Major sixth diminished scale guitar thumbnail

The Major Sixth Diminished Scale - Jazz Guitar Lesson Around The Barry Harris Concept

This guitar lesson is about a harmonic concept mapped out and developped by jazz musician Barry harris that can be found in the book "The Barry Harris Harmonic Method For Guitar" by Alan Kingstone.

This blog article details a little bit more in depth about what is the major 6 diminished scale and how to harmonize it with major 6 and diminished 7 chords.


Major Sixth Chords

First you need to know how to construct Major six chords. They are built on the basis of a major triad : Root (1), major third (3), perfect fifth (5) with a major sixth (6) added on the top. Notice that they can be written M6, Maj6 or simply 6 (CMaj6, CM6 or C6 for example).

C6 C E G A
Intervals 1 3 5 6


Here are some drop 2 and drop 3 major 6 chords shapes (root position and three inversions). Notice that they are all movable, find the root and play it anywhere on the guitar neck.

Major sixth guitar chords

Diminished Seventh Chords

Now, let's tackle diminished 7 chords. They have the particularity of being symmetrical, the interval between each note being the same (each note of a diminished 7 chord is a minor third away). This means that one shape provides four diminished chords, each one three semitones away from the other. Here are drop 2 and drop 3 movable shapes to play diminished 7 chords on guitar.

Diminished guitar chords

The Major Sixth Diminished Scale

The major 6 diminished scale is a little bit weird and unusual but also very interesting for composing and chord melody arrangements. It is actually a combination of the two chords previously discussed, making it an eight note scale built of : 1 (tonic), second (2), major third (3), fourth (4), fifth (5), minor sixth (b6), major sixth (6) and major seventh (7). :

  • Major 6 (1, 3, 5, 6).
  • Diminished 7 (1, b3, b5, bb7).

For example, to build a C6° scale, just take a C6 chord (C-E-G-B) and a diminished chord built from its seventh (B), so a B diminished chord (B-D-F-Ab). As you seen in the staff below, the notes of Bdim7 are inserted between each note of C6.

Major sixth diminished scale guitar 1

Maj6 Diminished Scale Harmonization

This chapter is to harmonize the major 6° scale with Major Sixth and Diminished 7 chords. Because this scale is actually made by alternating each note of these two chords, they follow each other half the time. Thus giving in the key of C the following chord progression : C6, Ddim7, C6/E, Fdim7, C6/G, Abdim7, C6/A and Bdim7

Major sixth diminished guitar chords


Here are four exercises implying the C major sixth diminished scale. The first two are to combine some of the sixth and diminished seventh chord voicings previously seen with melodic lines.

Major 6 diminished exercise 1
Major 6 diminished exercise 2

This third exercise consists in playing the chords of the major 6 diminished scale in vertical movement, so as to avoid moving the right hand too much, thus covering all the six strings of the guitar.

Major 6 diminished guitar chords vertical movements

This last one includes short bass lines to connect the eight chords of C6 diminished.

Major 6 diminished guitar chords with bass lines
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  • Jean-Marie Le Bizec
    • 1. Jean-Marie Le Bizec On 2023-03-23
    First you need to know how to construct Major six chords.
    I m sorry but i do not understand the interval that you show at the beginning of your lesson

    " First you need to know how to construct Major six chords.
    C6 C E G B
    Intervals 1 3 5 7. "

    thank you for all your very interesting material and the pedagogy of your website
    • jazz-guitar-licks
      • jazz-guitar-licksOn 2023-04-13
      Typo corrected. Thanks for your comment.

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