What Are Diminished Intervals, Learn how to recognize and build the different Diminished Intervals
Mar 19 2013, 11:51 AM
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What Are Diminished Intervals?

In today’s Theory Lesson, we’ll be looking at Diminished Intervals, which can be a bit trickier to build and write than the Major, Minor and Perfect intervals we’ve already seen.

There are two basic formulas for finding and recognizing any Diminished interval, one for Perfect Intervals (4th, 5th, octave and unison)

To create a Diminished interval from a Perfect interval, you lower that note by 1 half-step. But, to create a Diminished interval from a Major interval, you lower that note by 2 half-steps.

So, it’s a bit trickier than previous intervals which only had one formula, which means it might be a good idea to review those articles if this stuff is new to you.

What Are Major Intervals?
What Are Minor Intervals?
What Are Perfect Intervals?

And, here are the formulas to work out each of the possible Diminished Intervals.

Diminished 2nd Intervals

If you have checked out the previous article on Perfect Intervals, then you already be familiar with the Unison interval, which is good because a Unison and Diminished 2nd are basically the same thing.

What do I mean by that? That is to say, that if you have a Diminished 2nd above G, Abb, that is an A that has been lowered by 2 half-steps, flattened twice, to produce the note Abb (which is the same as G).

G to A = Major 2nd Interval (1 whole-step apart)
G to Ab = Minor 2nd Interval (1 half-step apart)
G to Abb = Diminished 2nd Interval (no steps apart)

This approach will crop up again with 3rds, 6ths and 7ths, lowering the Major interval twice to produce a Diminished version of that interval, so it is good to memorize that quick formula so you can apply it to other notes and to other intervals moving forward.

This means that if you see an interval that moves from G to Abb on the staff, it is technically a Diminished 2nd interval. But, on the fretboard those notes would look the same, they would be a Unison on the fretboard.

So, Diminished 2nd intervals exist mostly on the staff, as on the fretboard they look just like Unison intervals which are more common and easier to remember.

Here are a couple of examples of Diminished 2nd intervals written out on different parts of the neck.

After you’ve learned how to build a Diminished 2nd interval, go ahead and write a number of them out and post your work below. I will be happy to go over and check your work to make sure that you’re on the right track when it comes to identifying and writing this interval.

Diminished 3rd Intervals

A Diminished 3rd interval is built in the same fashion as the Diminished 2nd. You start with the Major 3rd, lower that by a half-step to produce a Minor 3rd, then lower the Minor 3rd by a half-step to produce a Diminished 3rd interval.

Here is an example of that with the note G as the root note:

G-B = Major 3rd Interval (2 whole steps apart)
G-Bb = Minor 3rd Interval (1.5 whole steps apart)
G-Bbb(A) = Diminished 3rd Interval (1 whole step apart)

As you can see, when you write a Diminished 3rd interval above G you get the note Bbb, which is another way to spell the note A. G to A is a Major 2nd interval, so a Diminished 3rd on the staff, G to Bbb for example, will look like a Major 2nd on the fretboard, G to A.

I know that this is a bit confusing, but just know that Diminished intervals can be spelled or seen on the neck in two different ways.

On paper a Diminished 3rd is G to Bbb, but on the neck those same two notes are easier to see as a Major 2nd, G to A. Small issue, but one to keep an eye on as this tends to cause some confusion when working between notes on the staff and notes on the guitar as they both look the same on the instrument.

Here are a couple of examples of Diminished 3rd intervals written out on different parts of the neck.

After you’ve learned how to build a Diminished 3rd interval, go ahead and write a number of them out and post your work below. I will be happy to go over and check your work to make sure that you’re on the right track when it comes to identifying and writing this interval.

Diminished 4th Intervals

Now we are going to look at the first of 3 Perfect Intervals that we are going to then transform into Diminished intervals by lowering them 1 half-step each.
Because we are starting with a Perfect 4th in this case, you only need to lower it by 1 half-step to create a Diminished 4th interval, as opposed to lowering by 2 half-steps as we did with the Major intervals in this lesson.

Here is an example of that with the note G to check out:

G-C = Perfect 4th (2.5 whole steps apart)
G-Cb = Diminished 4th (2 whole steps apart)

For those of you with a bit of theory under your belts, you might have noticed that the note Cb can also be spelled as a B, creating the interval G-B instead.

This will also provide you with a bit of a shortcut to seeing a Diminished 4th interval on the neck of the guitar, as a Diminished 4th and Major 3rd look the same on the neck, but are spelled differently on the staff.

Here are a couple of examples of Diminished 4th intervals written out on different parts of the neck.

After you’ve learned how to build a Diminished 4th interval, go ahead and write a number of them out and post your work below. I will be happy to go over and check your work to make sure that you’re on the right track when it comes to identifying and writing this interval.

Diminished 5th Intervals

The next Perfect Interval we’ll look at is the Perfect 5th, which we will lower by 1 half-step to create a Diminished 5th interval in the same way as we lowered the Perfect 4th by 1 half-step to create a Diminished 4th.

