The Half-Diminished Pentatonic Scale - Theory, Licks and Guitar Shapes

What's The Half-Diminished Pentatonic Scale?

First, you need to know that there are two main half-diminished pentatonic scales. The first can be considered as a minor seventh flat ninth arpeggio with a b2. The formula is root (1) - minor second (b2) - minor third (b3) - diminished fifht (b5) and minor seventh (b7). It can also be seen as a pair of triads (1 diminished triad + 1 minor triad). The second is built the same way as the first but with a major second (2) instead of a minor second (b2).

Half-Diminished Pentatonic Scale With a b2

How To Play The Half-diminished Pentatonic Scale On Guitar?

The half-diminished pentatonc scale with a b2 formula is root (1) - minor second (b2) - minor third (b3) - diminished fifth (b5) and minor seventh (b7). It can be used for soloing over any m7b5 chord, in a minor II V I progression for example.

Dm7b5 penta D Eb F Ab C
Formula 1 b2 (b9) b3 b5 b7


The example below show how you can use the m7b5 pentatonic scale in a minor II V I progression.

 This lick is taken from the printable PDF eBook "25 PENTATONIC LICKS FOR JAZZ GUITAR"

Half-Diminished Pentatonic Scale With a Major 2

How to Apply the Half Diminished Scale?

There is another m7b5 pentatonic scale spelled root (1) - second (2) - minor third (b3) - diminished fifth (b5) and minor seventh (b7). This scale can be used over 7b9b13 chords starting from the minor seventh (b7). Indeed, this will highlight the b9 and b13 of the dominant 7 chord. For example, just play Fm7b5 pentatonic over G7b9b13.

Fm7b5 penta F G Ab B Eb
Formula 1 2 (9) b3 b5 b7


F7mb5 pentatonic scale against G7b9b13

Fm7b5 penta F G Ab B Eb
G7b9b13 b7 1 b9 3 b13

The lick below is based on a turnaround variation with 4 dominant chords. This exercise involves playing two minor pentatonic scales over E7 and D7, Gm7b5 pentatonic over A7(b9b13) and a G dominant pentatonic over G7.

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Last edited: 06/05/2019

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