Everything You Need to Know about Diminished Chords

When you first hear a diminished chord you might easily start thinking that it won’t really have many applications and use in your music. But you may be surprised to know that diminished chords are rather popular and commonly found in many different moods and genres.

If we were to talk about diminished chords in depth, this topic could end up being a whole book, so today we are just going to see what these chords exactly are and some ways you can start to make use of them and implement them in your music, without getting too much in the theory.

What is a Diminished Chord?

To start it off, we need to first know what exactly a diminished chord is. Most of the music you hear playing in bands or even on the radio is made from chords. There are a lot of different kinds of chords but some of the more common ones are, minor chords, major chords, augmented chords and diminished chords. 

Diminished Chords are a triad that is built from the minor third, a fifth diminish, and a root note. Above the root, it comes with 2 minor thirds. What it means is that the third and fifth notes of the chord are separated by three semitones.

An example would be a C major triad. The notes in a C major triad are: C, which is the root, E, the triad and finally G being the fifth. Hence, a diminished C triad would consist of the notes, C, Eb and Gb.

The main purpose of the diminished chords is to instill a sense of suspense, drama and tension into the music. These chords have a distinctive timbre that makes them have an eerie, dark, tense and unstable sound. Without proper context, diminished chords may come off unpleasant and grim, but this oddness of theirs is what makes them unique and stand out. 

Although, the flattened fifth does open up a desire for tonal resolution since it makes the diminished chords sound really unstable. Resolving to consonant chords end up offering more impact as it just leaves the listener hanging. The sense of tension that it provides in your music is the very thing that makes these chords interesting. 

Diminished chords are made up of three types: diminished triads, diminished sevenths and half diminished chords. 

The Diminished Triad

Let’s take a quick look at the diminished triad. Like every other triads, it is consisted of three notes: 

  • A root note
  • A minor third
  • A diminished fifth

Despite being the diminished triad being a chord in of itself, it is also considered to be the building block that was used to create the other diminished chords, diminished seventh and half diminished chords. 

A diminished triad is essentially a minor chord that has a flat fifth. The chord is symbolized as “°” or “dim”. For example- Bdim or B°.

You need to first find the root note of a chord to build a diminished triad. The base note for a chord is always the root note, like the root note for a Bdim chord is B.

After that, you’d want to find the third note of the scale by counting three semitones. For example, in a Bdim, the third note above the root is D. 

Finally, you need to count six semitones from the root or three semitones from the third to find your diminished fifth. For example, the fifth note in a Bdim chord is F. Hence, the whole Bdim triad consists of the notes, B, D and F. 

Some other examples are:

  • Adim: A, C, Eb
  • Cdim: C, Eb, Gb
  • Ddim: D, F, Ab
  • Edim: E, G, Bb
  • C#dim: C#, E, G

The Diminished Seventh

The diminished seventh, also called DIM7 or °7 is a chord that is made up of four notes, which are:

  • A root note
  • A third minor
  • A fifth diminish
  • A seventh diminish

What the diminished seventh or the fully diminished chord does is that it adds a minor third on top of a diminished triad, which means that the seventh note is basically three semitones higher than the flattened fifth. 

For example, in a Bdim7 or B°7 chord, the seventh note is Ab. Thus, the whole complete Bdim7 is made up of the notes, B, D, F and Ab.

Half Diminished Chords

The diminished chord or the half diminished seventh chord is a chord that is made up of four notes, which are:

  • A root note
  • A minor third
  • A diminished fifth
  • A minor seventh

The half diminished chord (also defined as M7B5 or Ø7) essentially just takes the diminished triad and adds a minor seventh interval on top of it. In other words this note is just a Major third added on top of the underlying triad. What this means is that the seventh note is actually four semitones higher than the flattened fifth. 

For example, if we take the Bdim triad (which is B, D and F) and then above the F, we add a major third note which would obviously be four semitones higher, we will end up with an A. This means that the whole B half-dim seventh or Bø7 is made up of the notes, B, D, F and A. 

Diminished Chord Progression

A diminished chord can be resolved in many ways, either to a major chord or a minor chord. In popular music however, leading a song into a vi chord is a more common use of the diminished chords. The vi chord is built on the key’s sixth scale degree. 

Final Words

We hope this helped you in learning more about diminished chords. They can be really dark and eerie sounding so it can be of good use in scary music and they’re also often kept short or used as passing chords because of them being unstable. Now practice and add a little spice to your music!

Check out some Ukulele Songs for Beginners!

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