Fun with diminished 7th chords

Discussion in 'Fred's Barcalounge' started by J Bird, May 31, 2020.

  1. J Bird

    J Bird Gretschie

    293
    Dec 2, 2016
    Washougal
    I thought I'd share what I find is a very interesting chord: the diminished 7th chord.

    If you really want to wrap your head around this chord and its usage, definitely go to YouTube (I found the Dutch guy with the white board pretty insightful).

    Basically, a B diminished 7th chord is: B, D, F and A flat. All notes are a step and a half apart. For me, the chord shape that is the clearest is D and B strings at the 3rd fret, G and E strings at the 4th fret. The G string, in this case is the root note. I don't play the low E or A.

    If you can free yourself of thinking of the lowest note being the root, then this B diminished chord turns into D, F and A flat diminished 7th as well. They are all these same notes!

    Slide this chord up a fret and you get C, D sharp, F sharp and A diminished 7th chords. Up another fret you get C sharp, E, G and A sharp diminished 7th chords.

    In just these three adjacent positions all twelve diminished 7th chords are represented. Move the chord up another fret and and the cycle starts over. So, the 12 note chromatic scale is simply divided into four notes, each a step and a half apart -- it's just so mathematical, it blew my mind!

    Now for when to use the diminished 7th -- always. I jest, it's the most unresolved chord there is, so it will always be followed by a major or minor chord. Just put the diminished 7th chord a half step down from the target (major or minor) chord. For example, the B diminished 7th chord will precede and introduce your C major or minor.

    Now, think of any of the four notes in the diminished 7th chord as the root. Then, the B diminished 7th chord can easily precede D sharp, F sharp and A major or minor chords, as well as C major or minor. I find it fascinating that one of the three adjacent diminished 7th chords can precede 24 chords!

    Or, you can move this chord a half step at a time up and down the fretboard for a damsel in distress/silent movie vibe. Or play it three frets apart up and down the fretboard for a dreamlike interlude vibe.

    I hope this makes some sense. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about the half diminished, nor the minor 7th flatted fifth. In my mind, those are different.

    Enjoy, and practice, practice, practice.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
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  2. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Age:
    72
    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    Great info. The chord I most like to play is the diminished responsibility chord, because the fingering is variable.
     
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  3. Gretschmen65

    Gretschmen65 Synchromatic

    709
    May 20, 2016
    Australia
    For me it is a chord which is used by jazz players mostly because they can.

    Melodically I feel it has not much to offer but finds it's place as a passing fill which could be replaced with something else or left out.

    The minor 7th flatted 5th on the other hand is a gorgeous chord IMO which can be used in blues, country and jazz. It adds feeling and while still
    mostly used in passing is related to the associated 9th chord whose notes are contained in the chord but again the lowest note is not the root as far as the
    9th chord is concerned.
     
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  4. Alanqa

    Alanqa Gretschie

    230
    Aug 22, 2019
    Lancashire UK
    Ok now you’ve covered diminished chords it’s time to explore the real toughy, the Augmented chord.

    2 major 3rds apart
    Gaug G B D# is the same notes as Baug B D# F## (G) and Ebaug Eb G B etc.
    So G Ab A and Bb make 4 Aug chords which are repeated up a major 3rd.

    Not terribly useful but a rising chromatic chord sequence
    (eg Cmaj Caug C6 C7 F G C ) is good for songs like Raining in my heart.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
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  5. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Age:
    72
    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    I love suspended 4ths.
     
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  6. Byron

    Byron Synchromatic

    766
    Sep 4, 2009
    uk
    Diminished responsibility chord! Love that. Plus... What chord do you get when you throw a piano down a mine shaft? - A flat miner
     
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  7. Byron

    Byron Synchromatic

    766
    Sep 4, 2009
    uk
    Moving the dim 7th chord up three frets at a time results in the same notes but in a different order. That also blows m mind. Augmented chords and I'm like a monkey staring at a spoon
     
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  8. Jelly Roll Horton

    Jelly Roll Horton Country Gent

    Nov 10, 2017
    Portland, OR
    I need to augment my musical knowledge before I understand any of this. :rolleyes:
     
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  9. SAguitar

    SAguitar Gretschie

    168
    Jan 17, 2020
    Oregon
    Good explanation of a tricky chord!
     
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  10. journeyman

    journeyman Gretschie

    377
    Aug 20, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    In classical theory, the diminished chord is often referred to as an 'incomplete dominant', absent of its true root, which is a major 3rd down, and called the 'acoustic root'. This can be a useful way of looking at it, especially for jazz players. We tend to convert diminished chords into their dominant functioning equivalents. For example, an E dim. chord over the acoustic root (C) yields C7b9. This explains why is resolves so strongly to the F, a semitone up, as was pointed out in one of the above posts. The two most common sources for the diminished chord are the 7th degree of the harmonic minor scale and the whole tone degree of the symmetrical diminished scale. It is both a simple and complicated chord; very useful in many kinds of music and can be quite beautiful.
     
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  11. J Bird

    J Bird Gretschie

    293
    Dec 2, 2016
    Washougal
    "Anyone who understands Jazz knows that you can't understand it. It's too complicated. That's what's so simple about it." - Yogi Berra
     
  12. Gretschmen65

    Gretschmen65 Synchromatic

    709
    May 20, 2016
    Australia
    I'm interested in this "chord", could you explain or show the fingering for it?
    I can see how C7b9 can be played in the first position but can't really see how it relates to Edim or how it resolves "so strongly to F.
     
