• Little known ways to use “diminished” walk-ups and walk-downs…

    in Chords & Progressions,Gospel music

    If you joined us on our weekly radio show last night, you’ll know that we talked about “diminished walk ups.”

    This is our own way of describing strong transitional chords that take you from one degree of the scale to another.

    They occur frequently in gospel songs, especially worship and what Jason White calls the “Old School Shuffle” types of songs.

    You’ll really find a lot of them in between minor chords (…and if you know anything about the diatonic chords of a scale, you’ll know that the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th tones of the scale are usually minor).

    So you can apply what you’re about to learn in between the 3rd and 6th tones of the scale — you can apply it between the 6th and 2nd tones of the scale and you can even apply it between the 2nd and 3rd tones of the scale, although the latter doesn’t give you much “play” room to work with).

    Let’s go to the key of Ab major.

    And for simplicity’s sake, I’m only going to talk about the “3-6” walk-up. In other words, that’s a set of transitional diminished chords that take you from the 3rd tone of the scale to the 6th.

    (This happens a lot by the way. Heck, any time a progression goes to the 6th degree of the scale, you can “back up” and play the 3-chord to lead you there. You have tons of options and I’ll give you one of them here).

    Ab major scale:

    What’s the 3rd tone of the scale?

    Answer: C

    What’s the 6th tone of the scale?

    Answer: F

    And like I said above and from past lessons, you know that the 3rd and 6th tones of the scale usually associate with minor chords — so let’s play minor 7 chords for both of these tones:

    C minor 7

    F minor 7

    Now, that you have the foundational chords. Let’s change things up a bit and add some “flavor.”


    We’re going to do some “borrowing” in this strategy. That is, we’re going to borrow some tones from other scales.

    This walk up will use a note or two outside of the Ab scale.

    Step 1: Regardless of what overall key you’re in, use the major scale of your starting note as the basis for your walk-up.

    I know that sounds a little confusing so let me explain.

    For this lesson, we’re walking up from C to F right? In other words, from the third tone of the scale to the sixth tone of the scale. So what I’m saying is that you’re going to temporarily be using the C major scale since C is the starting note of your walkup.

    So when you walk up from C to F, you’re going to be thinking in terms of C major, not the overall key you’re in.

    Because if you were thinking in terms of the Ab major scale, your walk up would include these individual notes:

    C — Db — Eb — F

    YOU DON’T WANT THESE NOTES! (At least for this exercise).

    You want these notes:

    C — D — E — F

    Look familiar? They should. Because we borrowed this string of notes from the C major scale.

    So that’s the first key breakthrough…

    To add flavor to your movements, you don’t always have to use the notes of the key you’re in. Walk-ups and walk-downs commonly borrow from other keys.

    So now that we have the framework, let’s figure out the diminished chords to play on each of these tones.

    (Actually, our “C,” “D,” and “E will get diminished chords but our “F” will be a minor chord like usual).

    Step two: Apply the appropriate diminished chords

    Bass: C
    Chord: A# dim 7 (A# + C# + E + G)

    Bass: D
    Chord: B dim 7 (B + D + F + Ab)

    Bass: E
    Chord: C# dim 7 (C# + E + G + Bb)
    *Enharmonically, this chord is spelled differently but makes almost the same sound as the A# dim 7 chord (they share the same tones). You can think of this chord as an inversion of the first chord we played because all you have to do is take the first note off the A# dim 7 chord and add it to the end of this chord and you’ll get a C# dim 7. Compare the two chords and that’ll be the only main difference.

    Then, we just go to a regular F minor 7 chord.

    See how that worked?

    Heck, you can even keep the walk-up going even further. I know I’m only focusing on walk-ups between the “3rd” and “6th” tone of the scale but if you recall earlier, I talked about using it between the “6th” and “2nd” tone of the scale. So if you wanted to, you could use the same concept to go from “F” to “Bb.”

    How would you do it?

    Well, instead of playing a minor 7 chord on F, you would play a diminished chord (just like we did on “C”). So basically, “F” gets treated just like “C” did… since you’re going to keep going and not rest on “F” like you normally would.

