Diminished Scale/Arpeggio Improv Question

mikoo69

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Been reading up on improvising with diminished arpeggios and the Half-Whole Diminished scale to create tension.

I keep reading that the idea is to play the arp/scale either a half step above the root of the V chord in a major key, or a half step below the i root in a minor key (so if I'm jamming in Am I'd want to play a G# diminished arp/scale).

Not sure I understand the theory as to why a half step below the root (or above the V). Can anyone enlighten me on this?
 

cubistguitar

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The V7 chord of your minor key has a diminished triad starting on the third, or a half step below the I tonic minor. Use the diminshed where you would use V7 licks.

G7 ..........G,B,D,F
B dim triad...B,D,F

If you extend that same triad another minor third it makes a diminished 7th arp, but that note will be a half step above the V chord and that arp will outline the V7b9 chord (minus the root) that is very typical in minor key music.

G7b9 ............G,B,D,F,Ab
Ab dim 7th....Ab,B,D,F

Both of those are typical uses of the diminshed arpeggio, they are both the same to me, the one just extends the other.

As far as the half-whole dim scale goes, you can start that right on the root of the V7 chord and that will substitute for altered scale or V7b9 type runs.

it's easier for me to see it laid out in a row

say its a G7 chord you wanna make altered tones on
G H/Wdim (G,Ab,Bb,Cb,Db,D,E,F) 8 notes that make the chord tones (1,b9,#9, 3,#4, 5, 6, b7) perfect for G7b9 because that assumes a perfect 5th
G altered (G,Ab,Bb,Cb, Db,Eb,F) 7 notes that make the chord tones (1,b9,#9,3,#4,#5, b7) perfect for G7alt because that assumes no perfect 5th
 

guitarjazz

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a half step below the i root in a minor key (so if I'm jamming in Am I'd want to play a G# diminished arp/scale).

Not sure I understand the theory as to why a half step below the root (or above the V). Can anyone enlighten me on this?
So that's E7(b9)/A
 

Phletch

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Been reading up on improvising with diminished arpeggios and the Half-Whole Diminished scale to create tension.

I keep reading that the idea is to play the arp/scale either a half step above the root of the V chord in a major key, or a half step below the i root in a minor key (so if I'm jamming in Am I'd want to play a G# diminished arp/scale).

Not sure I understand the theory as to why a half step below the root (or above the V). Can anyone enlighten me on this?
What you've read about "play the arp/scale either a half step above the root of the V chord in a major key..." are what are often referred to as "hacks" as in "shortcuts for remembering what to do," but, as you've discovered, the hacks are a what to do and don't do much to aid in understanding why they work. If you just "play the scale" as prescribed in the hacks, it's still not a guarantee that it's going to sound very musical. In order to do that you've got to be aware of the relationship between the degrees of the scale and the chords you're playing over.

What @cubistguitar said is how you need to approach it. For each of those hacks you mentioned, spell out the h-W dim scale and identify how each scale degree relates to the chord relative to the root of the chord.

Take a G7 chord/arp - G B D F
Gdim7 chord/arp - G Bb Db E
Abdim7 chord/arp - Ab B D F

Put the two dim7 chords together. See what you get? Notice the relationship of each scale degree as it relates to G? That's what you need to think about - intervals, not so much "the scale."

Another "hack" you may notice is that you can start the h-W dim scale on any of the degrees of the Gdim7 chord/arpeggio. You can start a W-h scale on any of the degrees of the Abdim7 scale. Because they're symmetrical, each of those diminished chords/arps are built using min3rds (diminished triads). When you combine them you'll also find major and minor triads. Play around with those ideas, always keeping in mind which are chord tones, and for those that aren't chord tones, how they relate to the chord.
say its a G7 chord you wanna make altered tones on
G H/Wdim (G,Ab,Bb,Cb,Db,D,E,F) 8 notes that make the chord tones (1,b9,#9, 3,#4, 5, 6, b7) perfect for G7b9 because that assumes a perfect 5th
G altered (G,Ab,Bb,Cb, Db,Eb,F) 7 notes that make the chord tones (1,b9,#9,3,#4,#5, b7) perfect for G7alt because that assumes no perfect 5th
I may be nit-picking here, but that's a bit confusing for some people. Because they're altered scales, I'm pretty sure that repeating letter names is acceptable if not common practice. And it's probably not correct to identify the b3 as a #9 and b5 as #4 in a diminished scale since a diminished chord is R b3 b5 bb7 and mixing sharps and flats like that (calling B as Cb but then still referring to is as the M3rd) or in the altered scale referring to Eb as the #5 (which is D#). It's clearer to spell and identify them like this:

