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Thread: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

  1. #21

    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Maybe a simpler way to think of this is a modal one. For example, if we have a IIm7 chord, say Dm7, I automatically think Dorian mode. If you also reach for the diminished scale in that "mode" (meaning C dim scale not C maj scale) you get the diminished scale that most closely matches the chord, in fact the C dim scale contains all of the lower voices of the Dm7 chord (D-F-A-C).
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  2. #22

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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    [QUOTE=bob3dsf;1297650]You can simply directly sub a diminished for the minor, if A minor, then sub A diminished. After all, a diminished sound is essentially a minor sound (at least to me). Your non-harmonic tones are b5, #5, and #7. The #7 is easy to deal with since it tonicizes the minor which is common to do on a "modal" tune. The other two tones are neighbor tones to the 5 so while they could present the trickiest dissonance, the resolution is on a very strong, restful tone. [QUOTE]
    This is the most concrete advice given to the question. But the phrasing of the question misleads a little. The diminished scale (whole-half) works like the melodic minor scale. That's why it works with minor sixth or minor (maj7) best of all. Some may say I'm a purist based on this approach. But I've done my own research on all scales/modes that exist in the 12 tone system, and I would say that there are so many options for scales which capture best a certain harmony, why settle for something else?

    The diminished scale over a C min looks like this C, D, Eb, F, F#, Ab, A, B; this has all the notes of the jazz melodic minor except the fifth (G), as
    bob3dsf pointed out. Adding the G (which is present in the chord anyway) gives a 9-tone scale with very interesting properties. It includes the Hungarian Minor: C, D, Eb, F#, G, Ab, B as well as the 8-tone scale that I call bebop melodic minor: C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, A, B. It has a portion of the blues scale: C, Eb, F, F#. It also has C harmonic minor, which means from the V7 chord G7b9, the Spanish scale (5th mode harmonic minor) is available. In fact the whole scale can be used modally (exclusively) over minor blues, no problem.

    Chords included in this mode are:
    Cm6, Cm (maj7), Cm(ma7)13#11
    D7 (b9, #9, #11, 13) and then F7, Ab7, and B7 with the same color tones and alterations, also D6, F69, Ab6, B6; Dm6, Fm6, Abm6, Bm6
    Do7, Fo7, Abo7, Bo7
    Ebo7, F#o7, Ao7, Co7
    Ebmaj7#5
    Fm7, Fm6, Fm13#11
    G9, G7(b13b9), Gmaj9
    Abmaj7, Abmaj13#11#9
    Am7b5(11,9)
    B7(#9#5)
    and some more.

  3. #23

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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    [QUOTE=bob3dsf;1297650]
    The other possibility is that the cat blowing over Maiden Voyage doesn't have an established way to sub those changes, but just "plays a diminished" to get a more outside sound. I'm sure he wouldn't be the first to throw some diminished patterns to play themselves out of a corner (or because they were lost). The types of tunes mentioned by the OP, which have slow harmonic motion, need strong melodic development in a solo. Playing all the notes you know in 2 measures, or throwing out mad patterns will get old very quickly.[QUOTE]

    Sorry, Bob this is where I would have to disagree with you. There are two great options for playing over Maiden Voyage with diminished. The chords in Maiden voyage are all dominant except for one, C#m (despite what the 5th Edition Real Book says). That's why using half-whole diminished works great over D7sus - F7sus, because of the min3rd connection between the chords.

