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Set Sail with the Diminished Sound

Have you ever heard the phrase “diminishing returns?” It’s a financial idiom that refers to a point at which the level of profit gained is less than the amount of energy you’re investing to earn it.

Basically, you’re sailing against the wind, and it would make more sense to cut your losses, stop wasting effort, turn around and sail home. Luckily, using the diminished sound is absolutely nothing like that. It gives you more, with less energy spent, and that is due to the nature of its construction.

While there are multiple facets to the diminished sound, the video lesson below focuses on a simplified version of the symmetrical diminished scale, which contains eight notes. The diminished scale that I’ll demonstrate contains only the essential four notes that make up a diminished seventh arpeggio. The reason I present the scale this way is to give you a “less is more” approach to integrating this sound into your solos.

A sound as "out there" as the diminished sound can be a tough beast to tame in the early stages of learning to improvise, so by limiting the amount of tones you have to choose from, and combining that new knowledge with a foundation with which you’re already comfortable, you’ll have more than enough tools in your arsenal to craft exceptionally diminished-sounding licks, while still remaining in or around your comfort zone.

If you’re interested in learning all aspects of the entire diminished scale, its arpeggiated inversions and various other music theory on how it interacts with different chords, take a look at my Guitar Super System course.

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.