G H/Wdim (G,Ab,Bb,B,Db,D,E(Fb),F) 8 notes that make the chord tones (1, b9, b3, 3, b5, 5, bb7(6), b7)

G altered (G,Ab,A#,B, C#,D#,E#(F) 7 notes that make the chord tones (1, b9, #9, 3, #4(#11), #5, #6(#13))
 
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mikoo69

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For each of those hacks you mentioned, spell out the h-W dim scale and identify how each scale degree relates to the chord relative to the root of the chord.

Take a G7 chord/arp - G B D F
Gdim7 chord/arp - G Bb Db E
Abdim7 chord/arp - Ab B D F

Put the two dim7 chords together. See what you get? Notice the relationship of each scale degree as it relates to G? That's what you need to think about - intervals, not so much "the scale."

Another "hack" you may notice is that you can start the h-W dim scale on any of the degrees of the Gdim7 chord/arpeggio. You can start a W-h scale on any of the degrees of the Abdim7 scale. Because they're symmetrical, each of those diminished chords/arps are built using min3rds (diminished triads). When you combine them you'll also find major and minor triads. Play around with those ideas, always keeping in mind which are chord tones, and for those that aren't chord tones, how they relate to the chord.

I was just analyzing this before I read your post...So the diminished arpeggio on the Root + the diminished arpeggio a half step above the root combined give you the entire HW diminished scale

In relation to the G, the Gdim7 arp has the Root, b3, #4 and 6th
The Abdim7 arp has the b2, 3, 5th, b7th
Combined that's R, b2, b3, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7 (the entire HW scale)

So the "hack" of playing the diminished arpeggio a half step above the root of the V works, but so does just playing the diminished arpeggio on the root of the V as well? And it's just a difference in which color tones and how they relate to the parent scale?
 

cubistguitar

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I may be nit-picking here, but that's a bit confusing for some people. Because they're altered scales, I'm pretty sure that repeating letter names is acceptable if not common practice. And it's probably not correct to identify the b3 as a #9 and b5 as #4 in a diminished scale since a diminished chord is R b3 b5 bb7 and mixing sharps and flats like that (calling B as Cb but then still referring to is as the M3rd) or in the altered scale referring to Eb as the #5 (which is D#). It's clearer to spell and identify them like this:

G H/Wdim (G,Ab,Bb,B,Db,D,E,F) 8 notes that make the chord tones (1, b9, b3, 3, b5, 5, bb7(6), b7)

G altered (G,Ab,A#,B, C#,D#,E#(F) 7 notes that make the chord tones (1, b9, #9, 3, #4(#11), #5, #6(#13))

Yeah its true the notes are 2nds and #4/b5 are not precisely interchangeable as labels. I just wanna skip over the scale tones and call them chord tones, who cares what they represent in a scale. I should have stuck with b5 for both, thats the right name for the altered tones and the diminished scales, thanks for catching my lazy thinking. I often see the Half/whole described as dominant diminished to remind that it can be played on the root of the V7b9 chords, I dont think I have spent much time on the whole/half as fodder for riffs, because i wanna master the Half/whole first. Another lifetime I guess.
 

cubistguitar

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I was just analyzing this before I read your post...So the diminished arpeggio on the Root + the diminished arpeggio a half step above the root combined give you the entire HW diminished scale

In relation to the G, the Gdim7 arp has the Root, b3, #4 and 6th
The Abdim7 arp has the b2, 3, 5th, b7th
Combined that's R, b2, b3, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7 (the entire HW scale)

So the "hack" of playing the diminished arpeggio a half step above the root of the V works, but so does just playing the diminished arpeggio on the root of the V as well? And it's just a difference in which color tones and how they relate to the parent scale?

