I am an amateur guitar player for a few years already and I have learnt the essential scales, such as major, minor, pentatonic and blues scales but I would like to increase the level of my guitar playing to the next level by adding diminished scales to create interesting soloing ideas. Are there any literatures or songs that I should look for entry level diminished scales?


  • You may want to make some changes to your questions, as SEMusic does not consider questions asking for songs as examples or particular literature on topic. If you make your question about using the scales themselves and ask for examples/recommendations within that, then your question will be considered on topic and not be subject to being closed. – Basstickler Jul 5 '16 at 13:29
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic. Asking for song examples is not within the scope of this site. – Doktor Mayhem Jul 20 '16 at 8:58

Start off by finding some tabs (or sheet music, if you can read that) that will teach you the three octatonic (=diminished) scales.

Or, you can just figure them out for yourself; it's pretty easy! There are only three of them, and they all alternate half-steps and whole-steps. So pick a pitch--any pitch!--and:

  1. Start alternating half and whole steps. After eight pitches, you'll be an octave higher than your starting pitch.

  2. Now, starting on that same original pitch, alternate whole and half steps. (Note that it's whole first this time!)

  3. Lastly, go down one half step from your original pitch, and alternate whole and half steps.

You'll find that any other octatonic scale just repeats one of the above three.

This link also has a nice little write-up.

Then check out this tab to King Crimson's "Red" and start jamming.

Eventually, you can throw these scales over dim7 and V7b9 chords to your heart's content.

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The books I've seen suggest that when you solo over a dominant seventh chord, try playing a half-whole diminished scale. The reason this works is that the scale contains all the notes of the dominant seventh chord. Here's the half-whole scale starting on C together with the C7 chord:

H-W dim scale: C C# D# E F# G A A# C C7 chord: C E G Bb

And if you see a diminished chord, try playing the whole-half diminished scale over it.

I practise crabwise diminished scales - C up to F# down to C#, then D# up to A down to E, and so on. The benefit of this exercise is that you learn the neighbours of any scale tone, so you can restart the scale from any degree. Crabwise practice also works really well on minor scales.

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    It may help to clarify whole-half vs half-whole. I would also note that either could be used for a diminished chord but half-whole is better suited for dominant chords. – Basstickler Jul 5 '16 at 13:14
  • @Basstickler: "either could be used for a diminished chord" No. The diminished scale is the whole-half scale. It will sound good over a diminished chord. The half-whole scale will not. The theoretical justification that also the half-whole scale contains all diminished chord tones is not very relevant, because it is full of awfully sounding avoid notes, namely the ones a half step above the chord tones. I have never come across the half-whole scale being used over a diminished chord, and listening to how it sounds explains why. – Matt L. Jul 5 '16 at 21:03
  • Similarly, the half-whole scale is not only "better suited for dominant chords", but out of the two, it is the only option. The whole-half scale is absolutely useless for dominant chords. Apart from the root, it doesn't have a single chord tone of a dominant seventh chord. – Matt L. Jul 5 '16 at 21:06
  • @MattL. - I meant to say that half-whole is better suited for a dominant chord than a diminished, not to say that whole-half could also be used for dominant. The concept of avoid notes is able to be disregarded on what are often referred to as "dominant type" chords, which would include diminished chords. I would agree that whole-half works/sounds better for diminished for several reasons but it can be used effectively, as I've done it before. It will create a different sound than you would usually hear, so could actually open doors for someone new to the concept to have a unique approach. – Basstickler Jul 6 '16 at 13:00
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    @Basstickler: Yeah, I think your interpretation of what I meant is correct. And I totally agree with "... more difficult to apply in the average situation". – Matt L. Jul 6 '16 at 16:52

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