    And if you remember my rule about borrowing from other major scales… the same applies here.

    We’re going to use the tones of the F major scale to walk up to Bb.

    F — G — A — Bb

    Here are the chords:

    *F on bass (my graphic doesn’t have enough room to include all the notes)

    *G on bass

    *A on bass

    …and these take you to a nice Bb minor 7 chord:

    *Bb on bass

    I know this lesson is a lot to swallow so just go back through it as many times as you need to and feel free to leave any questions below!

    I hope you enjoy! (And believe me when I say… “This can be used a lot, especially in gospel!”)

    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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    { 18 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Stephen "Boo" Mills

    I remember this from gospelkeys 202. Thanks for the breakdown again.







    great show last night truly enjoyablly enriching!!


    4 Jermaine

    Good question Tru!

    Right hand always goes Half step – whole step.

    so from the starting chord

    dim chord 1 dim chord 2 final minor chord

    If you’re keeping it going then it does the same pattern again…

    dim chord 1 dim chord 2 dim chord 1 start from where minor chord would have started dim chord 2 landing chord.

    So always half step, then whole step between the diminished chords.


    5 Jermaine

    As for the titles of each chord in the walk up, all of them are self-titled as diminished 7 chords except the first one.

    The first one is a dominant 7 chord (flat 9)… and the rest are diminished 7 chords (D dim 7, E dim 7)… finally leading up to F minor.


    6 Laketa

    I remember this also from 202…It’s good to have a detail explanation attached. This is truly some good stuff. Thank Jermaine for helping me to build this pyramid of knoweldge…. You my brother are the man or should I say “You is the man”:-)
    Thanks again!



    Thanks again for the clarity, Teach!!

    @ Laketa, missed you last night,Young Lady!!! The show wasn’t the same without, see you next week?


    8 Jonathan

    Hi Jermaine,
    Thanks big time for the lesson. My question is similar to Trumusic’s. Is there a method to determining the initial choice of diminished chord to go with the 3rd (C in your example) and so on? This would help me in transposing the walk up. If not, I shall I just work out and cram these walk ups in all 12 keys.
    Many thanks


    9 Jermaine

    Yes there are many ways to think of it since there are really only 3 UNIQUE diminished chords. Because all the others use the same notes (e.g. B D F Ab vs D F Ab Cb).

    So you can think of the first diminished chord as:

    1) The diminished 7 chord a half step up from your bass (but this may not give you the same inversion but it will pinpoint which “GROUP” of the diminished chord family to use.


    2) The diminished 7 chord a b7 from your bass (this requires that you know your numbers and your b7 intervals pretty fast). If you do, this will give you the EXACT chord to play.


    3) The diminished 7 chord a fifth up from your bass. This is helpful if you know your fifth intervals pretty well. Like I said, playing the diminished 7 chord a half step up… or a fifth up… or a b7 up… or even a 3rd up gives you all the same chord (just inverted). So that should equal even more possibilities because all of them sound good depending on your melody.

    I hope this helps, Jonathan and Tru!


    10 Jonathan

    That info is worth like a million dollars! Thanks & God Bless


    11 Dante

    good stuff


    12 Lucion

    Beautiful Lesson!!!!


    13 Jermaine

    @Jonathan @Dante @Lucion — thanks!


    14 madcatmoore

    Great Lesson Like always!!! But would this progessions be good to play during times when I’am ministering in service???? Because you said in Gospel keys 202 it’s not good to be bumping around on the key board with just any old thing.


    15 Linford

    Thank you for the lesson, it great to have a great teacher.


    16 CoCoboy

    Hi Jermaine, all the way from Ghana, West Coast of Africa I came across your site. I started learning Piano chords through your site. Talking about diminished walkOnUp chords, this brings to my mind a friend mentioned I-IV-IV-I gospel WalkOnUp progression chords. Please can break it down for me a lil bit. What are parallel chord striking?


    17 reuben

    nyc lesson dis is gonna help mi a lot


    18 nathanael

    I really like it. May God richly bless u Doctor Jermaine !


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