• Don’t be “skerrrrred” of diminished chords

    in Chords & Progressions,Theory

    strangers movieI just saw the horror flick “Strangers” and I couldn’t help but to notice the over-exaggerated use of effects and music.

    (BTW, save your money on this movie… this is not an endorsement).

    I’m all for a diminished chord here and there to intensify a scene but the director’s attempt to really scare you went overboard. I won’t lie though… I flinched a few times. hehe

    But this is what I really want to talk about…

    Diminished chords are not only great in horror scenes. You’ll find them all throughout contemporary gospel music, jazz, blues, and other styles.

    In gospel and Christian music, they were actually banned several centuries ago because of their “devilish,” diminished sound. Nowadays, they are commonplace as the right amount of dissonance in the right places has been widely accepted and almost associated with being an “outside-the-box” player.

    So I just thought I’d include something for everyone in this post.

    For my beginners, I’ll show you how to form diminished chords. And for my more experienced players, I’ll show you another way to use diminished chords.

    For starters, this is how you form a diminished chord using numbers.

    I’ll use the C major scale.

    C D E F G A B C

    C = 1
    D = 2
    E = 3
    F = 4
    G = 5
    A = 6
    B = 7

    You can look at this many ways.

    You can just take tones 1, 3, and 5 and flat the 3 and 5.

    So that would be C, E, and G but you’d flat the E, making it Eb and the G, making it Gb.

    C diminished = C Eb Gb

    You can also start with a minor chord and just flat the 5th tone.

    C minor = C Eb G

    Flat the fifth tone to Gb

    C diminished = C Eb Gb

    You can also think in terms of intervals.

    Basic triad chords are made up of third intervals.

    There are two basic ones.

    Major third


    Minor third

    Major thirds = 4 half steps
    Minor thirds = 3 half steps

    (half steps are from key to key, with absolutely NO keys in between).

    So C to E is a major third because it has 4 half steps (C to C#, C# to D, D to D#, D# to E).

    C to Eb, though, is a minor third because it only has 3 half steps.

    So if you compare diminished chords to major and minor chords, you’d notice this:

    Major chords are basically a major third + minor third.

    Minor chords are basically a minor third + major third.

    Diminished chords are a minor third + minor third (thus the SUPER scary sound).

    So there’s a crash course for my beginners.

    Now, if you want to make a diminished seventh chord, it gets a little more trickier.

    You take the 1, 3, 5, and 7 of any major scale and you flat the 3 and 5 like normal (just like we did above for our basic diminished triad). But for the 7, you have to DOUBLE FLAT it.

    So if the C major scale is:

    C = 1
    D = 2
    E = 3
    F = 4
    G = 5
    A = 6
    B = 7

    You’d take C, E (flat it to Eb), and G (flat it to Gb). There’s your basic triad.

    Then you take the B and flat it to Bb, and then flat it again to Bbb.

    Note: Saying Bbb (pronounced “B double flat”) is the same as playing “A.” They are enharmonic (another topic in and of itself).

    Most people informally would spell out the C diminished chord as C Eb Gb A. This would be wrong on a music theory test but will slide anywhere else.

    To be correct, you say:

    C Eb Gb Bbb

    So basically when you talk about any major, minor, dominant, or diminished seventh chord in the key of C, you will always see C E G and B. No way around it.

    C major 7 = C E G B

    C minor 7 = C Eb G Bb

    C dominant 7 = C E G Bb


    C diminished 7 = C Eb Gb Bbb (the right way)!

    Phewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Now that I got that outta the way, here’s how to use the diminished chord (outside of just using it by itself).

    6-2-5-1 chord progression

    You can use a diminished seventh chord when you’re on the 6th tone of a scale and want to go to the 2nd tone of the scale.

    A normal 6-2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C major might look like this.

    A + C + E + G / A bass

    D + F + A + C / D bass

    D + F+ A + C / G bass

    C + E + G + B / C bass

    What if you took the A minor chord and kept your bass the same but used some type of diminished chord on your right hand?

    Try this:

    A# + C# + E + G / A bass

    And that will lead you perfectly to your D minor chord.

    A# + C# + E + G / A bass

    D + F + A + C / D bass

    D + F+ A + C / G bass

    C + E + G + B / C bass

    If you want a better D minor chord and want to keep that “G” on top, try playing:

    F + A + C + E + G / D bass

    (which is a “D minor 11”)

    So as you can see, diminished chords aren’t always scary. If you play them with their root bass, perhaps… but if you change their bass notes around and start experimenting with them, you can find a host of things to do!

