Diminished Seventh Chords (Dim7) - Drop 2 and Drop 3 Voicings

What's a Diminished Seventh Chord?

Diminished seventh chords (dim7) are made up of a root (1), a minor third (b3), a diminished fifth (b5) and a diminished seventh (bb7). They can be seen as a diminished triad (1-b3-b5) with an additional diminished seventh (bb7). In other words, you simply have to stack four minor thirds (three semitones) to build diminished 7th chords.

Symmetry

Dim7 chords are symmetrical, they are based on an equal division of the octave into four minor third intervals. That means there are four different diminished chords in one position. For example, C diminished 7th contains four notes : C, Eb, Gb and A. Each note is separated by three semitones (minor thirds). Because a dim7 chord is made up of four minor third intervals, so there are three other diminished seventh chords in the Cdim7 chord : Ebdim7, Ebdim7 and Adim7. 

C dim7  C Eb Gb A      
Eb dim7   Eb Gb A C    
Gb dim7     Gb A C Eb  
A dim7       A C Eb Gb

 

Chord Substitutions

Diminished 7th chord are often used to replace (chord substitution technique) dominant seventh flat ninth chords (7b9). Example in a C major II-V-I progression :

Dm7 | G7 | CM7 becomes Dm7 | Bdim7 | CM7  |  Because of the symmetry of the diminished 7th chord there are three other possibilities Dm7 | Ddim7 | CM7 | or Dm7 | Fdim7 | CM7 or Dm7 | Abdim7 | CM7.

You can even try to replace the dominant 7th chord in a common I | VI | II | V turnaround sequence. Example in the key of C major : CM7 | A7 | Dm7 | G7 | becomes CM7 | Dbdim7 | Dm7 | Bdim7 |. Feel free to explore all the possible progressions using the symmetry technique.

Jazz Guitar Chords Tutorial - Drop 2 Voicings

Jazz Guitar Chords Tutorial - Drop 3 Voicings

Drop 2 diminished 7th 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. Diminished seventh close chord formula is R-b3-b5-bb7 that gives the following drop 2 chord formula b5 R bbb7. 

What's an inverted voicing?

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

Here is a chart that contains four drop 2 diminished 7th voicings. You can see a root chord voicing with three inverted voicings. 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 bb7 b3
1st inversion (minor third in the bass) b3 bb7 R b5
2nd inversion (diminished fifth in the bass) b5 R b3 bb7
3rd inversion (diminished seventh in the bass) bb7 b3 b5 R

 

Drop 2 Diminished 7 chord shapes

That's what drop 2 diminished 7 voicings look like on the whole guitar neck. Each voicing is represented by a different color. 

  • Black shape = Root position
  • Blues shape = First inversion
  • Pink shape = Second inversion
  • Green shape = Third inversion

Drop 3 diminished 7th voicings

What's a Drop 3 Voicing?

Now that drop 2 dim7 voicings are no longer a secret for you, here are four drop 3 diminished 7th voicings with their eight related shapes to play on guitar. 

You are probably wondering what's the difference between a drop 2 and a drop 3 voicing. As it is explained above, drop 2 voicings are made by dropping the second highest note of a four-notes closed chord to the bass. It is the same principle for drop 3 voicings, but this time it is the third highest note that is dropped to the bass giving these 4 chord voicings.
 

Root position (drop 3) R bb7 b3 b5
1st inversion (minor third in the bass) b3 R b5 bb7
2nd inversion (fifth in the bass) b5 b3 bb7 R
3rd inversion (seventh in the bass) bb7 b5 R b3

 

Drop 3 Chord Rules

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

Diminished scales

What Scales to Play Over Diminished 7 Chords?

There are three main scales to play over dim7 chords.

The Whole-Half Diminished Scale

The Whole half diminished scale a an eight note scale that consists of a repeating pattern of whole steps and half steps. It's a symmetrical scale.

C whole half diminished scale C D Eb F Gb Ab A B
Formula 1 9 (2) b3 11 (4) b5 #5 13 (6) 7
Intervals W H W H W H W H

 

The Half-Whole Diminished Scale 

This is a an eight note scale too, that consists of a repeating pattern of halfs steps and whole steps. It is a symmetrical scale and the opposite of the previous diminished scale.

C half whole diminished scale C Db Eb E F# G A Bb
Formula 1 b9 #9 3 #11 or b5 5 13 (6) b7
Intervals H W H W H W H W

 

Super Locrian bb7 Scale

The super Locrian bb7 scale is the seventh mode of the harmonic minor scale.

B super locrian bb7 mode B C D Eb F G Ab
Formula 1 b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 bb7
Intervals W W H W W H W+H
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Last edited: 11/09/2019