Half-Whole Diminished Scale - Lesson 1

In this guitar lesson we're going to take a look at the half-whole diminished scale. It's a very dark sounding scale, and is one of my favorites. It can be used in quite a wide range of musical situations ranging from metal to jazz. You can also get away with using it to some extent in a blues context, although the die-hard blues traditionalists might raise their eye brows in horror when they hear you using it. [Side Note: I remember a blues jam night I went to many years ago, where I got a little bit too drunk before playing. Let's just say that the patrons weren't too thrilled about the vast number of diminished scale licks that I was playing. So be careful. This scale might just get you into trouble!  :-) ].

The cool thing about the half-whole diminished scale is that it's constructed entirely of alternating half-steps and whole-steps. (You might have guessed that from its name). You can really see the structure of this scale clearly when you map it onto a single string. Here's the C Half-Whole Diminished scale mapped onto the B-string...

C Half-Whole Diminished Scale: Notes Mapped On B-String

C Half-Whole Diminished Scale: B-String

The really interest thing about this scale is that, because of its symmetrical nature, it's actually four different half-whole diminished scales rolled into one. To see what I mean, I've worked out the notes of three other diminished scales and written them down below...

  • D# Half-Whole Diminished Scale: D#  E  F#  G  A  Bb  C  Db  D#
  • F# Half-Whole Diminished Scale: F#  G  A  Bb  C  Db  D#  E  F#
  • A Half-Whole Diminished Scale: A  Bb  C  Db  D#  E  F#  G  A

Notice how they all contain the same notes as C Half-Whole Diminished scale. What this all means is that by working really hard on the C Half-Whole diminished scale, you are also developing these three other scales at the same time. Cool huh?

 OK. Now that we've talked a little bit about how the scale's constructed, let's now look at a specific scale fingering. Here's a useful fingering that uses the three-note-per-string approach...

C Half-Whole Diminished Scale: Three-Note-Per-String Fingering

C Half-Whole Diminished Scale: Fingering

Here's the same fingering written out as an exercise using TAB...

C Half-Whole Diminished Scale: Exercise

 C Half-Whole Diminished Scale: Exercise

Although I written the exact fingerings and pick motions that I personally use to play the exercise, don't feel that you have to use the same approach as me. Feel free to play the exercise using the techniques that you want to develop. For Example: If you want to develop your legato technique, then practice the exercise using hammer-ons and pull-offs.

 Another thing that I need to mention here is that it's a great idea to learn to play the exercise using different subdivisions such as...

  • Eighth Notes (This is when you play two evenly-spaced notes per click of your metronome).
  • Eighth-Note Triplets (This is when you play three evenly-spaced notes per click of your metronome).
  • Sixteenth Notes (This is when you play four evenly-spaced notes per click of your metronome).

 Doing this will help improve your timing and overall technique. It will also help prepare you for using the scale in actual improvising. So don't be lazy. Dust off your metronome and be sure experiment with different timings!

A Few Last Words

This lesson was only intended to be a very short introduction to this very cool scale. We'll definitely be expanding upon what we've covered in future lessons. For now, just  be sure to work hard at what we looked at, and be sure that you learn it thorougly. Also remember to have some fun with the scale. Experiment, and see what ideas you can come up with.

Have fun!

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