met the diminished scale before. We met it in some detail in session (week) 4.
I only really came across the diminished scale fairly late in my jazz career.
I learnt 3 of them: C, C sharp and D and found that I could finger them with just the first 3 fingers, unless I’m finishing off the scale somewhere.
As you know, it’s a symmetrical scale: it goes tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone …
The significance of the scale is that, really, we only use it typically when we come across a seventh with a flattened ninth and that tends to happen, you know, occasionally for a bar. It’s not like a Dorian mode. If you take something like “So What” you’ve got a stretch of Dorian, so you really need to be on top of that scale. Diminisheds tend to crop up less frequently, but there’s still a lot that you can do with them. Let’s just revise it again. There’s C diminished. … There’s C sharp diminished.
There’s D diminished. And then there’s E flat diminished, but it’s just a mode of C, which is why I said I really only ever learnt C diminished, C sharp diminished and D diminished. If I have a flattened ninth, I work out which of the three it is and then use that - notes from that scale. As I say, we take a seventh and we flatten the ninth. and then it’s the flattened ninth which determines which of the scales we want. The flattened ninth for C7 is C sharp, so it’s C sharp diminished. That’s that voicing and the other one is
So seventh with a flattened ninth we use the diminished. Now I want to tell you something slightly remarkable about the diminished scale, in that it contains 8 triads.
Take C diminished There’s no triad on C itself because we have flattened thirds - minor thirds piled on top of each other. But take D, the second note, and that has both D major triad and D minor triad in it. Anything that happens in a diminished scale must happen if you go up a minor third or down a minor third, because of its symmetric nature. If we’ve got D major triad and D minor triad, we also have F major triad and F minor triad. We also have major A flat major triad and A flat minor triad. We also have B major triad and B minor triad.
We can actually run those triads when we’ve got a diminished situation and they sound quite good. I mean some sound better than others depending on the voicing you use in the left hand. Take, for example, a voicing for C diminished, then we can arpegiate D major.
We can do the same with the minor but it doesn’t sound quite so good.
because the F clashes with the F sharp. Similarly, we can do it with the others, like F F minor
A flat major A flat minor B major, and B minor It gives you something - rather than running the scale, or rather than thinking motivically - you can actually run the triads in arpegiated form. That sometimes sounds quite nice. That’s the diminished scale. There is another scale which is intimately related to it. I’m not sure I know what the name of it is. I call it the “nine note scale” and it’s just what you get if you start - instead of going tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, you go semitone, tone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone. Instead of going tone we go semitone so we get to C sharp, and clearly from then onwards it’s C sharp diminished
but rooted on C So it’s just a mode of the diminished scale and, in that sense, I don’t think it offers anything very much new. At least, I find it easiest to think of it in those terms. So that’s a diminished scale which we use when we come across a seventh with a flattened ninth. What other scales are there? Well we’ve met the whole tone scale just tones placed on top of each other.
Notice: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 - there’s only 7 notes in that rather than 8 and there’s 9 notes in a diminished scale - if you go up an octave. If we go up a tone it’s just a mode of that scale. So there are only 2 scales really. There’s one rooted on C and its modes and there’s one rooted on C sharp or D flat
and its modes
When do we use that? We use that with an augmented seventh - augmented means sharpened fifth. If we take C7 Well that voicing doesn’t have a fifth in it, but if we put in a fifth in it and we augment it - we sharpen it, then the whole tone scale is an appropriate scale to play with it. If we use the other voicing, the thirteenth, then we use the sharpen fifth - we take that form of it.
The whole tone scale and there aren’t really any modes of any significance - there’s just the 2 scales. We’ve discussed the harmonic - we’ve discussed the minor - we’ve discussed
the Dorian mode. We’ve discussed
the melodic minor ascending. We’ haven’t discussed the melodic minor descending but if you just look at it, it’s just E flat major rooted on C. In other words, it’s just a mode of E flat - the sixth mode - the Aeolian mode, if you want to be specific. In intervallic terms you don’t get anything new. We’ve only looked at scales where the steps are separated by a tone or a semitone. But there are other types of scales. For example, the harmonic minor. Remember with a minor there’s ambiguity at the sixth and seventh levels.
If I take the sixth to be a minor - or flattened note - the seventh to be a major - or natural note, then I get that scale the harmonic minor, which is used mostly in classical music - most minor compositions employ the harmonic minor. But we don’t use it very much in jazz. However, it does have a set of modes of its own.
But notice in the middle - when you get from A flat to B - that’s not a tone or a semitone, it’s a minor third. It isn’t a scale in the sense of tone or semitone steps.
It does have a set of modes, but they are used very, very infrequently in jazz. So we won’t say any more. There is another scale that’s intimately related to it which is the harmonic major. It starts off the same as though it’s major and then it finishes If I go back to the harmonic minor and I wanted a chord that signals it, then notice its a minor - the seventh in there - but, in addition, you’ve got the major seventh and you’ve got the flattened sixth or the flattened thirteenth. So if I wanted to try and signal that scale, I’d be looking for something like C minor/major7 flat 5 (13).
Obviously such things occur very rarely which is why we make very little use of that scale. Harmonic major?
Then that clearly is a major seventh and the the only thing that is different from the Ionian scale is the fact that the sixth or the thirteenth is flattened. C major7 flat13 - again, very rare that you get it. That has a set of modes which are different again, but they’re not used very much. There’s lots of other scales around - exotic scales - where you can have bigger intervals, or you miss out notes. There’s just one I want to look at which we’re going to make use of a bit later on and that’s the Spanish Phrygian. I’m not absolutely sure if all authors agree what the Spanish Phrygian is.
I’ve put one note in parentheses, because I think the thing without that note is the Spanish Phrygian. It goes semitone, minor third, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, tone. The scale that I know has both the major third and the minor third in it. It goes semitone, tone, semitone, semitone, tone, semitone, tone, tone. If you wanted a chord that, in a sense, signals that then clearly first of all you’ve got C7 in there. You have the flattened ninth and the sharpened ninth and the flat thirteen. Again, very rare that you would have such a chord symbol, but we can use that in some contexts. It’s a very nice chord because it’s got this Spanishy sort of sound in it.
We’ll look at that a bit later on and make use of it, because it has a lovely colour. That’s all I really want to say about scales. As I say, there are lots of others and I can give you some references at the end for other books that you might look at, and you can look on the internet, of course. From our point of view the important things are the modes of the major scale - the Ionian modes - and the modes of the melodic minor ascending - at least well 3 or 4 of them - and in the next section we’ll play a tune that makes use of the altered scale.

We consider some diminished scale theory and look briefly at the whole tone, harmonic minor, harmonic major and Spanish Phrygian scales.

You can download the charts for “Diminished chords and scales”, “Triads in diminished scales” and “Some Other Scales” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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