Here is an example of that process from the note G as a reference:

G-D = Perfect 5th (3.5 whole-steps apart)
G-Db = Diminished 5th (3 whole-steps apart)

Here, the interval of a Diminished 5th is also referred to as a “tritone” as it is 3 tones above the root note, G to Db in this case.
Here are a couple of examples of Diminished 5th intervals written out on different parts of the neck.

After you’ve learned how to build a Diminished 5th interval, go ahead and write a number of them out and post your work below. I will be happy to go over and check your work to make sure that you’re on the right track when it comes to identifying and writing this interval.

Diminished 6th Intervals

Now we’re back to a Major Interval, the 6th, that we will lower by 2 half-steps to create a Diminished 6th interval on the staff and guitar.

Here is how that looks when written above the note G:

G-E = Major 6th Interval (4.5 whole-steps apart)
G-Eb = Minor 6th Interval (4 whole-steps apart)
G-D = Diminished 6th Interval (3.5 whole-steps apart)

You might have noticed that the Diminished 6th and Perfect 5th intervals are both 3.5 whole-steps above the root note, making them read different on the staff but look the same on the guitar.

Again, this is good information to know as seeing a Diminished 6th on the staff and recognizing it is one thing, but when playing it on the guitar it will look just like a Perfect 5th (power chord) on the neck.

Here are a couple of examples of Diminished 6th intervals written out on different parts of the neck.

After you’ve learned how to build a Diminished 6th interval, go ahead and write a number of them out and post your work below. I will be happy to go over and check your work to make sure that you’re on the right track when it comes to identifying and writing this interval.

Diminished 7th Intervals

The next Major interval we’ll look at is the Major 7th, which we can lower by 2 half-steps to create a Diminished 7th interval in a similar fashion to how we treated the 2nds, 3rds, 6ths and 7ths in previous sections.

Here is an example of that process starting from the root-note G:

G-F# = Major 7th (5.5 whole-steps apart)
G-F = Minor 7th (5 whole-steps apart)
G-Fb = Diminished 7th (4.5 whole-steps apart)

Again, some of you will have noticed that a Diminished 7th interval, G to Fb, can also be spelled G to E, as Fb and E are the same notes, and that G to E is a Major 6th interval.

So, a Diminished 7th on the staff will look like a Major 6th interval on the guitar, which is good to know as it will help you easily and quickly take that interval off the page and put it onto the instrument.

Here are a couple of examples of Diminished 7th intervals written out on different parts of the neck.

After you’ve learned how to build a Diminished 7th interval, go ahead and write a number of them out and post your work below. I will be happy to go over and check your work to make sure that you’re on the right track when it comes to identifying and writing this interval.

Diminished Octave Intervals

The last interval we’ll look at is the Perfect Octave, which we will lower by 1 half-step to produce the Diminished Octave interval, in a similar way as we did with the Perfect 4th and Perfect 5th intervals in previous sections.

Here is an example of this above the note G as a reference:

G-G = Perfect Octave Interval (6 whole-steps apart)
G-Gb = Diminished Octave Interval (5.5 whole-steps apart)

As you may have noticed, the Diminished Octave interval on the staff looks the same as a Major 7th interval on the neck, again allowing you to use previous knowledge to translate written information onto the fretboard when it comes time to read and play these notes.

Here are a couple of examples of Diminished Octave intervals written out on different parts of the neck.

After you’ve learned how to build a Diminished Octave interval, go ahead and write a number of them out and post your work below. I will be happy to go over and check your work to make sure that you’re on the right track when it comes to identifying and writing this interval.

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Mar 19 2013, 12:00 PM
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Nicely done Mister Professor

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Mar 19 2013, 12:05 PM
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QUOTE (Darius Wave @ Mar 19 2013, 11:00 AM)
Nicely done Mister Professor

Thanks! This is a tricky one but hopefully it helps.

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Mar 22 2013, 10:20 AM
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From: Ohio
Hi Professor, I am a bit confused as to how this could be useful outside of the dim 5th, 7th. Is this more for notation or can it become important with chord structure as well?

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Mar 22 2013, 10:35 AM
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QUOTE (brwnhornet59 @ Mar 22 2013, 09:20 AM)
Hi Professor, I am a bit confused as to how this could be useful outside of the dim 5th, 7th. Is this more for notation or can it become important with chord structure as well?

Hey Man.

Knowing that those intervals exist is important when reading notation, they come up from time to time.

Which is why I mentioned that stuff like Dim6ths look one way on paper, but they look like P5s on the guitar.

Mostly to do with key signatures and that sort of thing.

Think of them as melodic intervals and not harmonic intervals, G-Bbb rather than G and Bbb over each other, that's where you see them most.

They are rarely used, but if you're reading notation, especially classical music, you might find them from time to time. So just pointing out that they do exist, even if they are rarely used.

Hope that helps!

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Mar 22 2013, 10:48 AM
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From: Ohio
Great answer. That is what I thought, but I wanted to make sure! Thank you.

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Mar 22 2013, 10:51 AM
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QUOTE (brwnhornet59 @ Mar 22 2013, 09:48 AM)
Great answer. That is what I thought, but I wanted to make sure! Thank you.

NP glad to be a help!

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