The Diminished Blues Sound

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My favorite blues phrasing tool

This is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to blues scale expansion ideas. The concept I'm going to discuss today will make your regular old blues scale sound like a screamin’ demon. I’m talking about the diminished triad which fits very nicely within the blues scale as you can see in the illustration below. Again this is your number one E-blues scales shape with a E-Diminished triad on top of it. There’s a lot of ways to finger and play this triad, I’ve chosen my favorites but you can sit down and create your own patterns if you like.

Devious wackiness

The sound of the Diminished triad is in itself very wacky to listen to. But when you apply it to the blues scale you come to emphasize the blue note Bb in the E-blues scale – and the devious 6th which in the case of E-blues is the note Db. Along with the wide intervals in the Diminished triad these notes will give you a very special sound. Here’s how these triads look when you put them on top of each one of the five Blues scale shapes:

Shape 01

Shape 02

(You can choose to play the C# on the G-string, on the B-string instead)

Shape 03

Shape 04

(In this pattern you have two of the same notes. Choose whether you'll play the A# on the B- or the E-string)

Shape 05

How to own this sound

Now before you try out today’s licks, please try out this very effective exercise. It has the power to change the way you phrase your ordinary blues scale completely! It’s very simple and it goes like this: Create the blues scale sound but use only the diminished triad to do it. In other words: learn to use only these three notes to create a solo. If you want other notes to ring you’re going to have to bend the strings to reach them.

The trick is to visualize the blues scale patterns as you play through the Diminished triad. In the beginning you might want to begin in the regular blues scale shape and then move in and out of the Diminished patterns. Then you can increase the amount of time you spend playing only the Diminished notes gradually until it becomes easy.

5 Diminished Blues Sound Examples

These licks are only examples of what's possible and I'm sure you can come up with licks a lot more interesting than this. Stay in one scale shape at a time, then get really creative. Every time you come up with a nice line, repeat it ten or twenty times. Then come up with a new line and repeat the process.