    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!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 40 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Sam

    diminished chords have never been scary to me. i think they are beautiful when applied the right way. jermaine touched on this too with that progression up there. there are others too and i hope you can delve back into this topic soon j.



    2 Tsuyoshi

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    3 Margie S

    thanks jermaine. I’m not new but this was a good refresher.


    4 Peter Thorton

    This is a great post. I’m really glad you’re doing this blog again. It will really allow a lot of subscribers to re-connect with you PERSONALLY. I love the way you teach man. I’ll be here EVERYDAY.



    5 Larisa

    This is a personal thing that only you can relaly know, but I know 2 people who similar to you1. my son who is a lefty, but learned guitar right handed so he could use my guitars. I even converted one for him but he preferred right handed. He plays relaly well now.2. I taught a local teenager (Rees) who is now in his 20 s, he is left handed but plays right handed guitars and he is now relaly, relaly good.The only advice I can give is to pick one and stick with it.(I hope this helps)


    6 Jo chou

    Wow, i i’ve never seen Bbb before. Are you making this stuff up? J/P


    7 Jermaine Griggs

    No, it’s true. Cb, E#, Bbb, Ebb are all real notes. Just lower a note twice in the case of Bbb.

    Bbb makes the same sound as A.


    8 srhi

    i didn’t like strangers either.


    9 Juliana

    Thanks for this wonderful arlicte. Also a thing is that the majority of digital cameras can come equipped with any zoom lens so that more or less of any scene to get included through zooming’ in and out. These types of changes in focus length are reflected within the viewfinder and on big display screen at the back of your camera.


    10 learnlah

    I seldomly use diminished chords, but this is a good one to try.


    11 Musallio

    No, Jermaine did not make up the Bbb name.
    This is another enharmonic name or A, depending on how you write down your music.
    On paper it looks different, but it sounds the same.

    There are many notes with double & even triple flats & sharps, from a technical perspective.

    enharmonic names refer to this: for instance, let’s look at the major scale of E: We could also call it the Fb major scale.

    The Emaj scale looks thus:

    E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#-E [note how each letter from A to G appears once. We find that there are 4 sharps in the key of Emaj.]

    in Fb:

    Fb-Gb-Ab-Bbb-Cb-Db-Eb [notice each letter was used once because a major scale is diatonic. this has 8 flats].

    I hope this clarifies matters.


    12 Uche

    I must confess,i get refilled each day just because of the stuffs i get 4rm Hear and play. You ‘re the BEST, thanks.


    13 music boy

    Love this tips they help alot in my everyday music escapades.


    14 Dimple

    I would like to show my thanks to you for resucing me from this type of scenario. Just after looking throughout the search engines and obtaining advice that were not helpful, I figured my entire life was done. Living without the presence of answers to the difficulties you’ve fixed by way of your main post is a serious case, and the kind that would have negatively damaged my entire career if I hadn’t encountered your site. That skills and kindness in controlling all the stuff was excellent. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t come across such a solution like this. I can at this time relish my future. Thanks a lot so much for this professional and amazing guide. I will not be reluctant to recommend your web blog to anyone who requires guidelines about this topic.


    15 Godspiano

    I didnt know the diminshed 7th chord till now. I will play it now as double flat instead of a 7th. Thanks a lot Jermaine.


    16 peter

    l lack the right words of appreciation. may Almighy God bless you big.
    He who refreshes onother himself is refreshed.may you take your playing next level,and may you have unceasing flow of newness in music, jermaine.
    jeremiah 33;3


    17 Vishwanath

    Great post, Jermaine… I learned lots today, from this! The explanation on the different ways to look at a chord, ( based on notes, based on intervals) was so interesting.. Your article “teaches”, and teaches really good!


    18 Loyiso Mali

    Thank u very much this I very helpful,even someone as far as south africa,nelson mandela Bay is reached by u. Thanx.I’ve converted to your company and teachings! Lol!. I would like to know how to access your material here in south africa. Thank u.


    19 ernest

    may God the entire hear and play family in Jesus name,amen


    20 Dimseven

    And each note in a dim 7 th chord is the LEADING tone to a new key! ! ! Truly amazing and very useful.