    But there's another approach that works 10 times as well, because it can be used modally over the whole tune! It involves using the scale actively vs. passively, as nearly everyone does. Approaching chord tones from a half step below, that's passive. It works very well, but lays there, so to speak. So if I have D7 and approach the chord tones 3, 5, b7, b9 from below with half steps I get, of course, D, Eb, F, F#, G#, A, B, C. But...if I approach those same tones from a half-step above (active approach) it's another ball of wax! Approaching first the F# with a downward motion, we get G, F#, E, Eb, C#, C, Bb, A. Someone will ask: where's the root? Answer: in the bass (you don't have to play it!) If we include the root, however, we get a 9-tone scale as follows: D, Eb, E, F#, G, A, Bb, C, C#. As you can see, the Am7/D or D9sus4 is in there. What's much different than the way everyone plays this tune is the 6th. It's flatted! That's what makes this so entrancing - it's an extension of the Hindi mode (5th mode melodic minor). And it sets the ear up for the 4th of the F7sus4 chord that's coming, which uses the same diminished scale, but now adding F. Then the Eb7sus can take the passive use (Eb, E, F#, G, A, Bb, C, Db) and the C#min takes the 9-tone scale mentioned in my previous post, which I call the Hungarian Melodic Minor. A good way to warm up the ear to this approach is simply to use the Hindi scale over both D7sus and F7 sus. Over D7, you've got G melodic minor, over F7 you've got Bb melodic minor.

    Herbie uses this approach himself, and throws in auxiliary chords to back it up, e.g., D9sus - Em9b5 -D9sus - A13b9 - D9sus. A very nice contrast is C/D - F#/D in alternation. Or Am7 - Ebm7.

    Another contention I would make is that one certainly can use the whole scale, in fact, in the space of seconds, and it sounds (as the OP said: "killer.")

    Have fun!

  4. #24

    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Someone has to say this:

    although, yes, you can play whatever sounds good to you and creating tension is a personal thing...


    Diminished scales have nothing to do with Minor or Minor 7th chords or the scales associated with them (melodic minor, dorian/aeolian). Diminished scales are most closely related to dominant chords. You can play diminished stuff over minor sevenths in a modal setting but usually when I hear players doing that they are just using it to tonicize the mode OR play "out," which is just a matter of taste.

    I just don't want anyone to make the mistake of thinking that when you play a diminished scale you are playing within the Minor 7th sound... even if all the notes of the chord are there.

    To check out some deep use of the diminished sound, listen to Bach. He uses lots of diminished scales/arpeggios/patterns, and always in a dominant function.

    To answer the OP's question, sure you can use a diminished scale over Am7, you're just not playing Am7 anymore. In other words, you can't substitute diminished for m7.

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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by mike713 View Post
    Someone has to say this:

    although, yes, you can play whatever sounds good to you and creating tension is a personal thing...


    Diminished scales have nothing to do with Minor or Minor 7th chords or the scales associated with them (melodic minor, dorian/aeolian). Diminished scales are most closely related to dominant chords. You can play diminished stuff over minor sevenths in a modal setting but usually when I hear players doing that they are just using it to tonicize the mode OR play "out," which is just a matter of taste.

    I just don't want anyone to make the mistake of thinking that when you play a diminished scale you are playing within the Minor 7th sound... even if all the notes of the chord are there.

    To check out some deep use of the diminished sound, listen to Bach. He uses lots of diminished scales/arpeggios/patterns, and always in a dominant function.

    To answer the OP's question, sure you can use a diminished scale over Am7, you're just not playing Am7 anymore. In other words, you can't substitute diminished for m7.
    Mike, I think it's safe to say that the beginner should not attempt to apply diminished over minor. But we are in the 21st century, and jazz to me means contemporary music. Bach is still very hip - every jazzer should construct his solos with that depth! But harmony has moved on. I'm not talking about dissonance - playing out for the sake of wierdness - I'm talking about extending the harmonic/melodic vocabulary. I'm sure you use melodic minor over a tonic minor...now try the Hungarian minor mentioned in my first post. Now mix them together - you've got the diminished scale plus the fifth of the minor chord (a total of nine tones). It's chock full of modal possibilities for polychord superimposition - extremely well-suited to any minor tune (with the possible exception of Blue Bossa!) As the old Alka-Selzer commercial said: "Try it - you like it!"

