• 3 simple ways to use diminished seventh chords

    by Jermaine Griggs · 19 comments

    in Chords & Progressions

    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

    D minor

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    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”)

    A7 (b9)

    D minor



    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“)

    Note: Sharps and flats are mixed intentionally. This has a lot to do with properly naming chords. See these two lessons for details).

    Exercise: I’ve started you off with 3 scenarios. Where are other places you use diminished 7 chords? Let’s try to make a nice little list with examples.

    Until next time —

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 19 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Neil

    really liked this quick lesson. I gotta practice these


    2 Roland

    We might make use of it going around the circle,as from a previous lesson.
    i.e. starting in key of C:
    C maj7 C/B E
    C#dim7 C#/Bb E G
    Dm7 D/C F
    G7 G/B F
    Cmaj7 C/B E
    New key Bb
    Bdim7 B/Ab D F
    Cm7 C/Bb Eb
    F7 F/A Eb
    Bbmaj7 Bb/A D
    etc. etc. around the circle


    3 Roland

    As dominant function chord (Bdim7) leading to the Imaj9 chord.

    Cmaj7 C/B E
    Dm7 D/F C
    Bdim7 B/F Ab B D
    Cmaj9 C/E G B D
    Cm7 C/Eb Bb
    Adim7 A/Eb Gb A C
    Bbmaj9 Bb/D F A C
    Awesome sounding progression!


    4 Lucion

    Great Lesson!!!!


    5 Joe Washington

    Diminished 7th chords make great arpeggios (even bassline and keyboard runs), try and see. TIP: Takes Practice.


    6 MS

    Very informative lesson, Jermaine. Could you explain the 5-chord (G) above? I cannot understand why you have C.E.G in the right hand. I was able to follow the other chord constructions.
    By-the-way, what is that Ab minor 7th chord above? I am lost on that one!


    7 widmarck francois

    That is some great lessons but it would have better if they were demonstrated in a song and on a video.Thank you!I like it anyway.


    8 connie

    when is the next radio lesson? waiting patiently. thanks for the diminished chord lesson. I dont understand the 5 chord either with c.e.g in right hand just like M.S.


    9 Raydon

    I hereby do request to be assisted on how to form, use and applly the following CHORDS in piano playing;

    a) Tertiary Chords
    b) Secundal Chords
    c) Quartal Chords
    d) Quintal Chords

    Thank you


    10 Bo Carneal

    You lost me on the Cmaj 1 4 5 progression

    should be: C maj F dom7 F#dim7 Gmaj


    11 Mark

    I see it but I need to hear it!!!


    12 i play as we go

    am so glad to play or use the 7th chord


    13 Fabrice

    Wow, i’m really blessed to come across this site. Honestly i’m very young in chords and all your answers are a real help to me.


    14 Fabrice

    I beg, if you have any help that you think can build me up, please e-mail Fabnice@gmail.com. God bless you all.


    15 Web Design NI

    diverse Here’s a trackback for your focus


    16 Pkodja

    Interesting courses but can only be applied if need be in order to get an appropriate sounds. Thanks Jermaine


    17 ycleong

    You have lots of things to teach, and lots of people to benefit. I feel though, you take a long time to make a point, and you lose attention from mere attrition ! Good bye and thanks.


    18 Stephen Scot



    19 Dan M

    Could you please post something on Quintal Chords
    We are forever grateful for your continual support


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