Diminished Chords


Recall, that a chord is a collection of notes within an octave that are usually played at the same time.(Major chords)

Recall also, that we are using numbers to represent notes in a relative (to a root note) context. (Major chords)

Recall that we are using Roman numerals to represent chords in the same way the numbers (hindu-arabic) represent notes. Capital roman numerals stand for major chords, lower-case roman numerals represent minor chords. (Major chords)

Recall that a major chord is a chord made up of the notes 1,3,5. It includes a root note, a major third, and a perfect fifth. (Major chords)

Recall also, a minor chord is a chord that is made up of 3 notes (and their octaves). The three notes are the root note (1), the minor third (b3), and the perfect fifth (5).(Minor chords)

Now, a diminished chord is a chord that is made up of 3 notes (and their octaves). The three notes are the root note (1), the minor third (b3), and the diminished fifth (b5).

Notice there is only one note different between a minor chord and a diminished chord. They both have root notes, and minor thirds; however, their fifths are different. The minor chord has a perfect fifth (5), and the diminished chord has a diminished fifth (b5).
minor chord = 1, b3, 5
diminished chord = 1, b3, b5

Ok. Let's look at some open diminished chords.
Some of the usefulness of the shapes starts to break down.:
Eo = 0120X0, Fo = 1XX101 (fragment of a G-shape), Do = XX0131, Ao = X0121X, Bo = X20X0X (C-shape)

Now, since the diminished chord is a 3 note chord, that means that each note played is one of those three notes. (the following discussion continues an explanation started while discussing major chords. You can click here to read the previous lesson (Major chords) simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/chords/major.html#discussion and continued in the lesson on minor chords)

In Eo = 0120X0, the open 6th string, open 1rst string, and the 2nd fret of the 4th string are the "1" (root note, tonic). The 1rst fret of the 5th string is the "b5" (diminished 5th). The open 3rd string is the "b3" (minor third).

In Do = XX0131, the open 4th string and the 3rd fret of the 2nd string is the "1". The 1rst fret of the 3rd string is the "b5". And the 1rst fret of the 1rst string (and the 1rst fret of the 6th string) is the "b3".

In Bo = X20X01, the 2ndd fret of the 5th string and the open 2nd string is the "1". The 1rst fret of the 1rst string is the "b5". The open 4th string is the "b3".

In Ao = X0121X, the open 5th string and the 2nd fret of the 3rd string is the "1". The 1rst fret of the 4th string is the "b5". The 1rst fret of the 2nd string is the"b3".

In Fo = 1XX101, the 1rst frets of the 6th string and the 1rst string is the "1". The open 2nd string is the "b5". The 1rst fret 3rd string is the "b3".

Coverting these to barre chords (Em to "E-shape", etc.) we can see it as a moveable relative position (chromatic position). This should help visualize it.(these are not TAB)

diminished "E-shape"(root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|---|
|b5-|---|---|---|
|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|b5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|---|

diminished "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

|---|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|b5-|---|---|
|---|-1-|---|---|---|
|b5-|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|b3-|---|---|

diminished "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|b3-|---|---|b5-|---|
|---|---|-1-|---|---|
|b5-|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|-1-|
|b3-|---|---|b5-|---|

diminished "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|b5-|---|---|---|
|---|---|b3-|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|b5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|---|
|b5-|---|---|---|

diminished "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|---|---|---|-1-|
|b3-|---|---|-5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|b5-|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|-1-|

When faced with more than one possible note on a string, you have options to take. Some of the possibilities seem inpossible with only 4 fingers (and a thumb).

Recall, that the barre shapes "fit together" to wrap around the neck. The pattern is E-shape to D-shape to C-shape to A-shape to G-shape to E-shape etc.

Here is an example of how the chords move through the neck. Fo = 1XX101 (G-shape), Fo = 1231X1 (E-shape), Fo = XX3464 (D-shape), Fo = X86X67 (C-shape), Fo = X89 10 9X (A-shape), Fo = 13XX 13 12 13 (G-shape).

