I have not seen a lot of 1st inversion diminished chords (e.g.: D F B) in popular music and was wondering how this chord might be used in some standard pop chord progressions. Examples would be most welcome.

  • D F B = Dm6 in root position Mar 18 at 9:42
  • Even without a 5th? So what is the difference between a D dim chord in first inversion and a Dm6?
    – armani
    Mar 18 at 9:44
  • 2
    If I expect an A tonic note, then it should quite obviously be a Dm6. If I expect a C tonic note, then it works as a G7/D but even then it's more of a Dm6. If it quacks like a duck, then you can call it a duck. Mar 18 at 9:47
  • Can you please add a reply with an example of where it would quack like an A or C duck?
    – armani
    Mar 18 at 9:49
  • There seem to be two questions here. Are you asking how to use the chord, or are you asking why it isn't more often used in popular music?
    – Aaron
    Mar 18 at 10:10

In terms of harmonic function, there's nothing particularly special about the first inversion diminished chord. In nearly every circumstance, it functions in exactly the same way as a second inversion dominant seventh chord.1

For example, it can be a passing chord between inversions of another triad.

%%score {(V1 V2) | (V3 V4)}
[V:V1]           d   c     B   |] d   c     B   |]
[V:V2]           G  ^F     G   |] G  ^F     G   |]
[V:V3 clef=bass] B,  C     D   |] B,  D     D   |]
[V:V4 clef=bass] B,, A,,   G,, |] B,, A,,   G,, |] 
w:               i6  viio6 i   | i6  V43   i    |]

The primary difference is that diminished chords are more dissonant than dominant seventh chords, with the latter being far more prevalent in popular music, which generally avoids harsh dissonances.

Taking an expansive definition of "popular music", however, to include Ragtime and Barbershop music, the common tone diminished chord is not uncommon. It would not be surprising to find an example in first inversion, like this:

[B,DG] [_B,_DG] [=B,=DG] ||
w: I6 CTo6 I6

1This is based on Edward Aldwell and Carl Schachter, "Harmony and Voice Leading", 2nd edition (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989), pp. 95, 101-5, 130-31, 137, 151, 183, 239, 289.

  • Someday I will find a specific example of the common-tone dim triad in first inversion and will post it.
    – Aaron
    Mar 19 at 0:07

You can use a D - F - B chord in any place where the combination of those notes does what you want. What you call the combination depends on your perspective. Calling it a 1st inversion diminished triad is already a subjective interpretation, but there are others. You could use it in place of a Dm6 and practically nobody would notice that you left out the A note. Or in place of a written G7/D - and maybe someone notices the G is missing, but it will still work in the same role and do the job. It depends on what you're expecting or maybe what you're used to seeing. Let's take this chord sequence:

  • C - E - A
  • D - F - B
  • D# - F# - C
  • D - G# - B
  • C - E - A
  • B - D - G#
  • C - E - A

You could hear that as Am/C - Dm6 - B7(b9)/D# - E7/D - Am/C - E7/B - Am/C. I do, at least. The "B7(b9)/D#" name comes from how I'm used to thinking. It sounds like an inversion of a dominant chord, and that that way I can fit dominant-tonic patterns over the change. But I'm sure there are people who can take dim chords "as is". (Maybe for those people it would be a D#dim7 with A omitted?)

But what if it went like

  • C - E - A
  • D - F - B
  • E - G - C
  • D - F - B
  • C - E - A
  • B - D - G
  • C - E - A

If you expect that sequence, does it change your interpretation to C6 - G7/D - ... etc?


VII is often considered as substitute of V7 (without root note) but it is ambiguous between the dominant (g,b,d,f) and subdominant function (d,f,a,b).

This is also the answer to your question: How to use it?

You can use it as both, but the 1st. inversion is the most preferred.

Why is it rarely found in pop music? Because Jazz and Pop use more seventh chords.


Resolution: in dominant function the leading tones fa and ti are resolving to mi and do, if used as subdominant thy can go anywhere.


Just as a dim7 chord, it would resolve up to e-flat. A nice little progression might be something like: ddim7-> E-flat-maj -> C7 -> F -> G7 -> C major

OR, if you think of this as a dmin6 chord, then you'd likely follow it with a IV, V or vi chord.

OR you can think of it as a V7 chord with a missing root, and go to the I chord.

It's quite a versatile little chord, actually!

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