How to Play the D Diminished Scale

Diminished chords add both character and tension to a song, especially when combined in an interweaved progression with other diminished chords.

The d diminished scale is also known as the whole-half diminished scale and is a symmetrical scale alternating between whole tone intervals and half tone intervals.


The d diminished scale is an essential tool for all jazz musicians. With its distinct set of characteristics, this scale can prove particularly helpful and useful when applied to dominant seventh chords.

The scale has an immediately identifiable sound that distinguishes it from other diatonic scales, as well as being unique in that it can be played using only one tonic – making it simple and straightforward to play diminished chords a minor third away from its tonic for tension relief.

Another important characteristic of the diminished scale is its symmetrical nature. Each note of this scale lies a semitone apart, opening up multiple possibilities compared to non-diminished (major scales). Furthermore, its symmetry makes superimposing diminished scale onto dominant 7th chords relatively straightforward.

As an illustration of this principle, let us take a look at the notes of a D half-whole diminished scale. This scale contains chord tones for a dominant seventh chord with tensions b9, #9, #11 and 13. Note that unlike its name suggests, this scale contains not a tonic but the root rather than its tonic for this dominant seventh chord voicing.

A dom-dim scale is a triad built on the top four notes of the diminished scale, though due to its symmetrical nature, its bottom four notes correspond with those that define any dominant seventh chord’s root note – making this scale ideal for creating diminished triads over any dominant chord.

When playing dominant 7th chords, this scale can be an invaluable asset in creating tension and depth to the chord by playing scale tones above its root. Furthermore, this scale can also be used to form diminished triads on any dominant chord that lies one minor third away from its tonic chord.

Start using the D Diminished Scale in Your Jazz Improvisation by taking advantage of this free jazz licks video lesson below! This lesson will cover a lick that uses notes from this scale and how you can apply it to dominant 7th chords.

Scale Shape

The diminished scale is an intricate and challenging concept to grasp, but once you do so it can open up an array of harmonic possibilities for you. A diminished scale consists of notes played in their usual pattern with altered intervals so that each note repeats by half-tone instead of tone.

This allows the scale to be constructed in different ways without losing its identity or sounding dissonant, and provides an efficient means of building chords as each note shared among multiple scale degrees.

Diminished scales may not be found as often today in modern music, but they were immensely popular during jazz’s bebop era. Diminished scales add a distinctive tonal color that can help create tension and release in progressions using dominant chords; specifically, half-whole diminished scales are useful tools as they repeating pattern of semitones and whole steps (for instance: starting on D and moving to E then F before returning back down one octave later.). For example: starting on D then moving semitone to E then whole step until returning back down one octave higher where it started before returning back down again!

This scale is also symmetrical, so that starting on any note will produce the same set of notes. This makes it simple to transpose to other keys by shifting root up or down while keeping intervals unchanged; furthermore it serves well for creating chords as each note shares several chord degrees.

One of the more prevalent applications for the D Diminished Scale is to play it over dominant seventh chords to simulate a thirteen flat ninth tone – an approach frequently employed by numerous jazz musicians, including John Coltrane.

At first, the D Diminished Scale can be challenging to master; however, with practice and perseverance you’ll soon find its use invaluable for improvising over dominant seventh chords.


There are various chords that can be formed from the D diminished scale. Although not always symmetrical, they do contain all of the same intervals as its scale so their sound produces a symmetrical result – this concept should be learned and mastered properly for best results.

Example: the chord a minor 6 diminished (Gm6dim) contains intervals similar to that found in a d diminished scale. By moving along its hybrid scale and altering it appropriately, one can create some interesting sounds with this chord. When played properly over a dominant 7th chord using ascending or descending melodies from this scale starting half step above root of V7(b9) chord can lead to diatonic Dorian mode resolution on I-chord chords.

The d diminished scale is also very effective at creating tension and release in progressions, such as Noel Gallagher’s song Highwaymen (listen to its bridge section). Here, transitioning from G major to A minor creates drama by first moving through a G diminished triad – this allows listeners to experience buildup of tension before its subsequent release with A minor chord feels more satisfying than just staying on G major chord.

As well as using the D diminished scale to add tension and release in progressions, it can also add a unique sound to chords with an added flat, or b9. This can be accomplished simply by playing a scale with each note featuring an extra flat placed above them – producing an effective jazzy sound!

The D Diminished Scale can be an extremely valuable scale to learn and master, providing access to over 10 years of amazing jazz education resources. Through understanding its scales that utilize its symmetrical sound and their relationship to chords, you will quickly be on your way to using this form in your music. Our Inner Circle membership provides additional access to learning d diminished scale chords.


Derivations of diminished scales from any of the 12 chromatic scales aside, their symmetrical construction limits its chord qualities to eight notes in total – meaning each note corresponds with one dominant seventh chord quality in jazz music. Thus it is vital for musicians to have knowledge of all possible diminished scales as they relate to dominant seventh chords which they can be applied over.

Half/whole diminished scale is the go-to diminished scale for jazz when pairing dominant seventh chords; it features all of the standard chord tones of a Bb7 chord (root, major 3rd and perfect 5th), plus one unaltered extension: 13th; three altered extensions are #9, b9 and b5.

Due to these extensions being located within its intervals, they can be applied to any dominant 7th chord quality – making the half/whole diminished scale an ideal tool for use over altered dominant 7th chords and other jazz progression types.

This diminished scale begins on D and features all of the same notes as its F half/whole diminished counterpart without its additional flat, thus making it compatible with any instrument.

The D diminished scale is an advanced sound that may require some effort and practice to learn, yet its unique sound makes the effort worthwhile. Practice the scales with their matching chords until they feel natural for you before beginning to utilize them in your playing. As soon as they feel more familiar to you, try incorporating them into different chord combinations by exploring all their possibilities.

No matter the genre of music you enjoy playing – be it jazz, rock or another – being able to understand and use this complex scale will make you a more versatile musician. So if you’re ready to learn this fascinating scale be sure to download our app and get going today!