Good hack! The two dim7th arps intertwine to make the scale. So they both work over the dom7, esp when dom7b9 is indicated.

Another interesting hack is to play minor7 arp over the dom7, because the Root,b3(#9), 5,b7 are there in the hack you mentioned, just in two different dim arps.

Another fun dominant chord hack is playing two major triads to represent the chord, starting on the dominant chord b7 -like D ( D,F#,A)and E (E,G#,B) for E7, gets you a nice dom11 chord (E,G#,B,D,F#,A).

Then for dom7alt play major triads a tritone apart, like E7alt as E (E,G#,B) and Bb (Bb,D,F) which makes E7b9#11.

If you shorten your dim7 hack to just dim triads a whole step apart starting on the b7, you get D dim (D,F,Ab) and E dim (E,G,Bb) makes E7b5b9#9.

Or 2 minor triads a whole step apart, starting a half step over the dominant root, like F minor and G minor over E7alt makes all the scale tones of altered scale except the root.

Dominant is full of these kind of hacks and shortcuts. Using triads to make these happen means you will be working with sounds the ears love and licks that anybody can follow and dig.
 

Phletch

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9,896
I was just analyzing this before I read your post...So the diminished arpeggio on the Root + the diminished arpeggio a half step above the root combined give you the entire HW diminished scale
Yes.
In relation to the G, the Gdim7 arp has the Root, b3, #4 b5 and 6thbb7
Root, b3, b5, bb7(but, yes, that's the 6th)
The Abdim7 arp has the b2, 3, 5th, b7th
Combined that's R, b2, b3, 3, #4b5, 5, 6(bb7), b7 (the entire HW scale)
Yes
So the "hack" of playing the diminished arpeggio a half step above the root of the V works,
Yes, giving you the b9, 3, 5, and b7, as you noted above.
but so does just playing the diminished arpeggio on the root of the V as well?
Yes, giving you the R, b3, b5, bb7(6).
And it's just a difference in which color tones and how they relate to the parent scale?
Yes.
Again, because of the symmetrical nature of the diminished chord (each interval is a m3rd), there are only 3 diminished scales. Build a h-W scale starting on G, then on Ab, then on A. When you get to Bb, it's the same scale as the one you started on G (except now, of course, you're starting on Bb). Each scale repeats itself every min3rd, just like each diminished chord does ;).
 

mikoo69

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Again, because of the symmetrical nature of the diminished chord (each interval is a m3rd), there are only 3 diminished scales. Build a h-W scale starting on G, then on Ab, then on A. When you get to Bb, it's the same scale as the one you started on G (except now, of course, you're starting on Bb). Each scale repeats itself every min3rd, just like each diminished chord does ;).

Okay I understand the symmetry, and that the Abdim7 and Gdim7 Arpeggios add up to the G HW Dim Scale...how does the 3rd diminished arpeggio (A Dim7) relate?
 

guitarjazz

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Okay I understand the symmetry, and that the Abdim7 and Gdim7 Arpeggios add up to the G HW Dim Scale...how does the 3rd diminished arpeggio (A Dim7) relate?
Cause now you've got the whole (diminished) world in your hands.
When you get to Bb dim you are playing the same notes as G dim.
 

mikoo69

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Cause now you've got the whole (diminished) world in your hands.
When you get to Bb dim you are playing the same notes as G dim.

