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Dim7 Chords

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Dim7 chords are an important part of any jazz guitarists harmonic palette, as they will come up in jazz tunes, and can be used in a variety of harmonic situations when applied to comping, chord melody, and chord soloing in your playing.

In this introductory lesson you will learn how to build Dim7 chords, how to play them with Drop 2, Drop 3, and Drop 2&4 shapes, learn two important functions for Dim7 chords, and finish with a comping study over a Bb jazz blues progression.

How to Build a Dim7 Chord

Dim7 chords are some of the easiest to build from an intervallic standpoint, as they only use one interval, m3rds. This means, that in order to build any Dim7 chord, you start on the root note and then stack m3rd intervals on top of that root until you come to the next root note, four notes later.

Because each interval is the same when it comes to Dim7 chord construction, they are all m3rd intervals, you will notice that each inversion has the same shape when it comes time to applying Dim7 chords to the fretboard. This makes learning Dim7 chords easy on guitar, as you learn one shape, root position, and then simply use that same shape for each inversion up the fretboard from that starting point.

Here is a chart that shows how stacking m3rd intervals above a root note will build a Dim7 chord from an intervallic standpoint.


Dim7 Chord Intervals R b3 b5 bb7 R
             m3             m3             m3             m3



Now that you know how to build Dim7 chords using m3rd intervals, let’s begin to take that knowledge to the fretboard.


Drop 2 Dim7 Voicings

The first set of chords we’ll study are Drop 2 Dim7 chords, which are shapes that don’t have any string skips in their construction, and that are found on the 6543, 5432, and 4321 string sets.

I’ve included the 6543 string set here for those that want to learn them, but because they tend to be muddy sounding when played on guitar, you might want to use a Drop 3 or Drop 2&4 Dim7 chord shape when playing the lowest note on the 6th string.

Try them out and see what you think as you might be able to apply them to your playing, or find them too muddy to use and pass on them when it comes to applying Dim7 chords to your playing.

Here are four Drop 2 Dim7 chords, with the lowest note on the 6th string.


Listen & Play

Dim7 Chords 1


Here are four Drop 2 Dim7 chords, with the lowest note on the 5th string.


Listen & Play

Dim7 Chords 2


Here are four Drop 2 Dim7 chords, with the lowest note on the 4th string.


Listen & Play

Dim7 Chords 3


With any or all of these shapes memorized, begin working them in different keys and applying them to tunes as you begin applying Drop 2 Dim7 chords to your comping, chord soloing, and chord melody arrangements.


Drop 3 Dim7 Voicings

Moving on, you can learn how to play Dim7 chord with Drop 3 chord shapes in your studies.

Drop 3 Dim7 chords have a string skip between the lowest note and the top-3 notes of each shape, as you can see below.

Here are four Drop 3 Dim7 chords, with the lowest note on the 6th string.


Listen & Play

Dim7 Chords 4


Here are four Drop 3 Dim7 chords, with the lowest note on the 5th string.


Listen & Play

Dim7 Chords 5


Once you can play any of these three groups of Drop 3 Dim7 chords, practice them in various keys around the fretboard, as well as apply them to tunes in order to take them further in your woodshedding.


Drop 2 and 4 Dim7 Voicings

The last set of Dim7 chords that we will look at are referred to as “Drop 2 &4” chord shapes.

These chords involve a skip between the bottom two and top two notes of any Dim7 chord shape, bringing a cool spread out sound to your comping when applying these chords to a tune.

Here are four Drop 2&4 Dim7 chords, with the lowest note on the 6th string.


Listen & Play

Dim7 Chords 6


Here are four Drop 2&4 Dim7 chords, with the lowest note on the 5th string.


Listen & Play

Dim7 Chords 7


Make sure to practice these shapes in different keys, as well as apply them to any tune you are working on in order to study them from both a musical and technical perspective.


Passing Dim7 Chords

After you have learned how to play and build Dim7 chords on the guitar, you can apply them to common Jazz chord progressions.

To begin, the first example of how to apply Dim7 chords to Jazz tunes is in a passing context between changes.

There are two ways in which you can apply passing Dim7 chords, ascending and descending between chord changes, so let’s start by looking at ascending passing Dim7 chords over Jazz tunes.

The first example of a passing Dim7 chord can be seen in the first four bars of any Rhythm Changes tune, where you often find a #Idim7 chord between the Imaj7 and iim7 chords in the progression, the Bdim7 in the first bar between Bbmaj7 and Cm7. Connecting the Imaj7 and iim7 chords in this way allows for a smooth, chromatic bassline, brought out by the passing quality of the Dim7 chord between those two diatonic chords in the progression.

Once you have checked out the example below and understand how this passing Dim7 chord functions, try putting on a Rhythm Changes backing track and applying chord shapes you learned earlier in this lesson to the first four bars of the tune, outlining the #Idim7 passing chord in the process.


Listen & Play

Bbmaj7            Bdim7 Cm7            F7 Dm7            G7b9 Cm7            F7


Another common usage of passing Dim7 chords is to apply them between iiim7 and iim7, as well as iim7 and Imaj7, in a descending fashion. This is similar to the chord changes you find in the tune “How Insensitive,” a common tune called at jam sessions.

Here is how those passing Dim7 chords look in a progression similar to that in "How Insensitive," as well as audio for you to hear how these chords sound in a descending passing context, which you can hear with the Dbdim7 and Bdim7 chords in the first four bars.

Once you have understood and heard how these chords function, try playing through them in a variety of keys using the chord shapes you learned earlier in this lesson.


Listen & Play

Dm7 DbDim7 Cm7 Bdim7
Bbmaj7   Ebmaj7  


Once you have checked out these two examples of passing Dim7 chords, try putting on backing tracks for “Rhythm Changes” or “How Insensitive” and work on applying chord shapes you know to these common chord progressions.


7b9 Dim7 Chords

The second commonly used application of a Dim7 chord in Jazz is as a substitution for any 7b9 chord in your playing

In this context, you can play a Dim7 chord from the 3rd of any 7th chord in order to produce a rootless 7b9 chord in your playing. This allows you to outline the sound of the 7b9 chord, doing so with a smaller, four-note shape in the process.

Here is how that comparison looks as you can see how a Bdim7 chord has the same notes as the 3rd, 5th, b7th, and b9th notes of a G7b9 chord, allowing you so play a Bdim7 chord in place of a G7b9 chord in your comping and chord soloing lines and phrases.


G7b9 Chord G B D F Ab
R 3 5 7 b9
B Dim7 Chord B D F Ab
R b3 b5 bb7




Listen & Play

Dim7 Chords 8


Now that you know how to play a Dim7 chord over any 7th chord, producing a 7b9 sound in the process, try putting on a backing track for any tune you are working on and applying a Dim7 chord from the 3rd of a 7th chord.

Jazz Blues Dim7 Comping Study

To finish your introduction to Dim7 chords on guitar, here is a comping study writing out over a Bb Jazz Blues chord progression, using Dim7 chords in bars 2, 6, 8, and 11 of the progression.

You will notice that Dim7 chords appear as passing chords, the #IV Dim7 chords in bars 2 and 6, as well as 7b9 Dim7 chords in bars 8 and 11 of the tune.

Try learning each phrase of this tune one at a time, so the first four bars, then the second four bars, and finally the final four bars, in order to make it easier to piece them together and learn the study as a whole in your practicing.

Once you can play it from memory along with the sample audio below, put on a backing track and begin to apply these shapes and rhythms to your own comping as you begin to integrate Dim7 chords into you jazz blues comping, as well as your comping over other jazz tunes in your playing.


Listen & Play

Dim7 Chords 9



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