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4 Examples of Using Diminished 7 Chords On Guitar

Diminished 7 chords bring a distinctive, mysterious sound to music. Widely used in jazz and classical genres, they infuse tension and creativity into your playing.

This guitar lesson explains how they are built and how to use them thanks to four easy examples.


What's a Diminished 7 Chord?

A diminished 7 chord is a four-note chord that consists of : R/1 (root / tonic) - ♭3 (minor third) - ♭5 (diminished fifth) - and♭♭7 (diminished 7).

For example,  a  C diminished 7 chord would consist of the notes C (root), E♭ (minor third), G♭ (diminished fifth), and B♭♭ (diminished seventh).

On the guitar, you can play a C diminished 7 chord like this:

Diminished 7 chords guitar diagrams

Symmetry Of Diminished 7 Chords

One very important thing about diminished 7 chords is that they are symmetrical in nature, meaning that their structure repeats at regular intervals. This symmetry arises from the equal spacing of minor thirds within the chord.

A diminished 7 chord is constructed by stacking three minor thirds on top of each other.

Let's take an example to illustrate this. Consider the diminished 7 chord built on C:

1. Start with C.
2. Add a minor third above C, which gives you E♭.
3. Add another minor third above E♭, which gives you G♭.
4. Finally, add one more minor third above G♭, which gives you B♭♭.

Because of the symmetry, you obtain three other diminished chord starting on each note of the C diminished 7 chord that are E♭dim7, G♭dim7 and B♭♭dim7 (Adim7 if you prefer). In other words, each note of a diminished 7 chord is a root note.

Diminished 7 chords symmetry

Four Tips To Use A Diminished 7 Chord

To use a diminished 7 chord in a musical context, you can apply it in various ways, here are 4 examples:

1 - Jazz Blues Progression - Between IV7 and I7

Diminished 7 chords are often used in jazz blues progressions between the IV7 and I7 chord in the second and sixth bar as shown in the chord changes below.

F7  |  B♭7  Bdim  |  F7  |  Cm7  F7  |

B♭7  |  Bdim |  F7  |  D7♭9  |

Gm7  |  C7  |  F7  |  %  ||

2 - Substitute For Dominant 7 Chord:

A diminished 7 chord can serve as a substitute for an altered dominant 7 chord (typically featuring a flat 9) provided that the diminished 7's root is positioned a half-step above the root of the dominant 7 flat 9 chord.

Example with this ii V I progression:

Dm7  |  G7alt  |  Cmaj7 would give Dm7  |  A♭dim7  |  Cmaj7

Diminished chord substitution

3 - Walking Between Dominant Chords

The following technique is great to move between dominant chords thus creating a smooth bass line with chromatic passing tones. The chords used are named shell voicings also know as 3-note chords. In the example below you can hear two diminished 7 chords :

  • Bar 1 : D♭ diminished 7 to make the link between Cm7 and B♭/D.
  • Bar 2 : G♭dim7 between Fm7 and E♭/G.

You'll find the complete etude here in this PDF method called 11 Jazz Blues Studies For Guitar.


Diminished 7 chord walking lines for guitar

4 - Passing Diminished Chords

Diminished 7 chords are often used to create tension that resolves to a stable chord (tension and resolution). For example, it can be used as a passing chord leading to a major or minor chord.

The example below show how diminished 7 chords can be used as passing chords between each chord of the diatonic scale in C major.

Cmaj7  D♭dim7  Dm7  E♭dim7  Em7  Fmaj7  G♭dim7  G7  A♭dim7  Am7  B♭dim7  Bm7♭5

Diminished passing chords
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