The diminished seventh chord can come across as scary (and it certainly has its place in horror flicks) but there are actually quite a few usages for it.
In this post, I want to talk about different ways to use the diminished seventh chord in real-life situations.
1) Use a diminished 7 chord as a transition to any 2-chord.
As you know from past lessons, the 2nd tone of the scale is usually minor. It has a strong pull to the 5th chord. Thus, where we get the name “2-5-1” progression.
Well, you can use the diminished 7 chord a half step lower than the 2 chord as a nice little transitional chord.
Let’s try it in the key of C major…
C# diminished 7
Download A Free Ear-Training Video
Learn how to find the key of any song, pick out chords, and learn songs by ear.
2) Use a diminished 7 chord on the 6th tone of the scale (also takes you to a 2-chord).
Alternatively, instead of playing C# as your bass on the first chord, you can use “A” (which is the 6th tone in the C major scale). This also has a strong pull to “D” (see prior lessons on the “circle of fifths“.)
With the “altered bass,” this gives you an A7 (b9) chord (a.k.a. – “A dominant seventh with a flatted 9”)
3) Use a diminished 7 chord in between a 4-chord and 5-chord.
This happens a lot in blues and jazz. A song will go to the 4-chord and follow up with a diminished 7 chord a half step higher… which usually leads to a 5-chord.
Here’s an example in C major:
4-chord: F dominant 7
#4-chord: F# diminished 7 (sharp 4)
5-chord: C major / G (a.k.a. – “6-4 chord“)
Until next time —