What Are Half-whole Diminished Scales, Learn to build and play half-whole diminished scales for guitar
The Professor
Jun 19 2013, 06:04 PM
Theory Instructor
Posts: 888
Joined: 8-January 13
From: Manchester UK
The Half-Whole Diminished Scale

In this lesson, our third look at Symmetrical Scales, we will be exploring one of the most commonly used non-modal scales, the Half-Whole Diminished Scale.

This scale is named quite literal, as it is built by alternating half-steps and whole-steps, one after the other, producing eight unique tones that form the scale as a whole.

If you were to build this scale from the root C, you would get:

C Db Eb E F# G A Bb C


R b2 b3 3 #4 5 6 b7 R

Notice that there is two 3rds in the scale, the b3 and 3, Eb and E in the key of C. You can also think of the b3 as a #9 interval, as it is usually seen at the top of the chord rather than at the bottom. For example, you might see this scale used over a C7(b9,#9) chord, where the Eb is being seen as a #9 rather than a b3.

It’s not a huge deal, but worth looking at so it’s not confusing. Feel free to use b3 or #9 when you are writing this scale out, whatever is easiest for you.

Here is how a Half-Whole Diminished Scale looks like on paper in both Tab and Notation from the root-note C.

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Half-Whole Diminished Scale Fingerings

To help you get started in your exploration of this scale, here are two common fingerings for a C Half-Whole Diminished Scale, one with a 6th-string root and one with a 5th-string root note.

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After you have learned these two shapes, try expanding them to all 12 keys across the fretboard, and begin to apply them to your soloing ideas either over a 7b9 chord, as that is the chord that fits with the Half-Whole Diminished Scale.

Test Your Theory Chops

Write out all 12 keys of the Half-Whole Diminished Scale in the comments section below, using the "spoiler" tab on the left side of this screen, and I will be happy to go over your work to see how you are doing with writing out this fun and important scale.

Do you have any questions about the Half-Whole Diminished Scale? Post any questions or comments below and I will be happy to answer them for you.

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