  6. #26
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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    I'm not sure I quite understand the use of the word substitute in the context of scales. A substitute is when you have a given, e.g. a prescribed chord (written by the composer) which is part of a tune's harmony. You then find a substitute chord which works in its place, ie it has a function within the harmony of the tune and can have a greater or lesser degree of dissonance or tension, depending on what you want.

    An obvious example is the tritone substitute, so bII7 (edited, thanks JL) is used in a tune which has a written V7.

    Seeing as the idea of "using" scales for improvising is nothing to do with what is written in the tune by the composer, it's totally up to the person "improvising" to choose a scale, so there is no original set scale for them to use a substitute.

    Of course I'm aware of the Aebersold method of advising a scale that you might use, but that is really not improvising, it's a pedagogical tool to get people started off with having the confidence to play "something" that might have fewer wrong notes (!) than they might otherwise.

    I also know there are also some (usually modal) tunes that are written with scales that the composer tells the soloist to use, but these are quite rare, and presumably part of the composition is the performer must use those scales, not supply substitutes, or its against the composer's wishes just as would be playing a written note wrongly.

    I much prefer to think of the chord tones, and then make melodies. Any scales that happen in the course of that impro are due to passing notes or suspensions added around the chord tones.

    If I sart to try and think "modally" while playing a sequence I find it slows down or stops any meaningful creativity.

    e.g. take a simple Dm7 G7 C. I would never ever try to thing D dorian, G mixolydian, C Ionian or whatever.

    My approach is to think DFAC, GBDF etc, and make a melodic solo using or abusing those chord tones. Of course, like anyone, I would also throw in various licks or patterns I've ;learned over the years and that might include diminished scale or chord derived patterns - but (and this is the important bit, I don't think of using a diminished because I heard you can substitute a diminished scale for a pre existing scale.

    What is going through my head (subconsciously) is "aha, if I play this diminished lick it will sound cool because of the way the b10 suspends onto the b9 then skips down a b5".

    But I would never think "hmmm, I know a D dorian is the proper scale for this chord, but I know a diminished can be used instead to sound cooler".

    More likely I would think "Dm7? OK that would normally have a C, but I'm going to play a C# in this context, it will be very tense and tease the listener, but I know how to resolve that tension with the voice leading".

  7. #27
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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    great thread.

    As far as dim. sounds, I tend to favor the scale starting with the half-step as well, i also like as a sub. for Dom. 7th chords(very common usage).

    I like the sounds of broken diminshed scales, which are not unlike pentatonic. Think of "that lick" over the pedal in Moment's Notice, it's a classic example. In general, modal tunes and things with sus chords like MV lend themselves well to pentatonic based and fourth based (quartal) material. As stated before, the key is playing melody and how "out" sounding notes are resolved. This is all very subjective as far as what sounds good to one person, or what is perceived at outside. It's all about playing with confidence and your delivery. Telling a story or developing your solo.

  8. #28
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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Thomas View Post
    An obvious example is the tritone substitute, so bI7 is used in a tune which has a written V7.
    Hey Pete, I'm pretty sure you meant to write "bII7" as a substitute for V7, right? I just point it out in case anyone is scratching their head over it.

    I agree with everything Pete said about using chord tones. That works much better for me also than the 'chord-scale' approach. That doesn't mean scales are not important, since they help you find notes to connect chord tones, but the scales have to be completely automatic and internalized. That's the reason for practicing scales.

  9. #29
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Yes, bII7

    Quote Originally Posted by JL View Post
    but the scales have to be completely automatic and internalized. That's the reason for practicing scales.
    Exactly, and you have to know hoe they relate to the chords.

    When someone says D dorian "fits" a Dm7, and they play D E F G A B C D in 1/8 notes, then yes it's fitting the chord as the chord tones are on the beats.

    BUT

    If they play downwards D C B A G F E D then it's a different kettle of fish. So this is a very very flawed approach IMO. Likewise if you say a diminished scale will "fit", it might but would depend on where you place which notes.

