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It seems like the diminished chord (vii° in major, ii° in minor) is not used as much in modern popular music compared to classical music and the remaining chords of the diatonic scale. Is it actually rare?


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    There’s a diminished chord hiding in every dominant seventh chord. (The third, fifth, and seventh together form a diminished chord.) Plenty of rock music and blues and related genres have I7 and/or IV7 chords in addition to the V7 chord, where it’s expected. – trw Jan 31 at 12:53
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    also Locrian, the only mode with a diminished tonic chord is also used less than the others modes. – foreyez Feb 1 at 17:13
  • Twotone and ska make much use of diminished chords. – PeterJ May 29 at 11:06
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The half-diminished (or m7b5) is usually suggested as the diatonic chord on the 7th degree in major keys and the 2nd degree in minor keys, and is fairly common in most styles of music.

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Given that in any key there are basically (diatonically) three major chords, three minor chords and only one diminished, and that diminished doesn't stand alone, or constitute a key on its own, statistically, there's a one in seven chance of any random diminished chord being used, whereas a three in seven (nearly 50:50 ) of a chord being major or minor.

Most songs seem to get away with not using what is quite an unusual chord - in several ways - as there are plenty of other options which will suffice. However, a lot of showtunes use diminisheds, and they can be made to fit into quite a few existing tunes with no great effort - and can sound good as replacements.

  • Awesome answer! I've also used the attachment above because it was a nice and clean image, although it is originally based on closely related keys rather than the diatonic chords. (As you can see, the Bdim and the Ddim are omitted in parentheses.) – Maika Sakuranomiya Mar 12 at 7:03
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I guess it depends on what exactly you mean by 'modern popular music'. Generic pop music has a general formula that it rarely deviates from. Jazz has lots of seventh chords and that could easily count as modern popular music, a number of these chords are diminished.

It will all depend on the effect you want to create, the diminished chord has an uneasy feel to it. rather pretty but you are going to want to have to use that effect.

Here is an example of a song that I'm pretty sure ends on a diminished chord, used rather beautifully. It does have its place.

  • That final chord is not a diminished chord, but a Dm6. Close, but there is no b5. The voicing in the recording does not contain the 5th at all, but a diminished 5th does not sound right here. Nice recording, though. – David Bowling Feb 1 at 1:43
  • Song's in Dm, and that last chord is, as David says, Dm6. Full chord spelled D F A B. D dim would be D F Ab Cb.I think I can hear an A - unless it's a harmonic. – Tim Feb 1 at 16:48
  • Dm6 is the first inversion of the B half dim (Bm7b5) chord. – Maika Sakuranomiya Mar 12 at 7:05
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    @MaikaSakuranomiya - it is indeed. However, a half-diminished chord can't be a diminished chord, so that part of this answer's incorrect. And for a piece in Dm, a Dm6 chord is better to end on than Bm7b5. with or without A in this case! – Tim Mar 12 at 10:34
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    @user45266 - a half-dim chord does have the word 'dim' in it - so yes, it is considered as such..! C6 contains the same notes as Am7. You can hardly say that they're both major or they're both minor, by the same logic. Just a thought. – Tim Jun 18 at 7:31

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