Diminished Whole Half Step Scale

Guitar Lesson

Medium
61

In this guitar lesson, you will learn about the Diminished Whole Half Step Scale, which is one of several symmetrical scales that will add a unique sound to your playing!
Guitar Lesson Objectives:
  1. Learn about how a Diminished Whole Half Step is constructed
  2. Understand that there are only 3 unique Diminished Whole Half Step Scales
  3. Learn how to play a Diminished Whole Half Scale in 2 octaves


Ok, got it - just take me to the exercises for this lesson!

A lot of guitarists learn a small handful of scales and then spend years trying to develop their solo/improv skills using just those scales, be it the usual Pentatonic Scale, or the Major Scale and its modes. The thing is, there is a whole other world of scales beyond the stereotypical ones that are well worth your attention as a guitarist. For instance, there are the so-called Symmetrical Scales

Some scales are referred to as non-symmetrical because of the way they are constructed. Consider the Major Scale, which is defined by the formula W, W, H, W, W, W , H. Scale formulas of this sort simply tell us from any starting note, how to build the full scale. This Major Scale formula tells us if we start at C, then we go whole step to D, whole step top E, half step to G, whole step to G, whole step to A, whole step to B, and half step to C. 

A Symmetrical Scale is a different animal altogether since there is a repeating pattern unlike a non-symmetrical scale such as Major Scale that has a sequence of whole and half steps. So consider the Diminished Whole Half Step Scale. It is named this way because the scale formula is simply W H. That's it. That means start from a given note, go up whole step, then up half step, then up whole step, etc, etc. It just repeats til you get back to the starting note.

So to form a C Diminished Whole Half Step Scale, we start from C, then alternating whole and half steps we end up with

C Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = C, D, Eb, F, Gb, G#, A, B

To learn more about the theory behind this scale, read the Theory Section below.


I believe the best way to understand the Diminished Whole Half Step Scale is to consider a Diminished 7th Arpeggio, and simply precede each note of the arpeggio by a note one half step below the arpeggio tone.

So, let's consider a C Diminished 7th Arpeggio. Take a look at the graphic below:

Diminished Whole Half Step Scale

There are a couple key points to take away from this graphic:

  1. ​By definition, a Diminished 7th Arpeggio is formed by stacking consecutive Minor 3rd Intervals (a Minor 3rd being defined as one and a half steps).
  2. Because of the symmetry of a Diminished 7th Arpeggio, each note can be considered the root note, meaning in the case of C Diminished 7th Arpeggio, it is same thing as Eb Diminished 7th, Gb Diminished 7th, and A Diminished 7th. 
  3. If we precede each note of the Diminished 7th Arpeggio by a note one half step below, we end up with an 8 note scale that we call the Diminished Whole Half Step Scale. So then

    C Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = C, D, Eb, F, Gb, G#, A, B

    We call it this because if we look at the notes we end up, we see that from starting note to end note, we are just going up whole step, up half step, up whole step, up half step, etc.

So since C Diminished 7 = Eb Diminished 7 = Gb Diminished 7 = A Diminished 7, that also means C Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = Eb Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = Gb Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = A Diminished Whole Half Step Scale.

This all leads us to realize that there are only 3 unique Diminished Whole Half Scales. You see why? It is because there are only 3 unique Diminished 7th Arpeggios. 

C Diminished 7 = Eb Diminished 7 = Gb Diminished 7 = A Diminished 7

C# Diminished 7 = E Diminished 7 = G Diminished 7 = Bb Diminished 7

D Diminished 7 = F Diminished 7 = Ab Diminished 7 = B Diminished 7

So this also means

C Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = Eb Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = Gb Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = A Diminished Whole Half Step Scale

C# Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = E Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = G Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = Bb Diminished Whole Half Step Scale

D Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = F Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = Ab Diminished Whole Half Step Scale = B Diminished Whole Half Step Scale


Ok, that was a lot to go over! The good news is, you only have to know 3 Diminished Whole Half Step Scales. When to use them?

Anytime you see a C dim7, Eb/D# dim7, Gb/F# dim 7, or A dim7, just play the C Diminished Whole Half Scale.

Anytime you see a C#/Db dim7, E dim7, G dim 7, or Bb/A# dim7, just play the C# Diminished Whole Half Scale.

Anytime you see a D dim7, F dim7, Ab/G# dim 7, or B dim7, just play the C# Diminished Whole Half Scale.


Tip: when coming up with melodic lines over Diminished Chords, try and land arpeggio tones on downbeats somewhat often. If you are using the approach tones on down beats too often, you really won't be emphasizing the diminished nature of the chords.

Ok, I will talk more about Diminished Scales in other lessons! So just go on to the exercises and start getting this scale under your fingers and in your ears!


Exercises in this Symmetrical Scales Guitar Lesson

Diminished Whole Half Step Scale 2 Octaves

Medium
43

In this exercise you will learn a useful shape for playing a Diminished Whole Half Step Scale on the guitar.