The diminished chord can be extended to other chords commonly seen:
07(half-diminished 7 = m7-5) = 1,b3,b5,b7
o7(diminished 7) = 1,b3,b5,bb7
m7b9b5 = 1,b3,b5,b7,b9
m11b9b5 = 1,b3,b5,b7,b9,11
m11b13b9b5 = 1,b3,b5,b7,b9,11,b13

Recall, that a progression is a pattern of movement from chord to chord. (may 17th)
Recall also that we use roman numerals to refer to minor chords. (upper-case refer to major chords).
Now, we are using lower case roman numerals with a degree sign in superscript to denote a diminished chord. So io would be a diminished chord built on the tonal center, a biiio would be a diminshed chord built on the note a minor third (b3) above the tonal center.
And last recall that we are using chromatic positions to learn chord progressions in a moveable relative position. Chromatic positions for 6th and 5th strings given below but explained on may 24ths lesson.

Root on 6th string

|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|-6-|---|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|
|b3-|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|
|---|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|---|-3-|

Root on the 5th string

|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|
|---|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|---|-3-|
|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|-7-|

(Read the above diagrams as places to put the root notes of the barre chords. e.g. for i play a minor barre chord with the root note located on the "1". for IV play a major barre chord with the root note on the "4" of the same chart.)

All right, consider the following progressions using diminished chords:

iio-v-i, iio-V-i, i-viio-vio-V, IV-#ivo-V, V-#vo-vi, io-biio-iio-biiio.

iio-v-i, and iio-V-i are minor versions of the ii-V-I progression (derived from the aeolian mode [minor scale]= 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7, and the harmonic minor scale = 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7 respectively). They are heard in jazz music.

i-viio-vio-V comes from the melodic minor scale (melodic minor = 1,2,b3,4,5,6,7), although I don't recall hearing anyone use it.

IV-#ivo-V, V-#vo-vi. Diminished chords are often used as passing chords. They add a bit more tension for a brief moment and then move past it. This is often heard in Samba and Bossa Nova musics. Another common use in those musics is to substitute a diminished chord a half-step above the major chord it is replacing. This works well because two of the three notes in each chord are the same (E = E,G#,B; Fo = F,Ab,Cb = F,G#,B).

And then there is the io-biio-iio-biiio progression which I remember from saturday morning cartoons (bugs bunny, pink panther, etc.).

So far we have learned the following chords and scales, and have learned to use them in a relative way by positions.
major chord = 1,3,5
Minor chord = 1,b3,5
diminished chord = 1,b3,b5
Pent.Maj.scale = 1,2,3,5,6
Pent.Min.scale = 1,b3,4,5,b7

Putting these notes together we have so far learned:
1,2,b3,3,4,b5,5,6,b7
Looking at these in the positions given:

"E-shape"

|b7-|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|-3-|
|-4-|b5-|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|---|
|---|-2-|b3-|-3-|-4-|b5-|-5-|
|---|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|-2-|
|b3-|-3-|-4-|b5-|-5-|---|-6-|
|b7-|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|-3-|

"D-shape"

|---|-2-|b3-|-3-|-4-|
|---|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|
|-3-|-4-|b5-|-5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|b5-|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|
|---|-2-|b3-|-3-|-4-|

"C-shape"

|-3-|-4-|b5-|-5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|---|
|-2-|b3-|-3-|-4-|b5-|
|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|-3-|-4-|b5-|-5-|---|

"A-shape"

|-4-|b5-|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|---|
|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|-3-|-4-|b5-|
|---|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|-2-|
|b3-|-3-|-4-|b5-|-5-|---|-6-|
|b7-|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|-3-|
|-4-|b5-|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|---|

"G-shape"

|---|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|b3-|-3-|-4-|b5-|-5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|-3-|
|b5-|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|---|
|---|-2-|b3-|-3-|-4-|b5-|
|---|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|

Peace,
Chris Roberts


How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/guitar/8theory3.html

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Last updated December 31, 2002.
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