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©2000 James Walker

September's lesson discussed the structures to be found within the diminished scale.  The following lesson investigates some of the ways the scale may be applied in jazz harmony.

Probably the most common application of the diminished scale is over dominant chords.  One may apply the diminished scale built on the flatted ninth of the dominant chord.  Here the Db (C#) diminished scale is shown used over a C7(b9) chord, with chord tones labeled:

example 1

Last month's lesson showed the different intervals found in the scale.  Here, major seconds are used to construct different melodic lines, by varying the melodic motion involved.  Note how in some cases, the upper note of the major second is followed by the lower note, and in others, the lower note precedes the upper note.

"upper note followed by lower note"

example 2

alternating "upper-lower" motion with "lower-upper" motion

example 3

alternating "lower-upper" with "upper lower"

example 4

In the following two examples, the line skips between different major second intervals within the scale:

example 5

example 6

This line is created through a combination of perfect fourths, linked with descending scalar passages:

example 7

Any shape which fits into the structure of the diminished scale may be sequenced up or down by minor thirds.  Here, dominant seventh structures are sequenced in this way:

example 8

...and here, a line comprised of a dominant seventh structure followed by scalar motion, is sequenced up a minor third before resolving:

example 9

As with melodic lines, chord voicings may be sequenced by minor thirds.  This affords comping instruments a greater vocabulary over dominant chords:

example 10

The examples shown above only scratch the surface of the possibilities inherent in the diminished scale.  By applying the concepts demonstrated here, one can greatly expand one's vocabulary when comping or improvising.

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