Theory Break Down Of The Half-Hole Step Diminished Scale

This lesson is a break down of the "half-hole step" Diminished scale using music theory to determine some applications and new unique licks for this scale.

Ultimate Guitar
In this lesson I'm going to explain some methods I use to come up with new licks and applications for new scales or chords you may have learned. I came up with the idea for this after reading a comment on a lesson being taught on the "half-hole step" diminished scale that asked for uses of said scale. A basic understanding of Intervals will be necessary to under stand this lesson or at least knowledge of the musical alphabet. First in order to understand the the half hole diminished scale we must look at its structure. This scale is made by starting from your root note, in this case we will be using the key of "E", and moving forward first by a half step (one fret) then by jumping again by a hole step this time (2 frets) this is repeated until you reach the next octave giving you a total of 8 notes. Doing this out on the low E string will give you the notes E, F, G, G#, A#, B, C#, and finally D. This gives you the intervals minor 2nd, minor 3rd, major 3rd, augmented 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, and minor 7. Typically you would determine what chord this scale works best for by stacking intervals of a 3rd from the root leaving you with a diminished 7 chord (in this case E dim. 7 with notes E, G, A#, and C#). Notice that this chord can also be built a half step up to use the other 4 notes remaining from the scale (F dim. 7 with notes F, G#, B, and D). We now have a chord in which the scale is most appropriate to be played over as well as two arpeggios to use as licks with in the scale itself. Now we are going to expand upon this concept a little further to create some unconventional use's for the scale and make some new source's for licks as well. If you have some experience with chords you may have noticed that the scale has intervals in it allowing you to make other chords from E other then just a diminished 7 chord. All of these chords can be used either as an arpeggio in soloing or as a root chord to use the "half-hole step" scale over. Here are a few examples:
  • E dominant 7 chord (contains notes E, G#, B, D) The diminished scale is some times used to create what's called an "altered-dominant" sound over a dominant chord because it contains several intervals that help to add to the concept of creating "stress" or "tension" over this chord. I consider this to be one of the most relevant and useful ways of putting this scale to good use.
  • E minor 7 (contains notes E, G, B, D)
  • E minor 7, b5 (contains notes E, G, A#, D)
  • E minor triad (E, G, B)
  • E major triad (E, G#, B)
  • or if you play metal an E5 power chord (E, B) is a good use for this scale to be played over. You can also impose other chords with a tonic from other notes of the scale over one of these E rooted chords listed above. An example of this would be taking the F dim. 7 chord and arpeggiating it over an E dominant 7 chord, this omits the E note in favor of F the minor 2nd (aka minor 9) tension but also plays the G#, B, and D of the E dominant chord. You can make new licks and shapes out of the scale merely by having some one play one of the chords rooted from E and experimenting with what notes out of the scale sound good in succession (melody) as well as in relation to the rhythm players chord (harmony). Hope some people got a lot out of this lessons as it is my first one so any comments and questions are more then welcome. I plan on recording a few short videos using some of these concepts in short demonstrations very soon as examples.
  • 6 comments sorted by best / new / date

      In the Emin7b5 chord, it would actually be a Bb, not A#. They are enharmonics, but B is the fifth of E minor. By flatting it, we simply change it to Bb. Good lesson! It was easy to read and it was simple to understand.
      Also in the context of the Diminished scale B is actually a diminished 6th interval and not considered the 5th but an altered 6th. It can be confusing though considering that the scale has 8 intervals between the octaves. How ever also within the context of building chords based on intervals of a third the C# note is considered a diminished 7th with the D being an "optional" 7th since the number 8 refers to the octave.
      Good lesson. Curious though as to why you keep spelling "whole" as "hole". Doesn't bother me, it's just that your English seems to be be good otherwise.
      Ha Ha sorry about that totally spaced on checking that. I whipped up the lesson on a whim so I'm actually surprised I didn't botch anything else. For future lessons I will be more thorough when I proof read.
      Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it! I kept it as A# merely because I also use B when describing the entire scale so I kept it as A# as to hopefully avoid any confusion for people who may not be as familiar with enharmonics.