Jazz Notes 16: Symmetrical Scales

by Jerry Arcidiacono

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  • Hi GMC:ers!
    With this lesson you will learn some concepts about the diminished scale and the whole-tone scale.
    Both scales are built repeating an interval pattern, hence the name "symmetric".
    Let's start with the diminished scale which exists in two forms. One form alternates whole-steps and half-steps while the other one alternates half-steps and whole-steps.

    An important characteristic of the diminished scale is that it has eight notes, while other common scales like major, harmonic minor or melodic minor scales have seven notes.
    Ok, let's see how the half-step/whole-step scale works, starting from a D note, as example.

    D - Eb - F - F# - G# - A - B - C - D

    This scale is usually used over dominant 7h chords with some alterations.
    We have already all the four notes to build a D7 chord (D-F#-A-C).
    If you consider the Eb as a tension over the chord you get a D7b9. I used the Guitar Pro default chord notation system on the video anyway, so you'll see D9-.
    You can also think the F note as E# which is a #9 over the D note. The result will be a D7#9 chord, known also as the Hendrix chord.
    Another tension can be added to the chord using the G# note and you can get a D7#11 chord.

    Take a look at this picture to learn the D h/w diminished scale.

    Ok, let's see the other diminished scale, which alternates whole-steps and half-steps.
    Starting from D we have

    D - E - F - G - Ab - Bb - Cb - C# - D

    This scale is played over diminished 7th chords. There are different notations about this chord, usually written as D°, D°7 or Ddim, as Guitar Pro with his default notation does.
    Ddim here is D-F-Ab-Cb.

    Remember that some books use Ddim for the D diminished triad, which has only three notes.

    Here is the diagram for the D w/h diminished scale.

    The last scale we look at is the whole-tone scale. This is simply a series of whole tones.
    Starting from D we have

    D - E - F# - G# - A# - C - D
    w w w w w w

    This scale has a root, a major third and a minor 7th. The A# notes will result in a D7#5 chord. Another tension can be added with the G# notes which is a #11.

    Look at this diagram to learn the D whole-tone scale.

    All these symmetrical scales can be very boring sometimes, so you need to add some fresh idea to your solos while playing them, using different articulations, sliding, hammer-ons, pull-off and different rhythm figures.

    Good luck!
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