    What is sad to me is people learning that kind of stuff, without the harmonic knowledge to know why, how, when and whether these scales might or might not "fit" the harmony. Which is why when I hear about "scale substitutes" alarm bells ring.

    I don't mean to be dogmatic about this and I'd like to hear some opposing viewpoints.

  10. #30

    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelsorg View Post
    Mike, I think it's safe to say that the beginner should not attempt to apply diminished over minor. But we are in the 21st century, and jazz to me means contemporary music. Bach is still very hip - every jazzer should construct his solos with that depth! But harmony has moved on. I'm not talking about dissonance - playing out for the sake of wierdness - I'm talking about extending the harmonic/melodic vocabulary. I'm sure you use melodic minor over a tonic minor...now try the Hungarian minor mentioned in my first post. Now mix them together - you've got the diminished scale plus the fifth of the minor chord (a total of nine tones). It's chock full of modal possibilities for polychord superimposition - extremely well-suited to any minor tune (with the possible exception of Blue Bossa!) As the old Alka-Selzer commercial said: "Try it - you like it!"
    Well, like I said, if it sounds good to you then awesome.

    It's just that when you are playing diminished scales/arpeggios/whatever over minor harmony, you're not playing the harmony. If you're aware of that and want to play it anyway then whatever. You can play whatever you want. It's just that to ME, if you start saying that it's cool to play diminished stuff over a minor chord, then you're kind of throwing the harmony out the window. You can also play a whole-tone scale over a major chord if you want to, would you consider that "extending the harmonic/melodic vocabulary"? If that's how you hear music then fine.

    I guess my point in all of this is that there's a big difference between playing 'outside' but knowing how to resolve it so it makes sense to the listener, and playing 'outside' because you think it should be consider 'inside.'

    About your first post regarding the diminished scale's relationship to scales like Hungarian minor, bebop minor, etc., yeah, there are some of the same notes but they are functionally extremely different. All of the minor scales have the natural fifth. the diminished doesn't. If you add the fifth in, that's no longer a diminished scale, but a melodic minor scale with 2 passing tones, which is really not the same thing as a diminished scale. If you add the natural fifth to a W-H diminished scale, that gives a pretty cool-sounding scale, I agree. It's just not the diminished scale and not the diminished sound.

  11. #31
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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by JL View Post
    .... the scales have to be completely automatic and internalized. That's the reason for practicing scales.
    Agreed.

    A bit off-topic but It's interesting to me that I frequently read here not to play the whole scale. While I agree that's not how to create a solo, it can be kinda cool within a solo. Lets say you're playing along and end up on a high D. I'll take whatever scale / scales I'm using and (playing 64th notes) run the entire scale down past the break to a low D and then jump to whatever it is you're going. It comes off as sort of a flurry of notes within a solo - more an accent than anything else. To me it's a great way to put all that practicing scales stuff to use... I also like to take a scale and trill it using the next note in the scale and walk it down (or up) that way too. Perhaps its not that useful in jazz improvization, but it works great with the blues...

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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by saxdude48 View Post
    I was thinking about this, in addition to using the regular dimished (whole and half) scale uses, (like 7b9 and dim7 chords) can you/do you substitute the diminished scale over minor 7th chords in more modal tunes? Do people do this? Which version of the scale would I use scale?

    I was recently playing Maiden Voyage with some guys and one guy did this killer solo that was quite out of the box, and when I asked him about substitutions he just said "diminished" but I'm not really understanding it.

    It seems there's a million and two interesting things to substitute and play over most tunes and chords (esp dom 7 chords, or take a look at Parker's blues!!), but on more modal minor tunes I struggle more. I get fed up playing Fsharp m7 and Am7 over and over in Maiden Voyage, or equally something like Impressions. What can I do to spice minor chords up and make these tunes more interesting?
    Would I use the A half-whole or the A whole step diminished scale over the Am7 chord for example?

