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The Dominant Diminished Scale for Guitar


 

How to Play Jazz Guitar in the Style of Wes Montgomery

 

 

One of the most commonly used symmetrical scales in jazz, the dominant diminished scale will add a new level of sophistication to your dominant 7th soloing lines and phrases.

Used to solo over 7th chords, or more specifically 7b9 chords, the dominant diminished scale can be applied to the V7 chord in a ii-V-I chord progression, as well as the VI7b9 chord in any tune you are blowing over, which you will often see in a rhythm changes and jazz blues progression.

In this jazz guitar lesson you will learn how to build a dominant diminished scale, how to play four fingerings for this scale on the fretboard, as well as study common licks and a sample jazz blues solo that uses this scale in their construction.

 

What Is a Dominant Diminished Scale?

Before we take this scale to the fretboard, let’s take a look at how to build the dominant diminished scale, as well as how it compares from an interval standpoint to other 7alt scales, such as the phrygian dominant and altered scales.

Dominant diminished is what we call a symmetrical scale: there is a symmetry to the interval construction of the scale (alternating half steps and whole steps). Because of its interval construction, this scale is also referred to as the half-whole diminished scale.

Here is how the dominant diminished scale looks from both an interval standpoint, as well as the intervals between each note in the scale so that you can visualize the half step (H) - whole step (W) interval construction of this symmetrical scale.

 

Dominant Diminished 1 b9 #9 3 #11 5 13 b7 1
H W H W H W H W

 

 

As was mentioned earlier, you can use the dominant diminished scale to solo over 7th chords, especially when you want to create a sense of tension over that chord. When doing so, you will be highlighting the tension notes b9, #9, and #11 in your lines.

To compare this scale to other 7alt scale choices, here is a chart that lays out the dominant diminished scale, altered scale, and phrygian dominant scale, so you can easily compare the intervals between these three scales.

Notice that the dominant diminished scale is the only one of the three that has a natural 13th interval, which ends up becoming the characteristic note of this scale when compared to the other 7alt choices below.

 

G Dominant Diminished G Ab Bb B C# D E F
1 b9 #9 3 #11 5 13 b7
G Altered Dominant G Ab Bb B C# Eb F
1 b9 #9 3 #11 b13 b7
G Phrygian Dominant G Ab B C D Eb F
1 b9 3 11 5 b13 b7

 

 

As you can see, the dominant diminished scale is similar to other 7alt scale choices, but the natural 13th interval allows it to sound distinct from other scales when applied to your soloing lines and phrases.

 

Dominant Diminished scale Fingerings

Now that you know how to build the dominant diminished scale, and how to apply it to your soloing phrases, you can learn four common fingerings for this scale as you take this theory knowledge to the fretboard.

Each fingering is written out from a G root note, so make sure to take these scale shapes to all 12 keys in your practicing in order to get a full understanding of how the dominant diminished scale sits on the fretboard.

This first fingering has the root note on the 6th string, and runs up two octaves in position from that starting note:

 

Listen & Jam Along

 

Dominant Diminished Scale 1

 

The next dominant diminished scale fingering features the root note on the 5th string, working up two octaves in position from that starting note. Once you have these first two shapes under your fingers, try putting on a G7b9 backing track and soloing over that chord using these two Dom Dim Scale shapes to create your lines.

 

Listen & Jam Along

 

Dominant Diminished Scale 2

 

You will now move on to a very common shifting shape for dominant diminished, starting with the root note on the 6th string. When this scale is under your fingers, try playing up and down the in-position 6th-string shape, followed by this shifting 6th-string shape, in order to compare those two scale shapes on the fretboard.

 

Listen & Jam Along

 

Dominant Diminished Scale 3

 

The last scale shape you will learn in this lesson is a shifting dominant diminished scale with the root note on the 5th string. Again, once this shape is under your fingers, put on a G7b9 backing track and solo using both the 6th and 5th-string shifting shapes as you take these scales to the improvising side of your practice routine.

 

Listen & Jam Along

 

Dominant Diminished Scale 4

 

Dominant Diminished Scale Licks

To help you take these scale fingerings from the technical side of your practice routine to the improvisational side, here are 3 common dominant diminished scale licks that you can work in 12 keys and add to your jazz guitar solos.

The first lick is a classic jazz pattern that you can use to solo over a longer G7b9 chord, or any G7 chord where you want to bring out a dominant diminished sound in your line.

 

Listen & Jam Along

 

Dominant Diminished Scale 5

 

The next lick uses a G dominant diminished scale to outline the V7 chord in a short, 2-bar ii-V-I chord progression in the key of C major.

 

Listen & Jam Along

 

Dominant Diminished Scale 6

 

The final lick in this lesson uses the dominant diminished scale to outline the G7 chord, V7, in a long ii-V-I in the key of C major.

 

Listen & Jam Along

 

Dominant Diminished Scale 7

 

After you have worked these three licks around the fretboard, and practiced applying them to improvisational settings, try writing three to five licks of your own that use the dominant diminished scale.

 

Dominant Diminished Scale Sample Solo

The final item in this lesson is a sample jazz blues solo that uses the G dominant diminished scale to solo over the VI7b9 chord in bars 8 and 11 of the tune.

After learning this sample solo, try blowing over a jazz blues progression and use the dominant diminished scale to outline the VI7b9 chord when it comes around in bars 8 and 11 as you take this scale to the next level.

 

Listen & Jam Along

 

Dominant Diminished Scale 8

 

 


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