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For a couple years I have been struggling with getting more colorful types of lines into my ears and fingers. I have gotten really strong on major scales to the point where they are pretty locked in and take really no thought. There have been lots of palpable improvements in my improv from that scale and arpeggio work but I have been slowly adding in tensions (altered extensions) and trying to get a handle on ideas like tri-tone subs, and other substitution ideas.

For some reason I could never get myself to drill in the diminished and altered scales like I had done with the major scale. I think I lacked motivation because I wasn't able to use them and make them sound good. I knew that there is a lot you can harness from the altered and diminished scales and chords but it just wasn't connecting with me.

Finally over the last couple weeks something clicked and I started using and hearing diminished and altered phrases and it made sense and sounded good. That was exciting and I immediately started just drilling the diminished scale in all keys. I move through keys by the cycle of fourths, whole steps descending and ascending, and chromatically ascending and descending. It only took me a couple days to really start ripping through them without thinking too much.

It's been a real eye-opener and another kind of milestone in my development. Understanding the relationship between diminished chords and dom7 chords has been monumental. It's still slowly sinking in. There are so many more ideas available than before. It also makes it a lot easier to understand chord charts because most the time I see a diminished chord now, I can make sense out of it be recognizing it as in relation to some kind of 7th chord and see it's logical function.

It's great to finally be able to introduce some colorful, chromatic, non-diatonic sounds into my playing and actually understand it and have it have actual structure and logic instead of blindly searching for some mysterious thing.
 

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Can you give me some examples of how you use diminished ideas on dom7 chords?
Maybe I'll have time to respond more thoroughly later, but a very basic and classic sound is using half-whole diminished on the root of the dom7 chord leading to the 1. For example:

| Dm7 | G7 | Cmaj7 |

Over the G7 you can play G half-whole diminished, which would be G Ab Bb B C# D E F G

Great, classic sound that resolves beautifully (and there are many options of resolution!) to the 1 major chord.
 

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One way to think of it is that a dom7b9 chord has a diminished 7 chord built into it. Whenever you see a dom7 chord you can try playing diminished arpeggios off the b9 and it sounds great (rootless dom7b9 chord). Then you can think of it further by trying to play a dom7 chord 1/2 step down from any of those four diminished chord tones and that gives you useable subs for the original dom7th chord (the tritone sub being one of them). Sorry, I probably suck at trying to explain this.

Another thing that has recently started working for me is playing a diminished scale on the dom7 chord (beginning with a 1/2 step). That gives you b9,#9,#11 as tensions. It took me awhile to start to be able to play the scale and have it feel and resolve back to the I chord. Fragments of the scale work really well too.

I'm starting to work on patterns of the diminished scale that really sound interesting. There are also all kinds of triads you can build using the diminished scale that are kind of unexpected but can sound really cool. I could probably spend years learning more about how to get things out of this.

The best thing for me so far is that it just opens up improv to much more variety of things to try. It gives you so many more ways to deal with a ii V I for example.
 

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I think applying diminished sounds to altered dominants depends on what the piano/guitar plays. If it's a C7+9 with a natural 5, playing a C# diminished works fine; if it's a C7+9+5, playing C# diminished, G and A sound like wrong notes. In that case an E Lydian Augmented works better. My own ears tend to center in on the +9 and b9 of the dominant chord, contrasted with the 3rd, 7th to b5, or tritone sub emphasizing 1-3-5-7 of the sub.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I think applying diminished sounds to altered dominants depends on what the piano/guitar plays. If it's a C7+9 with a natural 5, playing a C# diminished works fine; if it's a C7+9+5, playing C# diminished, G and A sound like wrong notes. In that case an E Lydian Augmented works better. My own ears tend to center in on the +9 and b9 of the dominant chord, contrasted with the 3rd, 7th to b5, or tritone sub emphasizing 1-3-5-7 of the sub.
That's more advanced than where I'm at I think. I have not been playing with any accompaniment so I have no idea really which scale would be better based on what kind of 7th chord the rhythm section is playing.

E Lydian augmented would be same pitch set as C altered scale? I've been coming up with lines using the altered scale as well and it can sound really great.
 

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E Lydian augmented would be same pitch set as C altered scale? I've been coming up with lines using the altered scale as well and it can sound really great.
Yes! For a dom7+9+5, play lydian aug from the 3rd. (edit: some people would prefer to think in terms of ascending melodic minor -- E Lydian Aug and C# ascending melodic minor are the same notes. It might seem to cloud the issue, I tend to think in terms of lydian aug. But if it's dom7+9 with natural 5th, diminished a half step up works fine.)
 

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Thanks. I generally grasp it better when I think of it from the root I like looking at it from other angles too for reinforcement.
 

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Working through stacking minor thirds helped me a lot.... C Eb Gb A..................C# E G A#...............D F Ab B
 

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Working through stacking minor thirds helped me a lot.... C Eb Gb A..................C# E G A#...............D F Ab B
Yep. You solved it! There's only three. Just play them (sometimes with chromatic passing notes) when the written chord says diminished, or when you can hear that the guitar/keyboard is playing them! Cheers...
 
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