The 1/2 Whole Diminished Scale (Single String)

The 1/2 Whole Diminished Scale (Single String)

This scale is heavily used in jazz, jazz rock and fusion.
Guitar players or bands who come to mind are John Scofield, Mike Stern, Pat Martino, Gypsy jazz guitarists, John McLaughlin, Mahavishnu Orchestra, , and so on.

However: You could really use this scale in any style of music.
The fact it is NOT used as much in for example pop or rock styles, can give you the unique edge and sound that sets you apart from other pop and rock players.

The 1/2 Whole Diminished scale belongs to the group of the “octotonic scales”.
The word “octotonic” is derived from the Greek “octo”, which means “eight”. The diminished scale is an 8-note scale.

It’s also a symmetrical scale. Read Here About Symmetrical Scales.

The name “half-whole” diminished, points to the interval structure of the scale: it consists of a series of consecutive half and whole steps.
This repetitive interval pattern, makes the scale relatively easy to learn.

The formula of the half-whole diminished scale: 1 b2 b3 3 b5 5 6 b7
Translating that to notes, the C 1/2-whole diminshed scale is: C Db Eb E Gb G A Bb

Here’s the C 1/2 Whole Dim Scale mapped out on every string.


The 1/2 Whole Diminished Scale Harmony

Knowing the scale is one thing, but knowing how to use it is of course the next step.
This requires knowing what the chords are that you can use this scale over.

You figure this out by looking at the notes in the scale.

  1. There are 4 major triads:

    C E G = C
    Eb G Bb = Eb
    Gb Bb Db = Gb/F#
    A Db/C# E = A

  2. There are 4 dominant 7th chords:

    C E G Bb = C7
    Eb G Bb Db = Eb7
    Gb Bb Db Fb/E = Gb7/F#7
    A Db/C# E G = A7

  3. There are 4 minor triads:

    C Eb G = Cm
    Eb Gb Bb = Ebm
    Gb Bbb/A Db = Gbm
    A C E = Am

  4. There are 4 m7 chords:

    C Eb G Bb = Cm7
    Eb Gb Bb Db = Ebm7
    Gb Bbb/A Db Fb/E = Gbm7
    A C E G = Am7

  5. There are 8 dimished triads:

    C Eb Gb = Cdim
    Db E/Fb G/Abb = Dbdim
    Eb Gb Bbb = Ebdim
    E G Bb = Edim
    Gb Bbb/A Dbb/C or F# A C = F#dim
    G Bb Db = Gdim
    A C Eb = Adim
    Bb Db Fb/E = Bbdim

  6. There are 8 dim7 chords:

    C Eb Gb Bbb= Cdim7
    Db E/Fb G/Abb Cbb/Bb = Dbdim7/C#dim7
    Eb Gb Bbb Dbb = Ebdim7
    E G Bb Db = Edim7
    Gb Bbb/A Dbb/C Fbb/Eb or F# A C Eb = F#dim7
    G Bb Db Fb= Gdim7
    A C Eb Gb= Adim7
    Bb Db Fb/E Abb/G = Bbdim7

  7. There are 4 m7b5 chords (also called “half diminished 7th chords”):

    C Eb Gb Bb= Cm7b5
    Eb Gb Bbb Db = Ebm7b5/D#m7b5
    Gb Bbb/A Dbb/C Fb/E or F# A C E = Gbm7b5/F#m7b5
    A C Eb G= Am7b5

  8. Altered Dominant Chords:

    C E Gb B = C7b5
    Eb G Bbb/A Db = Eb7b5
    Gb Bb Dbb/C Fb/E = Gb7b5/F#7b5
    A Db/C# Eb G = A7b5

    The available tensions on these dominant chords in this scale are: b5, b9, #9, 13

How to Use the 1/2-Whole Diminished Scale

  1. Over Dom7 Grooves.

    One of the more common uses of this scale, is over dominant chords.
    You could use the C 1/2-whole dim scale over the C7 chord. This gives you fun new sounds and colors.

    This how it sounds like when you solo over a C7 groove.

  2. Over the V7 Chord in Chord Progressions.

    You can of course also use it in chord progressions.
    As an example, over following chord progression in the key of F:

    Fmaj7 | Gm7 | C7 | Fmaj7

  3. Over Symmetrical Chord Progressions.

    These are unique, really interesting chord progressions derived from a symmetrical scale.

    As an example: when you look at the chords in the C 1/2-whole diminished scale, you see there are 4 V7 chords. They are all 3 frets apart.

    ||: C7 | Eb7 | F#7 | A7 :||

    It sounds like this:

  4. Over dim7 Chords.

    Another fun use, is in chord progressions that have have diminished chords. Learn more about that here: The Uses of the Dim7 Chord.

    You would use the C# 1/2-whole dim scale over the C#dim7 chord in following example:

    C | C#dim7 | Dm G7 ||

    It sounds like this:

Next week, we’ll cover the in-position fingerings for this scale.

Hit me up anytime at [email protected] if you would like me to send you backing tracks for any of the above chord progressions, if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.
You’re on your way to becoming a great guitar player.
Have fun! 🙂


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