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What You Need To Know About Diminished Scale Fingerings and Chord Application

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Jazz guitarist and educator Chuck Anderson provides a quick lesson on Diminished Scale Fingerings.

The Diminished scale is an 8 note or octatonic series of notes that alternate between whole and half steps. You often hear of a scale that alternates between half and whole steps. It is frequently called the half-whole diminished scale. This half-whole step scale is more of an altered dominant scale than it is a Diminished scale. Today’s article will focus on the alternate whole and half step scale.

The most obvious use of this scale is for soloing over Diminished 7th chords. The root of the scale will match the root of the chord. For example, use the C Diminished scale against a C Dim 7th chord. There are many ways to finger this scale, but today I want to show you a very specific and consistent fingering that you can use all over the fingerboard.

This fingering uses 2 alternating three finger patterns: 1 2 4 and 1 3 4. Many players ignore the development of their 4th finger. 4th finger use is essential for these fingerings.

Using C as a root, play the C note on string 6 at fret 8. Follow this pattern.

String 6, play 1 3 4. Shift to string 5 at the 8th fret and play 1 2 4. Shift to string 4 at the 7th fret and play 1 3 4. Shift to string 3 at the 7th fret and play 12 4. Shift to string 2 at the 7th fret and play 1 3 4. Shift to string 1 at the 7th fret and play 12 4. This will take you one note above the C. The final note in this pattern is D. Reverse this fingering for the descending fingering. 

Two things to notice. There are 3 notes per string and the finger pattern alternates between 1 3 4 and 1 2 4. 

The 3 note per string pattern encourages a very consistent pick pattern of down up down on each string of the ascending scale.

If you want to start on string 5, follow the next fingering. Because of the guitar’s tuning, there are more shifts in this fingering.

Finger 1, string 5, fret 3. Play 1 3 4 on string 5. Play 1 2 4 on string 4 starting at fret 3.  Play 1 3 4 on string 3 starting at fret 2.  Play 1 2 4 on string 2 starting at fret 3.  Play 1 3 4 on string 1 starting at fret 2. Note that this fingering ends on an A note. Use the same picking as in the scale fingering starting on string 6.

There are many other ways to create fingerings for the Diminished scale. The two that I have outlined here are easy to learn and to use. They both have finger patterns of 1 2 4 and 1 3 4.

Try to solo within these scales on a C dim 7 chord.

The scale can be notated C D Eb F Gb Ab A B C. The C dim 7th chord can be notated C Eb Gb A. The scale and the chord are notated in a simple, direct way. Theory says that A should be notated as a Bbb. It’s easier to think of it as an A note.

In a future article, I’ll discuss applications of the Diminished scale beyond dim 7 chords.

More JGT lessons from Chuck Anderson.

And check out Chuck’s 7 album sampler!


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