Jazz Guitar
Jazz Guitar Lessons Jazz Guitar Chords Jazz Guitar Licks Jazz Guitar Gear eBooks

Playing Over Half Diminished Chords

According to the mails I get, a lot of people seem to be having problems playing over half diminished guitar chords (m7b5). The half diminished chord is used most often as the II of the natural minor scale in minor II V Is.

Here's a roundup of the most obvious tools to play over a m7b5 chord:


Click Here To Download Your Free Jazz Guitar eBook


1) The Locrian Scale

The locrian scale is the most obvious scale to play over a half-diminished chord. The Locrian mode is the 7th degree of the major scale and the second degree of the natural minor scale.

We'll take a 2 5 1 in A minor as an example:


E7 CAm7 %
V Im7


Over the Bm7b we play the B Locrian scale:


B Locrian Scale
1 b9 b3 11 b5 b13 b7


Here's the scale chart for B Locrian in its basic position:

Guitar scales: B Locrian


For the next chord, the E7, we have got to change a note in the scale: the g becomes a g#. This scale is called A harmonic minor. On Am7 you can play the notes from the B Locrian scale again, over Am7 they become the A Aeolian scale (learn more about guitar modes).

This is the most basic solution for playing over m7b5 chords, but it has a problem: the C (b2) is a 'handle-with-care' note because it is a half tone above a chord note (the root). Some like that note, some don't. We can take care of that by either avoiding this note or by raising it with a half step, what brings us to the following scale.

2) D Melodic Minor

When we raise the C from the Locrian scale with a half step, we get the 6th degree of the D melodic minor scale. We call this the B Locrian #2 scale or B Aeolian b5 (more about the melodic minor modes here: The Melodic Minor Scale).


B Locrian #2 Scale
Over Bm7b5
B C# D E F G A
1 9 b3 11 b5 b13 b7

Guitar scales: B Locrian #2

This solves the 'handle-with-care' note problem.


3) A Harmonic Scale

The piano player Bud Powell frequently used harmonic scales to play over half-diminished chords. Over Bm7b5 you can play the A harmonic scale. You can continue playing A harmonic on the E7 as well.


A Harmonic
Over Bm7b5
A B C D E F G#
b7 1 b9 b3 11 b5 13

A Harmonic
Over E7
A B C D E F G#
11 5 b13 b7 1 b9 3


4) E minor Pentatonic Scale

You can play the E minor pentatonic scale over Bm7b5:


E Minor Pentatonic
Over Bm7b5
11 b13 b7 1 b3


5) B Minor Pentatonic Scale With a b5

This is also a nice one: the minor pentatonic scale (more about pentatonic scales), but with a b5 instead of a natural 5. You can also look at it as a B blues scale without the natural 5. In root position it looks like this:



6) The G Bebop Scale

The G bebop scale is diatonic to the key of C major, so can be played over Bm7b5.


G Bebop
Over Bm7b5
G Gb F E D C B A
b13 5 b5 11 b3 b9 1 b7


More about the bebop scale.


7) Bm7b5 or Dm6 Arpeggio

Playing the Bm7b5 arpeggio is also a solution of course, but not a very colorfull one. You can also play a Dm6 arpeggio, it has the same notes but might be easier to visualize.

We can make these arepeggios a bit more interesting by adding the E, the 11 of Bm7b5 and a very nice tension to that chord. Here are the tabs for this pattern in the 5th position:


Tabs for half diminished pattern


8) Dm7 Arpeggio / Relative Major 251

You can play a Dm7 arpeggio over Bm7b5:


Dm7 Arpeggio
Over Bm7b5
b3 b5 b7 b9 


This leads to something interesting: if we substitute the E7 in the following bar of a 251 with G7 and the Am7 with a Cmaj7, we get a major 2 5 1. So we can play a major 2 5 1 over its relative minor 2 5 1, if we stick to the chord tones (that would be Dm7,G7,Cmaj7 on Bm7b5,E7,Am7)


G7 Arpeggio
Over E7
#9 b7 b9

CMaj Arpeggio
Over Am7
b3 5 b7 9


Here's an example:


Guitar tabs for a minor 251 example


9) G7 Arpeggio

You can play G7 over Bm7b5:


G7 Arpeggio
Over Bm7b5
b13 1 b3 b5


10) Fmaj7 Arpeggio

You can play Fmaj7 over Bm7b5:


Fmaj7 Arpeggio
Over Bm7b5
b5 b7 b9 11


11) Em7 Arpeggio

You can play Em7 over Bm7b5:


Em7 Arpeggio
Over Bm7b5
11 b13 b3 b5


Minor 251 Tablature


12) Dm/maj7 Arpeggio

You can play a Dm/maj7 arpeggio over Bm7b5, it has the natural 9 in it and it's an easy to play arpeggio. This chord is the first chord of the D melodic minor scale.


Dm/maj7 Arpeggio
Over Bm7b5
D F A C#
b3 b5 b7 9


13) Fmaj7#5 Arpeggio

You can play an Fmaj7#5 arpeggio over Bm7b5, the augmented 5 is the natural 9 for Bm7b5. The Fmaj7#5 is the third degre of the D melodic minor scale.


Fmaj7#5 Arpeggio
Over Bm7b5
F A C# E
b5 b7 9 11


Do you have more ideas? Let me know if you do...


The Jazz Blues Guitar eBook
Related Lessons

Latest Forum Topics

Join our Facebook Page

Get in Touch

Site Map
Privacy Policy


Follow us on:

Jazz Guitar Online on FacebookJazz Guitar Online on TwitterJazz Guitar Online on YoutubeJazz Guitar Online RSS Feed