    Just looking for suggestions as to what others substitute in these tunes.
    cheers
    You can play anything at any given time, assuming you have the harmonic sophistication to be able to have your improvised melody successfully suggest what ever harmonic content you intend. Chord symbols are not "instructions" on what notes to play, they simply tell you (loosely) what the band is going to comp.

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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by mike713 View Post
    Well, like I said, if it sounds good to you then awesome.

    It's just that when you are playing diminished scales/arpeggios/whatever over minor harmony, you're not playing the harmony. If you're aware of that and want to play it anyway then whatever. You can play whatever you want. It's just that to ME, if you start saying that it's cool to play diminished stuff over a minor chord, then you're kind of throwing the harmony out the window. You can also play a whole-tone scale over a major chord if you want to, would you consider that "extending the harmonic/melodic vocabulary"? If that's how you hear music then fine.

    I guess my point in all of this is that there's a big difference between playing 'outside' but knowing how to resolve it so it makes sense to the listener, and playing 'outside' because you think it should be consider 'inside.'

    About your first post regarding the diminished scale's relationship to scales like Hungarian minor, bebop minor, etc., yeah, there are some of the same notes but they are functionally extremely different. All of the minor scales have the natural fifth. the diminished doesn't. If you add the fifth in, that's no longer a diminished scale, but a melodic minor scale with 2 passing tones, which is really not the same thing as a diminished scale. If you add the natural fifth to a W-H diminished scale, that gives a pretty cool-sounding scale, I agree. It's just not the diminished scale and not the diminished sound.
    I'm thrilled that people are tuned in to threads here, even if it was an old one I responded to.

    Mike, if I play a pattern from the WH diminished scale over a C min for 1 bar, then resolve to a G in the next bar, did I play the dim. scale or not?? Here's one to try:
    Cm6 chord: F# B F Eb, Eb Ab D C, C F B A, A D Ab F# G
    Note direction - 1st 2 intervals move up, down a whole step, down an octave (axe allowing!), repeating with each group of four notes, than the G at the end comes of course. between Ab and F#.

    I would say that adding a note to a given scale definitely changes the possibilities available, but the distinctive sounds are still there, if you draw them out.

  14. #34

    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelsorg View Post
    I'm thrilled that people are tuned in to threads here, even if it was an old one I responded to.

    Mike, if I play a pattern from the WH diminished scale over a C min for 1 bar, then resolve to a G in the next bar, did I play the dim. scale or not?? Here's one to try:
    Cm6 chord: F# B F Eb, Eb Ab D C, C F B A, A D Ab F# G
    Note direction - 1st 2 intervals move up, down a whole step, down an octave (axe allowing!), repeating with each group of four notes, than the G at the end comes of course. between Ab and F#.

    I would say that adding a note to a given scale definitely changes the possibilities available, but the distinctive sounds are still there, if you draw them out.
    I'd have to play that to see how it sounds, but I suspect it sounds like a diminished pattern resolving to G and not C minor.

    Yeah, I would agree that you can emphasize certain notes of a scale and draw out a particular sound, but then you can draw all sorts of sounds out of every scale by playing intervallically. What I meant was that if you played the W-H dim scale with the added natural 5th straight up and down it would probably sound like a minor scale with a bunch of passing tones.

  15. #35
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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by mike713 View Post
    What I meant was that if you played the W-H dim scale with the added natural 5th straight up and down it would probably sound like a minor scale with a bunch of passing tones.
    Probably so... In many cases, just changing or adding one note can completely change the sound. For example, using a maj 7th instead of a minor 7th in a minor scale. In other cases, when adding a note as a passing tone, the essential flavor stays the same. Like the various bebop scales. I'm not sure how far you can go in adding or subtracting notes to a diminished scale before it becomes something entirely different. Of course all that really matters is whether or not you can create a melody, or lick, or motif that sounds good.

  16. #36

    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by JL View Post
    Of course all that really matters is whether or not you can create a melody, or lick, or motif that sounds good.
    I totally agree.

