Ask Leon: Diminished Scales and Chords

Anthony from Twitter asks:

Do you have anything that can help me with the diminished scale for guitar and also for diminish chords?

Let’s start with defining what the diminished scale is. Jazz and blues musicians often refer to this scale as the diminished scale, but it’s real name is the octatonic scale. An octatonic scale has 8 pitches in the scale, (the prefix octa means 8).

To get 8 pitches in a scale you need to divided the octave in a certain way. You must have a repeating pattern of halfsteps and whole steps to accomplish this.

There are 2 types of octatonic scales. The first begins with a half step, and the second begins with a whole step.

In total there are only three possible octatonic scales that can be created with the 12 pitches, but you can begin on any note of these scales to create 8 different modes of each of the scales.

Here are the three possible octatonic or diminished scales beginning with a half step:

  • C – C#/Db – D#/Eb – E – F#/Gb – G – A – A#/Bb
  • C#/Db – D – E – F – G – G#/Ab – A#/Bb – B
  • D - D#/Eb – F - F#/Gb – G#/Ab – A – B – C

Here are the same three possible octatonic scales beginning with a half step:

  • C#/Db – D#/Eb – E – F#/Gb – G – A – A#/Bb – C
  • D – E – F – G – G#/Ab – A#/Bb – B – C#/Db
  • D#/Eb – F - F#/Gb – G#/Ab – A – B – C  - D

Here are the same three scales in standard notation:

Diminished chords are also seen within these scales. If you look at every other note of any of these scales you will create a diminished chord, because another way of constructing these scales is by interlocking two diminished seventh chords that are separated by a half step or a wholestep.

Just as there are only three octatonic scales, there are only 3 diminished seventh chords. However these chords can be spelled in many ways and you can use any note in them as the root of the chord.

Here are the three possible diminished seventh chords:

  • C – D#/Eb – F#/Gb – A
  • C#/Db – E – G – A#/Bb
  • D – F – G#/Ab – B

I hope this answers your question Anthony. If you need any more help email me at

And for anyone else reading feel free to send in your questions for Ask Leon to and your question could be answered on the next blog post or One Minute Music Lesson video.

Thanks for the question, and keep up the good practice,

Leon Harrell

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