The B Diminished Scale

The b diminished scale is an eight-note octatonic scale. It is one of the most frequently found chord qualities in blues music.

Diminished scales are widely utilized across musical genres. Their distinctive sound can be heard through their combination of whole steps and half steps, distinguishing it from major scales.

How to play it

Diminished scales offer an intriguing and difficult sound that can be intriguing and challenging to learn, yet once mastered they can open up an incredible world of synthetic and symmetrical music. Their basic concept revolves around repeating a minor third interval pattern which means no matter your starting point (whether whole step or half step), every diminished scale repeats with identical tones in order. This characteristic gives diminished scales their unique sound while also being useful tools for building chords.

The b diminished scale has an inherently close connection with dominant chords, as its interval pattern matches up perfectly with that found in b dominant scale. Therefore, this scale has come to be known as b dom-dim scale and makes an ideal choice for playing over diminished and altered dominant chords.

To play the B diminished scale, begin at any note in the key of B and gradually add successive minor third intervals until you reach its root note – B in this instance being one such note – until reaching its base note of A (which contains B, E, G and A notes – see diagram for connections).

Once you are comfortable with the basic b diminished scale finger pattern, try it over a B diminished chord. This chord has a dissonant sound due to containing a tritone interval between B and F; also known as “The Devil’s Interval”, which may initially prove daunting when performing over it.

However, the b diminished chord is an invaluable asset to your jazz arsenal and it’s worthwhile learning its scale over this chord type. Once you master its fundamentals, experiment with different finger patterns and combinations until you find a sound that speaks to you. To expand on these concepts further and become the best jazz player you can be, take a look at Learn Jazz Standards Inner Circle; we offer video lessons, courses and other resources that can help you become one.

What notes are in the scale?

A B diminished scale has seven notes; four chord tones and three diatonic tensions (also known as outside notes) which serve to resolve individual tones into chord tones. Additionally, its half-whole diminished scale – also called dominant diminished scale – is symmetrical, meaning starting it from any tone will provide exactly the same set of notes in its progression; this property allows its use over any fully diminished seventh chord.

Notes for a B diminished scale are as follows:

As is true with other diminished scales, practicing them in every position on the fretboard is key to mastering them in any key. When you feel ready, try improvising using this scale over a static dim7 vamp at different tempos and time signatures until you develop an intuitive feel for its sounds and build fingering skills fast enough to use it quickly.

One common use of the diminished scale is to stack it on top of a dominant seventh chord to emulate its 13 flat ninth sound, as often employed by jazz artists – particularly guitarists such as John Coltrane who employed this approach on many recordings.

When creating a stack of thirds, start from the root note of a triad and build outward from there according to their appearance in a major scale:

As an additional bonus, it should be mentioned that the B diminished scale is a symmetrical scale and can therefore be built in any key. If you wish to construct it in any other key besides B, simply shift its pattern by one minor third either upwards or downwards.

If you want to create a C diminished scale, all it takes to achieve that is shifting the scale up or down by one semitone and changing its name accordingly – as seen below in the image with original and revised C diminished scales displayed side-by-side.

What is the relationship between the notes in the scale?

The b diminished scale is a symmetrical scale, meaning that its notes exist on both sides of an octave. This affords great versatility to the scale as all notes on both sides can be played simultaneously; for instance, its tonic notes of D and F can be combined to form either a C major chord or D minor chord due to being composed from intervals that occur both major and minor chords.

These first two notes form the cornerstones of this scale. Since it is a diminished scale, each semitone acts like an interval within that key and gives this scale its signature sound that often turns up in jazz performances.

This distinctive sound is produced because the scale contains a diminished seventh chord that adds tension and dissonance to musical pieces.

One of the key aspects of learning any scale is understanding its tonality. This means not looking at individual notes and trying to decipher what they mean individually, but instead seeing how a scale works with specific chords; this will allow you to better grasp its purpose.

Take, for instance, a D half-diminished scale and play it over a dominant seventh chord to produce a unique sound often heard in jazz music. This scale creates tension within its chord that cannot quite be resolved with just its seventh tone alone.

To understand this concept, it’s essential that you first learn how a dominant seventh chord works. For instance, its root note is D and its other tones include C, E, G and B; its complement, the B diminished scale also contains B a perfect fifth above D.

How do I play it on the piano?

Diminished scales can be confusing and daunting for new piano students. While they’re less common among beginner pianists than major, minor and dominant triads, their dissonant sound may intimidate beginners and their construction can be complex – all this adds up to create much confusion and frustration among novice pianists.

Unfortunately, most of the notes of b diminished scale can be found in different chords. For instance, using this scale can result in either fully- or half-diminished seventh chords; full diminished seventh chords feature a flattened ninth, while half diminished chords have an unflattened ninth. These two can then be combined to form Eb diminished triad.

These triads are constructed by layering three-note diminished intervals over the root of any chord, giving them their distinctive “diminished” sound. To play one on piano, simply use your thumb to mutes the low E string while your second finger frets its root chord (B in this instance) with your first finger playing the high E string as one unit.

For those wanting to expand their understanding of the B diminished scale and how it applies to chords, this lesson offers a downloadable sheet containing all notes in its scale as well as its inversions as well as a B diminished triad and its associated inversions. Just click on the image below to access it!

Note that the b diminished scale is distinct from semi-whole diminished scales that may be confused with it, often used interchangeably. Semi-whole diminished scales are composed of every other whole and half step and more closely resemble an octatonic scale (sometimes referred to as diminished chromatic). While semi-whole diminished scales can be used to form semi-diminished seventh chords they do not offer the characteristic “diminished” sound of b diminished scale.