• 3 simple ways to use diminished seventh chords

    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



    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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