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Diminished 7th chord   You are logged in as Guest
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Posts: 14409
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

Diminished 7th chord 

I was searching for something else and came upon this old thread. The question was quite a good one from the OP about why the name for a the chord was such, it seemed to defy a logic he was trying to grasp about nomenclature:

I never pipped in as I was dealing with a house fire at the time. The answers were all correct but frustrating to the OP and I am not so sure it was ever made clear enough. The problem has to do with spelling chords and discipline of learning. Most of the guys answering seem to have had some sort of jazz type theory...hence the descriptions of Am7b5, half diminished 7, fully diminished 7, and spelling ACEbGb.....

Here is the thing. In jazz theory the clean slate starting point of scales and chords is the Ionian or major scale, described as 1234567. The info about WWHWWWH steps is built in to the description. So the concept of sharpening (#) or flattening (b) any of the 7 notes implies your modes and chords. Ironic the jazz discipline wants to use # and b notes relative to “1” yet ignores key signatures and tonal harmony concepts of classical theory. But it is what it is and works for everybody involved.

Until problems arise such as the OP in the locked thread above. He is totally correct that “diminished” as a word refers to the 5th, yet they don’t use the word “diminished” or shortened “dim” to specifically differentiate the 7th degree of the chord. (He wanted to see Adim.dim7, where as Am7b5 should be simply Adim7). But everybody that knows their chord charts and stuff jump to the rescue “no! that is half diminished” etc. One guy says the diminished 7th interval is actually a maj6 and then spelling errors occur. The closest to informed answer shows that the maj7th to A root is G#, minor 7th is G natural, and diminished 7th is Gb (NOT F#). Of course a simple answer to the OP is simply that chord chart symbols are not meant to be perfectly accurate descriptions of theory going on, but rather, short hand for SIGHT READING quickly on a gig without much deep thought involved.

But none of that clears up the real confusion about the chords themselves. It starts with the numerical description.

1 b3 b5 b7....If A is 1 then this chord is a legit chord Am7b5 or A half diminished...and the short hand symbol is A with a little circle with a slash through it. It exists legitimately as the 7th degree of a major scale (Bb), or the 2nd degree of a minor scale (Gm). No problem. But fully diminished has a BIG problem.
1 b3 b5 bb7....this double flat interval looks fun on paper but is a “theoretical” doesn’t really legitimately exist if you understand the basic circle of 5ths and all it implies. So where does it “legitimately” come from?

Well, it comes from one place only...the harmonic minor scale. When we RAISE the 7th we alter the natural scale and create a situation where a basic dominant 7th chord (Ab7 in the Bb natural minor scale) has a RAISED ROOT (Ab->A natural). This concept (altering scale degree 1) in the jazz discipline is a bizarre no-no...but if you could see it correctly the concept becomes more simple and clear.

#1 3 5 b7....that is what is actually going on with the fully diminished 7th, but you never see it described that way. But in a simplistic tonal view of changing notes in your scale, it is suddenly not a big deal IMO. So there is no bb7, it is simply the result of #1->b7 creating the “diminished” concept of the 7th. And of course when you understand the circle of 5ths we see that the dim7th chord is the result of borrowing the Dominant function to legitimize a minor key tonic.

So whenever you “borrow” a diminished7 chord to tonicize some chord, you need to spell it correctly to understand it’s function....and 1 b3 b5 bb7 is NOT a correct spelling in any context. It is built ALWAYS on a raised 7th degree of a minor scale, simple and straightforward.


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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 4 2021 20:20:45

Posts: 891
Joined: Oct. 29 2010

RE: Diminished 7th chord (in reply to Ricardo

Wow what a throwback thread. Back when McGuire was dropping priceless knowledge rants, before that fresno dude came in and started throwing shade, disappearing after he got Jason banned.
Back when I thought flamenco was cool before I realized it's a thing only gypsies and social outcasts are into.

Thanks for the memories Ricardo. It's funny I was just thinking of that guy "rogeliocan". I never forgot him since his name reminds me of "pelican".

I do hope that dude Elie ended up learning some names of chords.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Mar. 5 2021 4:28:56
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