    My problem is just that if we're talking theory/harmony, diminished and minor occupy very different worlds.

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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by mike713 View Post
    I totally agree.

    My problem is just that if we're talking theory/harmony, diminished and minor occupy very different worlds.
    That's a very good formulation, Mike. It shows how untenable it is to separate elements in the musical universe. What insurmountable barrier exists between major and minor? Between diminished and augmented? It must be a malicious force field invented by Klingons... I would rather hold the position that it is one thing, the musical universe, the orbit of one body interacting with the other...maybe?

  18. #38

    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelsorg View Post
    That's a very good formulation, Mike. It shows how untenable it is to separate elements in the musical universe. What insurmountable barrier exists between major and minor? Between diminished and augmented? It must be a malicious force field invented by Klingons... I would rather hold the position that it is one thing, the musical universe, the orbit of one body interacting with the other...maybe?
    now we are blurring the line between musical theory and philosophy

  19. #39
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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Thomas View Post
    I'm not sure I quite understand the use of the word substitute in the context of scales. A substitute is when you have a given, e.g. a prescribed chord (written by the composer) which is part of a tune's harmony. You then find a substitute chord which works in its place, ie it has a function within the harmony of the tune and can have a greater or lesser degree of dissonance or tension, depending on what you want.

    An obvious example is the tritone substitute, so bII7 (edited, thanks JL) is used in a tune which has a written V7.

    Seeing as the idea of "using" scales for improvising is nothing to do with what is written in the tune by the composer, it's totally up to the person "improvising" to choose a scale, so there is no original set scale for them to use a substitute.

    Of course I'm aware of the Aebersold method of advising a scale that you might use, but that is really not improvising, it's a pedagogical tool to get people started off with having the confidence to play "something" that might have fewer wrong notes (!) than they might otherwise.

    I also know there are also some (usually modal) tunes that are written with scales that the composer tells the soloist to use, but these are quite rare, and presumably part of the composition is the performer must use those scales, not supply substitutes, or its against the composer's wishes just as would be playing a written note wrongly.

    I much prefer to think of the chord tones, and then make melodies. Any scales that happen in the course of that impro are due to passing notes or suspensions added around the chord tones.

    If I sart to try and think "modally" while playing a sequence I find it slows down or stops any meaningful creativity.

    e.g. take a simple Dm7 G7 C. I would never ever try to thing D dorian, G mixolydian, C Ionian or whatever.

    My approach is to think DFAC, GBDF etc, and make a melodic solo using or abusing those chord tones. Of course, like anyone, I would also throw in various licks or patterns I've ;learned over the years and that might include diminished scale or chord derived patterns - but (and this is the important bit, I don't think of using a diminished because I heard you can substitute a diminished scale for a pre existing scale.

    What is going through my head (subconsciously) is "aha, if I play this diminished lick it will sound cool because of the way the b10 suspends onto the b9 then skips down a b5".

    But I would never think "hmmm, I know a D dorian is the proper scale for this chord, but I know a diminished can be used instead to sound cooler".

    More likely I would think "Dm7? OK that would normally have a C, but I'm going to play a C# in this context, it will be very tense and tease the listener, but I know how to resolve that tension with the voice leading".
    Thank you for sharing this. I'm working to learn to play like this. The whole aebersold chord/scale thing is really a waste of time if you're serious about playing

  20. #40
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    Default Re: Substituting the diminished scale over minor 7th chords/other minor scale substitutions?

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelsorg View Post
    That's a very good formulation, Mike. It shows how untenable it is to separate elements in the musical universe. What insurmountable barrier exists between major and minor? Between diminished and augmented? It must be a malicious force field invented by Klingons... I would rather hold the position that it is one thing, the musical universe, the orbit of one body interacting with the other...maybe?
    In some cultures a minor or major 3rd have the same function. But then again harmony/counterpoint is unique to western music

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