    21 freedom

    i realy appreciate these lessons, they are wonderful but i am having problems in understanding why A#dim was used on d key of C. I will be most grateful if u make me understand more. Thanks


    22 Dan

    Try spelling it enharmonically. Switch A# to Bb, and you get C#-E-G-Bb. In other words, seven diminished in D minor.
    On a related topic, those four notes actually make four different diminished chords all at the same time:
    Neat, huh?


    23 Michelle

    You teach so well! Thank you!


    24 Richrd


    I think there is one small correction.. the 3rd chord you specify in your 6-2-5-1 chord progression is actually a 2!

    Shouldn’t it be G-B-D-F/G bass (assuming you want a Vdom7?).

    Other than that, good stuff here.


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    29 Gerry Deagle

    Thanks. Loved your simplified way to memorize diminished scales. Another example of great teaching on the web. Added your link to my web site.
    Gerry (lol)


    30 Jike

    I’m more of a starter guitar player, but I’m getting into the theory now. However, I don’t quite understand this?!?

    What exactly did we do in that last part? As far as I understood we had this:

    Am7/A -> Dm7/D -> Dm7/G -> C7/C

    Can somebody explain to me why the 5 in the 6-2-5-1 progression isn’t a G-type chord? And what chord is that even supposed to be?
    Also, unless I misunderstood something about flattening, I am pretty sure we didn’t diminish the Am7 chord. But what did we do? Did we replace it completely? Or does it have something to do with B (since its the 7th tone in the C Major Scale and that’s the one that’s supposed to be diminished, as far as I understood)?

    Also, do excuse if my terminology isn’t completely correct. As I said, I’m still a starter!


    31 Dan

    G-D-F-A-C gives you a G11 chord. (scale degrees 1-5-b7-9(2)-11(4) in G Major.) It’s just a dominant chord expanded beyond the seventh.
    For the vi chord, we’re actually looking for the chord that leads into D minor, the next chord in the progression. The bass stays on A while the right hand plays a C#°7 chord, the naturally occuring vii° chord in D harmonic minor.


    32 Dan

    ° is the symbol for diminished, btw. Probably should clear that up. ;)


    33 Corazon

    That was a great explanation – so clear. Diminished Chords were scary to me – yes, before, but now they’re a “darling” to me. Thanks for the lesson. Kudos to you


    34 Savi

    Good day very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your site and take the feeds adlationildy?I am satisfied to find a lot of useful info here within the put up, we’d like work out more techniques on this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .


    35 jflexx

    that was terrific. thanx jermaine.


    36 Moses

    Thank you very much for the lecture,hw can i make you my on line music lecturer,again is there any of materials here in nigeria


    37 Musicians Inc

    Great post! Please feel free to comment on our post about diminished chords


    38 Stephen Coyle

    In terms of weather if
    Major is to Sunny with a breeze and Minor is to Cloudy with Light Rain… how would you personally describe :


    39 Jim Butler

    Actually diminished chords are God’s favorite chords.
    So precious that He only made three of them.
    Ok just kidding, but they are far and away my
    favorite chord and yes, if you play the guitar
    you will see that every forth fret is the same
    diminished sound. Every forth key on the
    circle of sharps and flats uses the same
    sound. It may have a different name and it
    may be start in the tonic or any three other
    places in the chord, but it is the same sound.
    So….. just three of them to my mind and ear.
    It’s because of how the chord is structured
    that demands this. Anyway, to me it is the most
    poignant or ‘deeply affecting” of all the chords
    Often placed on purpose in just the right place
    in songs with lyrics to punctuate or elevate
    the concept. Examples include “Friends in Low
    Places” with ‘boots’ in the first verse and ‘belong’
    in the second verse. Also My Sweet Lord or Isn’t it
    a Pity by George Harrison. Listen for the chord in the words
    ‘takes so long’ or ‘pity’ O Little Town of Bethlehem has a great
    dim chord on the word ‘are’. I have an album called Living Voices
    sing Songs of the West (cowboy songs) which uses dim chords
    a lot to add real beauty to the chord progression “From this valley they
    say you are going…..We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile”
    The dim chord on the word eyes is just sublime. Forgive my
    rambling. I want everyone’s ears to be sensitive to this chord so they
    can appreciate it when they hear it.


    40 prosper

    sir sori to disturb buh i jst want to no how to use perfect 5th chords


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