How to Play the Diminished Scale

The diminished scale across the entire neck.

Ultimate Guitar

The Diminished Scale

In this lesson we will begin to study the first mode of the diminished scale. It has 8 notes and sounds pretty cool so lets get right into it.

This scale is considered to be an exotic scale because of its spooky, unresolved sound.

The formula for this scale on a single string lets say, is simply this:

W H W H W H W H - notice there are 8 letters pertaining to the 8 notes of the scale. The scale alternates between whole and half steps.

W = Whole Step
H = Half Step

Remember you have to count up from the first note when using this formula.

If you are on the note C then moving up to D is your whole step. Then from D move up a half step and you have Eb. Then up a whole step and you have F then Gb, then Ab, then A then B and finally C. You now have your diminished scale.

C Whole Half Diminished Scale = C D Eb F Gb Ab A B C

D Whole Half Diminished Scale = D E F G Ab Bb B C# D

E Whole Half Diminished Scale = E F# G A Bb C Db Eb E

(You start from any note and move up a whole step, then a half step, then a whole, then a half again. This is it. All the way up and down the neck the pattern stays the same.)

Play the following diminished scale patterns in the different keys listed to learn where they sit on the fretboard then you can move on and play them in all keys. It's pretty symmetrical so it's really not that hard to learn.

Take 2 strings at a time and practice with a metronome.

This scale can be used over any fully diminished 7th chord. Bo7 Do7 Fo7 G#o7 etc...

Just start the scale from the root.

Practice tips

Play the scale in one key. Then go through each of the 12 keys on the fretboard.

For example Frets 1-12.

You can always play parts/chunks of the diminished scale, or any scale for that matter, and is advisable to do so when soloing or improvising or even making a melody.

You can play right through the scale but it will sound like a scale and not something musical. If you really want to rip right through the scale you should use other elements such as changing the way you play it.

For example: Start ripping through the scale and on any string or pair of strings, switch up the rhythm from 16th notes to 8th notes or 8th note triplets. There are many things you can do. Experiment and have fun with it.

Finally, record the chord and begin to solo over it. Once you can do this incorporate it into a progression.

Download the PDF here.

The diminished scales lend themselves very easily to be able to play fast due to their symmetrical shapes.

Every minor 3rd (a whole step plus a half step away) you can start the scale pattern again and you'd be in the same scale. You can do this up and down the neck!

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