I get that the Bb dim is the same as Gdim...and the Gdim or Abdim can be played and together they combine to make the H-W G Dim scale...what relationship does the Adim arpeggio have to the 2 other dim arps?
 

guitarjazz

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I get that the Bb dim is the same as Gdim...and the Gdim or Abdim can be played and together they combine to make the H-W G Dim scale...what relationship does the Adim arpeggio have to the 2 other dim arps?
It's a half-step away from one...and a whole-step away from the other.
I don't know if anyone has touched on this but the most common diatonic scale with a diminished seventh arpeggio is the harmonic minor, followed a distant second by harmonic major.
Do play jazz? There's plenty of great examples of the application of the diminished sound in jazz, the Great American Songbook, and of course classical music. You might even find it in some Tony Rice , Garcia, or Yngwie, depending on your taste.
 

mikoo69

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It's a half-step away from one...and a whole-step away from the other.
I don't know if anyone has touched on this but the most common diatonic scale with a diminished seventh arpeggio is the harmonic minor, followed a distant second by harmonic major.
Do play jazz? There's plenty of great examples of the application of the diminished sound in jazz, the Great American Songbook, and of course classical music. You might even find it in some Tony Rice , Garcia, or Yngwie, depending on your taste.

I don't play jazz - improvisational rock, so I'm trying to incorporate more "outside" playing into our primarily minor, modal vamp jamming.
 

JonR

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I get that the Bb dim is the same as Gdim...and the Gdim or Abdim can be played and together they combine to make the H-W G Dim scale...what relationship does the Adim arpeggio have to the 2 other dim arps?
The issue is about whether you are enhancing the tension on an existing chord designed to resolve on to the next chord, or creating tension within a chord, so as to resolve back to the same chord.

So, on a G7 chord, the G HW dim scale works to enhance the functional tension of the chord. You get all 4 chord tones (G B D F) plus some good extensions or alterations (b9, #9, #11, 13). They all work to drive the chord towards the following C (or more likely Cm) chord. You can see those 8 notes as being the two dim7 arps combined, as you say.

The other dim7 arp would work against the G7 - aside from the A note, it clashes with chord tones, and disrupts the chord function. But if you had a G chord (or G7) lasting for a while and wanted a temporary outside sound on that chord - resolving back to G7 - then Adim7 would be one way of doing it. Or at least the C-Eb-Gb notes would do that (the A being a consonant 9th).

A good rule of thumb is that notes a half-step above chord tones always sound most "out" - so to create extreme dissonance against any chosen chord, use an arp a half-step above the chord. (Over a G7 chord, play an Ab7 arp.) That kind of dissonance must resolve back to the chord before any chord change. The b9 on a dom7 chord is of course an exception.
 
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dewey decibel

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I get that the Bb dim is the same as Gdim...and the Gdim or Abdim can be played and together they combine to make the H-W G Dim scale...what relationship does the Adim arpeggio have to the 2 other dim arps?

The relationship is- that's it, that's all of the notes. If you divide the octave in diminished chords you get three of them (as they repeat). Kinda like the whole tone scale, if you are unfamiliar it's a symmetrical scale built entirely of whole steps. Because of this, there are really only two of them, does that makes sense?

Now, the thing with diminished is to build a scale from the chord you add a leading tone for each note which would essentially be a chord a half step below, which is why you have these guys saying you can play G#dim and Gdim. Which isn't wrong, but depending upon your situation may not necessarily be right. Consider those other notes are just leading tones, they don't really have any harmonic value. So if you hang on one, as in not using it as a leading tone but as an actual sound, it may not work so well. Consider too, that some people use the triad below when ascending, but then the triad above when descending, which makes sense if you're thinking of those notes as leading tones. Now, all that said that half/whole scale has become a thing, it has a sound, and that sound maybe exactly what you're looking for. But to me, I find I really need to separate that scale from that chord, and when I see a diminished chord I don't automatically think half/whole. Usually I'm thinking some mode of harmonic minor.
 

Bluesful

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Can we also include the common tone/#iv diminished in this discussion?

