Diminished Blues

By Tomas Janzon

Here are two concepts that will add surprise and color to your improvised lines. Ex. 1 shows a scale composed of alternating whole- and half-steps. In this instance, we start on D, but you can apply the whole-half (W-H) formula to any starting note. Notice the Ddim7 arpeggio (D, F, A, B) within the scale? This diminished arpeggio gives the scale a bluesy sound.

Whole-half moods. You can play the whole-half (or diminished) scale over a minor chord with the same root, as in Ex. 2. With their rolling sound, the triplets at the ends of bars 1 and 2 push you from one measure into the next. This momentum is enhanced when you anticipate the downbeat by a triplet eighth-note, as shown here.

Rhythmic jabs. The second concept is to create rhythmic accents by slipping chords into your single-note lines. I find that two- and three-note chords work best for this kind of harmonic punctuation. Ex. 3 enhances the diminished lines with three-note voicings in bars 2 and 3 and a four-note finale. Again, notice the triplet eighth-note anticipations. Pay attention to the chord shape on the fourth, third, and second strings. It moves up and down the fretboard in minor thirds, yet stays within the D diminished scale. Experiment with different fingerings than those shown here, and -- above all -- make the line swing.

FYI: Squeezing the Minor 7

By lowering specific tones within a minor-7th chord, you can create piquant new structures. Lower the 5 by a half-step, and you get a min75 (see chart). In certain harmonic settings, this is called a half-diminished-7th chord. When you squeeze a minor-7th chord by lowering the 5 and the 7 by a half-step, you get a diminished-7th chord. -- Andy Ellis

Selected Chord Formulas
minor 7 1 3 5 7
minor 75 1 3 5 7
dim7 1 3 5 7 (6)

Listen to Example 3
JANZON_EX3.WAV (for Windows)
JANZON_EX3.AIF (for Macintosh)

Audio Version Available

TOMAS JANZON performs, records, and teaches in Los Angeles. Visit for more info on his gigs or recent CD, X-Changes.

Photo: Bob Berry





Musician's Friend Homepage

Copyright © 2001 by United Entertainment Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
A Music Player Network Publication. Reproduction of material appearing in Guitar Player is
strictly prohibited without written permission. Guitar Player and Music Player Network
are registered trademarks of United Entertainment Media, Inc.

Web design by Alexandra Zeigler