  13. journeyman

    journeyman Gretschie

    377
    Aug 20, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    I'll see if I can set up my computer with the music notation and write out a few diagrams. In the meantime I'll try to explain it. Guitarists, unlike piano players and arrangers, tend to think of the chord that we play on the guitar as having the root on the bottom, or, see it as an inversion with the root on one of the other strings. Instead of always thinking of the chord, or voicing, as I'll call it, from the root, think of it as being built from the 3rd or 5th of the chord. We don't always have to play the root. For example, take the E dim chord on the middle four strings, voiced from the bottom up starting on the 5th string: E, Bb, Db, G. Analyzing it from bottom to top with E as the root of the chord, we get Root, b5, bb7 (dim7), b3; the E dim or E dim 7 chord.

    Now, Imagine that the root of the chord is C instead of E. Lets say the bass player has the C, or maybe you can wrap your thumb around and grab it, or not play it at all. Analyzing the chord voicing with C as the root, we now get Root C, E as the maj 3, Bb as the b7, Db as the b9, and G as the 5: C7b9. Both chords, Edim and C7b9 will both function as a dominant of F maj or F min. I'm referring to harmonic function and not the classical names of the scale degrees. One 'voicing' represents two different chords, depending on which root is played.

    If anyone is interested in jazz guitar voicing, I have lots of stuff in published format that I'd be happy to send along. Just PM me with an email address.

    What's interesting, is that I've played professionally and taught in the jazz tradition at the university level for decades, but in recent years have been trying to play very simple folk type tunes, etc., and when I first started I was at a real loss. I'm still developing a vocabulary for improvising based on triadic ideas, 6ths intervals, etc. Sorry for the digression; didn't mean to hijack the thread.

    Coming back to the diminished chord, as J Bird pointed out, Yogi had it all figured out. I guess the trick is to take something complicated and make it simple.
     
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  14. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    That’s one of the ways I’ve used diminished chords, over the years. The Tritone can be used to infer a dominant 7th. It all comes down to the root, or the implied root.

    Another interesting use for a diminished 7th is to play it as a contrast to a I chord. You could play a measure of C as

    C C B dim7 C. It’s sort of a V chord substitution, so the B dim7 could be thought of as a G7 b9/B. It works very well with I chords in harmonic minor tone centers, because the Ab is tonic to the C harmonic minor scale.

    Some of the Swing Era songs used diminished chords beautifully. In many cases, it’s about flow and direction in the rhythm chords. Guys like Freddie Green were masters at this.

    After 54 years of playing, I find that I love Dominant 7ths more and more. That big, dominating, tritone in the middle lets you have all sorts of fun and tunes with lots of Dominant 7ths are a blast to solo over. You’re 16, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine has a bridge that uses what used to be called Ragtime Changes. Played in C Major, the bridge is two measures each of E7, A7, D7 and G7. I can blow over that set of changes all day and never get bored.
     
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  15. journeyman

    journeyman Gretschie

    377
    Aug 20, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    Dim.maj7 is nice too. For example, 1, b3,b5, maj7 (strings 4 to 1) C, Eb, Gb, B yields the following dom7 chords:
    D7, B7, Ab7, and F7, all with different upper structure tones of course.

    I hear the Ab as a subdominant tone in C though Synchro, falling to the fifth, G. An example would be the opening to Night and Day: Abmaj7 to G7 to C. In C maj, the F acts as a subdominant function tone, but in C mi it's a whole tone away from the Eb, so becomes a colour tone. The Ab becomes the subdominant tone in C min, by falling a semitone to the G. Dm7b5 and Abmaj7#11 both function as subdominant in C min (or Cmaj) so can substitute for each other. At least that my 2 cents worth.
     
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  16. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    I’ve never user that first voicing you mention, although I have definitely added natural 7ths to a dim 7 under-structure.

    The old VI, V, I ploy. There’s a lot of fertile soil for that one. One commonly forgotten approach is and 6th b5. Ab, F, C, D to G, F, B, D. It’s a very minor sounding turn-around and can then resolve back to a Major I chord. Put a high G on top and you can have a very strained sounding VI, V, I to start off Night & Day.
     
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  17. journeyman

    journeyman Gretschie

    377
    Aug 20, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    Yes, that was the original chord for Night and Day. The fake books usually show Dm7b5 to G7 To C maj, but the original was the bVI ma7 (Abmaj7) to G7 to Cma7. Sonny Greenwich had a cool thing where he treated the Abma7 as a temporary tonic in bar four, and played a straight Bbm7 to Eb7 to set it up second time around in bar five. The stuff that he would play through the turnaround section was amazing.
     
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  18. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    That is a great way to handle it. I can hear it in my mind and it would add a lot of action to harmonic flow of the song.

    I remember seeing the tune in sheet music, or possible a fake book and the chords they presented were pretty insipid. I’m not at all surprised that Cole Porter had something more in mind.
     
  19. LongJohn

    LongJohn Synchromatic

    535
    Apr 22, 2016
    Queens, NY
    I' m all for a diminished 5th myself :rolleyes:
     
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  20. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    It is rumored that BeBop was born when Charlie Parker was playing a club date and left a brand new fifth of fine scotch on top of the piano while he stepped forward to blow a solo. When he finished his solo, he found that his fifth had diminished. :)
     
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