Concepts For Playing "Outside": Part 2

In my last column we played some "outside" licks with the whole tone scale, this time around we will use the diminished scale.

Just like the whole tone scale, the diminished scale is a symmetrical scale. Each half step is followed by a whole step, each whole step is followed by a half step, so we have half steps and whole steps alternately. (1/2 1 1/2 1 1/2 1...)

The diminished scale in G is:

G Ab Bb B C# D E F

It consists of 8 intervals so we have to use one tone twice (B Bb). For comparison the major scale consists of 7 notes and the whole tone scale has just 6 notes. The result is an unusual sound.

Let's check out the patterns and the sound of this scale. As with the whole tone scale we have a short form and a long form:


The intervals for the diminished scale are:

1 b2 b3 3 #4 5 6 b7

As you can see we have a minor as well as a major third and a sharp fourth. Compared to the Mixolydian scale we would have the "outside" notes #4, b9 and #9. This intervallic structure makes the diminished scale perfect for playing over dom7 chords as well as dom7#11 (octave of #4) and dom7b9 (octave of b2) or #9 (enharmonic octave of b3).

A short review: The wholetone scale is great for dom7b5 and #5 (dom7 with altered fifth).
The diminished scale works best over dom7b9 and #9 (dom7 with altered ninth).
Both work over dom7 chords to play "outside".

Try to get used to the patterns and the sound of this scale by practicing these two exercises before we put it to use over chords in the next column in August. These exercises are also well suited for improving your (right and left hand) synchronization, alternate picking and speed and use the long form pattern so you have to shift positions quite often.

Since I'm a big fan of Al di Meola and he uses this scale a lot, I simply had to play these licks on my Ovation acoustic guitar. Of course they are fantastic distorted shred runs as well but practicing on acoustic guitar will strenghten your hands and improve your picking technique more than practicing them on electric guitar!


MP3 - Lick 1 - Slow
MP3 - Lick 1 - Fast

Lick 2 is in sixteenth notes and uses a longer sequence.


MP3 - Lick 2 - Slow
MP3 - Lick 2 - Fast

Lick 2 can also be played legato style by picking only when changing strings and hammering on/pulling off the rest. That's it for now. Feel free to contact me via email with any questions or comments. Please check out the soundfiles of my two solo CDs and my web site.

Martin Behr is a guitarist from Germany who has studied at M.G.I. (Munich's Guitar Institute), released two solo CDs, and stays busy with studio sessions.

His latest CD is entitled "Law Of The Jungle", which documents his command of many musical styles, his great technique, his tone and feel.

Martin Behr