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Symmetric Diminished Scales


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                                                                                                           By: Lucas Pickford

*H=Half Step

*W=Whole Step


The Symmetric Diminished Scale, built using the formula HWHWHWHW , is an incredibly useful scale in jazz improvisation. In my last column I discussed how this scale could be used as a scale for soloing on each of the four different dominant seventh chords, all a minor third apart from each other, that the scale fits. To refresh, the three different symmetric diminished scales are as follows: 

1. C-Db-Eb-E-F#-G-A-Bb-C (This scale fits over C7, Eb7, F#7, and A7)

2. D-Eb-F-F#-G#-A-B-C-D (This scale fits over D7, F7, Ab7, and B7.)

3. E-F-G-G#-A#-B-C#-D-E (This fits over E7, G7, Bb7, and Db7.)

One device for improvisation with this scale is to superimpose various triads on top of one another other. In other words you can borrow any one of the three remaining triads from one of the groups of four and superimpose them against one another. The only rule is that you have to use triads from the same group. For example you can play an E triad against a G7 chord and vice versa, or you can play a Bb triad against a Db7 chord and vice versa. All of these chords are from the same group or “family” so to speak, in this case from scale version #3. They are interchangeable with each other because they are all minor thirds apart from each other and the scale fits all four chords. So say you are jamming on one chord like E7 funk groove for a long time, in your solo you can outline a G triad, a Bb triad, and a Db triad. This gives a whole different flavor to your solo depending on which triad you choose to emphasize. This idea of triadic superimposition is something that can be done on many other scales as well but it works especially well on the symmetrical diminished scale. If you play guitar or piano you can actually comp these triads against each other and get very cool effects. You can also play the different triads in various inversions as well like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. You can make up endless variations inverting the triads in different ways and make up your own patterns for soloing. Below are some melodic patterns that I’ve experimented with using this concept and I encourage all of you to find your own unique patterns and ways of using the symmetric diminished scale.



Lucas Pickford can be reached at his web site







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