• The Formation Of Diminished Seventh Chords Used To Be Challenging Until I Did This

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,General Music,Piano

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    Diminished seventh chords are very important in jazz, gospel, and a variety of other music genres.

    However, a lot of musicians struggle when it comes to its formation. This is my observation based on my interaction with musicians in our community: The Gospel Music Training Center.

    In today’s blog, I’ll take you by the hand and show you how to play a diminished seventh chord on the piano; not minding if you’ve never played a diminished seventh chord before.

    Let’s get to it!

    “Do You Know How To Count Half-Steps On The Piano?”

    This blog post is dedicated to all my esteemed beginners and I want it as basic as possible. So, the requirement for forming diminished seventh chords is the knowledge of half-steps on the piano.

    A half-step (aka – “semitone”) is the shortest distance between adjacent keys on the piano. Going from C to D:

    …is a whole-step that can be broken down into two half-steps:

    C to Db:

    Db to D:

    Let’s quickly go over the half-steps on the piano from C to C:

    C to Db:

    Db to D:

    D to Eb:

    Eb to E:

    E to F:

    F to Gb:

    Gb to G:

    G to Ab:

    Ab to A:

    A to Bb:

    Bb to B:

    B to C:

    If you follow the progression of notes above, you should be able to count notes in half-steps.

    Simplified: Diminished Seventh Chords Using A “Three-Half-Step” Count

    A classic example of the diminished seventh chord is the B diminished seventh chord:

    If we look at the distance between sequential notes:

    B-D (three half-steps):

    D-F (three half-steps):

    F-Ab (three half-steps):

    …it’s basically three half-steps.

    Following the break down of the B diminished seventh chord, we can figure out the A diminished seventh chord in two shakes of a dog’s tail.

    “Here’s How…”

    Start on A (the root of the chord):

    …and go up three half-steps (to C):

    …and up by another three half-steps (from C to Eb):

    …and another one (from Eb to Gb):

    If you put all of that together, you have the A diminished seventh chord:

    “Are You Ready For Yet Another Three-Half-Step Count?”

    Let’s form the E diminished seventh chord starting on E:

    Then count three half-steps up (from E to G):

    …and three half-steps up again (from G to Bb):

    …then from Bb, we can go up three half-steps up again (to Db):

    If we put the E, G, Bb, and Db together:

    …that’s the E diminished seventh chord.

    Go ahead and work out the rest of the diminished seventh chords on the piano and kindly post it in the comment section below. For example:

    C# diminished seventh chord = C# + E + G + Bb

    Final Words

    For those who are beyond the beginners level, there’s a fancy way to describe a three-half-step count. Musicians often times say stuff like, “minor third.”

    So, a minor third from A is C:

    …and from C, a minor third takes us to Eb:

    …and another minor third from Eb takes us to Gb:

    Altogether, A-C-Eb-Gb:

    …is the A diminished seventh chord.

    If you come across musicians who go up in minor thirds, they are not doing anything different from those of us doing three-half-step counts.

    All the best and see you next time!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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