I am currently writing a guide to use of diminished chords as linking chords in a diatonic progression in the key of G major.

I have used the progression "Gmaj7 - G#dim - Am7 - A#dim - Bm7".

It occurs to me that one could equally write the above progression with the enharmonic equivalents "Gmaj7 - Abdim - Am7 - Bbdim - Bm7".

Could somebody please tell me which of these is more correct and why?

EDIT: Thanks for your responses so far. I also go on to use an example of descending chromatic links using dominant chords, eg "Bm7 - Bb7 - Am7 - Ab7 - Gmaj7". Would you agree that is better to name them as such when used in a descending example?


  • Funnily enough I was going to ask the same question, having come across the same dim chord named two ways in different parts of the same piece. And also, dim chords named, e.g. C#dim, but written in the dots with a Db. Let's hope someone can explain, or maybe it's just poor writing... You could even have used Bo, Do or Fo in place of G#o. – Tim Dec 14 '17 at 15:49
  • Corollary question - is it preferable/necessary to use the quoted note as the lowest (root) when playing? And, how about keeping the names to the actual diatonic names from the current key? – Tim Dec 14 '17 at 16:51

I always recommend naming/labeling chords to show how they function.

In this case, the G♯ diminished chord is best understood as tonicizing the next A chord. Since the G♯ chord is functioning as vii°7/A, I think it's best to spell this chord as G♯ (the seventh scale degree of A) to make that clear; spelling it as A♭, B, D, or F makes this connection much less obvious.

Similarly, the A♯ diminished chord is really functioning as vii°7/B, so it's best to spell it as A♯ instead of B♭ or anything else.

And there's an added bonus here: spelling the chords this way makes it clear the ascending chromatic line of the roots G-G♯-A-A♯-B.

  • 1
    Yes, I'm inclined to agree- I suppose I'd spell it as Bb if I were using it in a descending chord progression of some sort. – Guitarguy Dec 14 '17 at 16:18
  • Definitely agree with Richard here. As an aside, these chords are also known as "secondary leading-tone chords". The only examples where accidentals might take precedence over showing function might be: there is no harmonic function present (not applicable to your example), player readability (avoiding awkward intervals), or perhaps to indicate longer-range voice-leading, showing linear motion / direction of either voices within a texture and /or voices in other instruments. – jjmusicnotes Dec 14 '17 at 17:41

I'd say the version with G#dim and A#dim is more correct, as each diminished chord is easily interpreted as a secondary dominant (the first of the Am7 that follows it, the second of the Bm7 that follows it). G# is the leading tone of A and A# is the leading tone of B, so they fit.

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