Hopefully by now you all have your scales down and have been incorporating them into your solos. If so, you may have asked yourself, “How can I add something different to my solos to make them sound a little outside?” This month, we will explore some cool uses for the symmetrical diminished scale. This is an eight-note scale built in a half-step/whole-step order. The diminished scale is usually used over functioning dominant 7th chords (V-I) – B7b9 to Em7, for example – but we are going to use this scale off the root on a I minor. For example, if you’re using the Dorian scale, you can weave the symmetrical diminished scale into the fabric for a bar and resolve back to minor. Let’s look at some examples in E.
Here we have the symmetrical diminished scale laid out: 1, b2, b3, 3, b5, 5, 6, b7 or E, F, G, G#, Bb, B, C#, D. This scale is very patterned and it doesn’t sound good to me when played in order. In example 1b, we take a four-fret area and learn the notes in that position. This breaks up the scale and helps it sound more musical. Try this in other positions.
In this example, we use an E symmetrical diminished scale mixed with the E Dorian scale: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7 or E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D. Notice the C in the first bar; it is a passing tone leading to the C#. Try playing this lick over a static Em7 groove.
The cool thing about playing the symmetrical diminished scale off the root is that you can use the scale at the beginning of phrases and it sounds cool. In this example, we start off with the E symmetrical diminished and resolve into E Dorian. This scale is usually played at the end of phrases resolving to I, in a V-I progression. Try this one over an E blues.
This example begins with an eight-note sequence moving down the E symmetrical diminished scale, and then we play a 16-note triplet pattern in the last bar. Try moving this example up in minor 3rds. You’ll notice the same notes repeat; this is why it’s called the symmetrical diminished scale. Be sure to pick every note.
Well, that’s it for this month. Take some time to explore this concept more – if you have any questions feel free to email me. Check out my CDs and get more info at mikecampese.com. Thanks!