You could see 2 bars go like this (in C):

| Fmin7 - - - | Cmaj7 - - - |

Which in jazz blues often is:

| Fmin7 - F#dim7 - | Cmaj7 - - - | .......where F#dim7 = Cdim7

So you can obviously play an F#(C)dim7 arp over the last 2 beats of the first bar, but will that same arp work over the first 2 beats? Fmin7 gives us F, Ab, C and Eb, where F#dim7 gives us F#, A, C and D#. So the C and Eb/D# are in common with the other 2 notes a half step out. Thus what would typically be played over the first 2 beats that also works for the F#dim7 chord?

I always just approach it by using the Fmin7 triad + b7 for a chord tone approach, but I'm wondering if there's something that will fit both chords in that bar.
 
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JonR

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Can we also include the common tone/#iv diminished in this discussion?

You could see 2 bars go like this (in C):

| Fmin7 - - - | Cmaj7 - - - |

Which in jazz blues often is:

| Fmin7 - F#dim7 - | Cmaj7 - - - | .......where F#dim7 = Cdim7
Actually, it's more often |F7 - F#dim7- |C/G, in a blues in C major. I don't think I've seen F#dim7 following Fm7, but I've seen it following F7 countless times.
As such, there's obviously more in common between the two chords: A-C-Eb are all shared tones, and the F HW dim scale (aka F# WH dim) will fit both. So the chord-scale principle of "dim7 = WH dim" still applies.
And actually F# WH dim also fits Fm7, reading G# as Ab - you just get an awkward A natural passing note which is likely to make the chord sound major (with a passing b3).

You're right about the common-tone diminished (cto) relationship with Cmaj7, which could also include A (in C6), with the voice-leading being the ascents from F#>G and Eb>E.
 

dewey decibel

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So you can obviously play an F#(C)dim7 arp over the last 2 beats of the first bar, but will that same arp work over the first 2 beats? Fmin7 gives us F, Ab, C and Eb, where F#dim7 gives us F#, A, C and D#. So the C and Eb/D# are in common with the other 2 notes a half step out. Thus what would typically be played over the first 2 beats that also works for the F#dim7 chord?

Thing is, treating both chords the same kinda defeats the purpose of adding that second chord, right? I mean, the whole reason it's there is to create more movement, more tension and release. But I'm glad you brought it up, because it's a situation where I'm not likely to think half/whole. I'm probably going to think of bluesy ideas based around C7.

Actually, it's more often |F7 - F#dim7- |C/G, in a blues in C major.

Yeah, if it were Fmin7 it be more likely to go | Fmin7 Bb7 | Cmaj | , where you could think Bdim over Bb7.
 

Bluesful

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Actually, it's more often |F7 - F#dim7- |C/G, in a blues in C major.

Why the G over C chord? I assume for that half step movement in the bass? The C chord already has the G as the 5th, but are we specifying C/G just to indicate that we want the chromatic (F# - G) movement in the bass?

You're right about the common-tone diminished (cto) relationship with Cmaj7, which could also include A (in C6), with the voice-leading being the ascents from F#>G and Eb>E.

So for cto an acceptable cadence (in C) would simply be Cdmin7 - Cmaj?

Thing is, treating both chords the same kinda defeats the purpose of adding that second chord, right? I mean, the whole reason it's there is to create more movement, more tension and release.

Yes, I agree. I was just pondering in my own mind what would apply across that bar.

Yeah, if it were Fmin7 it be more likely to go | Fmin7 Bb7 | Cmaj |

That's the old back-door?
 

dewey decibel

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Why the G over C chord? I assume for that half step movement in the bass? The C chord already has the G as the 5th, but are we specifying C/G just to indicate that we want the chromatic (F# - G) movement in the bass?

Yep.



So for cto an acceptable cadence (in C) would simply be Cdmin7 - Cmaj?

I'm not sure what you mean by acceptable cadence, but yes, that's essentially what's going on. That's a common move as a sub in jazz, take the song Quiet Nights for instance. | Gmin C7 | Fdim Fmaj7 |

That's the old back-door?

Uh, I guess so? :dunno
 




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