Half-Diminished Chords (m7b5) - Drop 2 and Drop 3 Voicings - Guitar Diagrams and Scale Charts

What's a half-diminished chord

Half diminished chords are built with a root (1), a minor third (b3), a diminished fifth (b5) and a minor seventh (b7). They are also known as minor seventh flat five chords (m7b5), because they are minor seventh chords with the fifth lowered by a 1/2 step. 

You can see in the chart below the comparison between a diminished triad and half diminished chord formula. A m7b5 chord is built by stacking 3 minor and one major third intervals.

Formula 1 3 5 b7
B Diminished triad B D G X
Bm7b5 chord  B D G A

 

Half-diminished chord notation and symbols

In a chart, half diminished chords may be found written in several ways : Cm7(b5), Cm7b5, Cmin7b5 or CØ. The last one should not be confused with the diminished notation that is a circle without a bar through it. 

Drop 2 Half diminished chord voicings

What are drop 2 chords ?

Drop 2 chords are the most popular chord voicings used in jazz guitar. They are built by dropping the second highest note of a four-notes closed chord to the bass. half diminished closed chord formula is 1-b3-b5-b7 that gives the following drop 2 chord formula b5-1-b3-b7. 

What are inverted voicings ?

The root of an inverted chord is not in the bass. It means that the notes of a chord are inverted. As you can see in the guitar diagrams below, there can be a third, a fifth or a seventh in the bass. 

The chart below contains four drop 2 half diminished voicings. You can see a root chord and three related inverted chords. The root chord has its root (R) in the bass and the inverted chords have the b3, b5 and b7 in the bass. This is the principle of the inversion, the chord tones are played in a different order.

Root chord  R b5 b7 b3
1st inversion (minor third in the bass) b3 b7 R b5
2nd inversion (fifth in the bass) b5 R b3 b7
3rd inversion (seventh in the bass) b7 b3 b5 R

 

Drop 2 m7b5 chords - Connections on the guitar neck

The three neck diagrams show how drop 2 half-diminished voicings are inter-connected. Each chord position is assigned its own specific colour. The root position is represented by the black dots, the first inversion is in blue, the second is in red and the third is in green. Please note that the lowest notes of the first shape are on the 4th string.

Half diminished drop 2 chords

Here are the same voicings with the lowest notes on the 5th string.

Half diminished drop 2 chord shapes

The lowest notes are on the 6th string.

Half diminished drop 2 chord diagrams

These shapes can be placed anywhere on the guitar fretboard. Whichever fret we choose to play the root on determines the chord. 

Drop 2 m7b5 7 chords | Root position and inversions | Bass on 6th string

Root position # 1 

Half diminished guitar chord diagram 6 drop 2

Inverted position # 1 

Half diminished guitar chord diagram 6 drop 2 (2)

Inverted position # 2

Half diminished guitar chord diagram 6 drop 2 (3)

Inverted position # 3

Half diminished guitar chord diagram 6 drop 2 (4)

Drop 2 m7b5 7 chords | Root position and inversions | Bass on 5th string

Root position # 2 

m7b5 chord guitar diagram 5

Inverted position # 1 

m7b5 chord guitar diagram 5 2

Inverted position # 2

m7b5 chord guitar diagram 5 3

Inverted position # 3

m7b5 chord guitar diagram 5 4

Drop 2 m7b5 7 chords | Root position and inversions | Bass on 4th string

Root position # 3

m7b5 chord guitar diagram 4

Inverted position # 1 

m7b5 chord guitar diagram 4 2

Inverted position # 2

m7b5 chord guitar diagram 4 3

Inverted position # 3

m7b5 chord guitar diagram 4 4

Drop 3 m7b5 voicings

What are drop 3 voicings

Drop 3 voicings are widely used in jazz and most popular as drop 2 voicings, they are ideal for solo guitar playing such as chord melody. Drop 3 chords are made by dropping the third highest note of a closed position. For example, a Bm7b5 closed voicing is B (root), D (minor third), F (diminished fifth) and A (minor seventh). By dropping the third highest note (F) an octave down, we get a new voicing : b3, R, b5, b7 corresponding to the first inversion of the root position (the one with the root in the bass). Like the previous drop 2 voicings there are four different drop 3 voicings to play a half diminished chord.

Root position (drop 3) R b7 b3 b5
1st inversion (minor third in the bass) b3 R b5 b7
2nd inversion (fifth in the bass) b5 b3 b7 R
3rd inversion (seventh in the bass) b7 b5 R b3

 

Three rules you need to know about drop 3 chords :

  • The lowest notes are always on the 5th of 6 strings.
  • There is a string skip in every shapes.
  • Unlike drop 2 chords, there are no drop 3 chord shapes with bass on the 4th string.

Drop 3 m7b5 chords on the guitar neck

Half diminished drop 3 chords

Half diminished drop 3 chords

 

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar diagrams | Bass on 6th string

m7b5 voicing - Root in the bass - Bass on 6th string

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar chord 7

m7b5 voicing - minor third in the bass - Bass on 6th string

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar chord 3

m7b5 voicing - Diminished 5th in the bass - Bass on 6th string

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar chord 4

m7b5 voicing - Minor seventh in the bass - Bass on 6th string

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar chord 5

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar diagrams | Bass on 5th string

m7b5 voicing - Root in the bass - Bass on 5th string

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar chord 2

m7b5 voicing - minor third in the bass - Bass on 5th string

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar chord 6

m7b5 voicing - Diminished 5th in the bass - Bass on 5th string

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar chord 8

m7b5 voicing - Minor seventh in the bass - Bass on 5th string

Drop 3 m7b5 guitar chord

How to play over half-diminished chords

Many guitar students wonder what scale to use over minor seventh flat five chords. It is necessary to have a good understanding on how to improvise over half-diminished chords. Most of the time m7b5 is used as the ii of a minor ii-V-I chord sequence.

The Locrian mode

The most obvious choice is to play the Locrian scale, seventh mode of the major scale also considered as the second mode of the natural minor scale. The Locrian mode is spelled 1-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7. By taking the root (1), the minor third (b3), the diminished fifth (b5) and the minor seventh (b7) of the Locrian scale you get the notes of the half-diminished chord.

Formula 1 b2 (b9) b3 4 (11) b5 b6 (b13) b7
Intervals H W W H W W W

 

Locrian mode for guitar

The Locrian 13 or Locrian 6

This is the second mode of the harmonic minor scale. In comparison with the Locrian mode, it has a major sixth instead of a minor sixth.

Formula 1 b2 (b9) b3 4 (11) b5 6 (13) b7
Intervals H W W H W+H H W

 

Locrian 13 mode guitar

The Locrian #2 mode

The Locrian #2 mode is another interesting option if you want to bring a different sound to your improvisations. Indeed, the Locrian #2 as a major ninth which sounds modern. It is the sixth mode of the melodic minor scale, the formula is 1-2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7.

Formula 1 2 (9) b3 4 (11) b5 b6 (b13) b7
Intervals W H W H W W W

 

Locrian 2 mode for guitar

The Locrian bebop scale

The Locrian bebop scale contain the same notes as the locrian mode including an additional fifth between the flat fifth (b5) and the minor sixth (b6).

Formula 1 b2 (b9) b3 4 (11) b5 5 b6 (b13) b7
Intervals H W W H H H W W

 

Locrian bebop guitar scale

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Last edited: 27/05/2018