Creating dinished scales over V7b9 chords

Chicago-based tenor saxophonist Greg Fishman has a system for creating diminished scales on V7b9 chords. Please do the following to help us to better understand Greg Fishman's system:

  1. List the diminished scales in all keys so that we can visualize what types of scales we are talking about.
  2. List the V7b9 chords in all keys so that we can visualize how the chords compare to the diminished scales.
  3. Give us strategies to improvise over V7b9 chords using diminished scales in all keys. Give us practical ideas to practice on a daily basis.

Greg Fishman's approach to jazz improvisation often emphasizes the use of diminished scales over V7b9 chords. This method is part of a broader strategy to enhance melodic improvisation. The diminished scale, specifically the half-whole diminished scale for V7b9 chords, alternates between half steps and whole steps, starting with a half step from the root note. This scale is symmetrical and contains eight notes, which provides a rich palette for improvisation over V7b9 chords.

Diminished Scales in All Keys

Here are the diminished scales (half-whole) starting on each note. Each scale is built by alternating half steps (H) and whole steps (W), starting with a half step from the root.

  1. C: C, Db, Eb, E, F#, G, A, Bb, C
  2. C# / Db: Db, D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb, B, Db
  3. D: D, Eb, F, F#, G#, A, B, C, D
  4. D# / Eb: Eb, E, F#, G, A, Bb, C, Db, Eb
  5. E: E, F, G, G#, A#, B, C#, D, E
  6. F: F, Gb, Ab, A, B, C, D, Eb, F
  7. F# / Gb: Gb, G, A, Bb, C, Db, E, F, Gb
  8. G: G, Ab, Bb, B, C#, D, E, F, G
  9. G# / Ab: Ab, A, B, C, D, Eb, F, Gb, Ab
  10. A: A, Bb, C, C#, D#, E, F#, G, A
  11. A# / Bb: Bb, B, C#, D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb
  12. B: B, C, D, D#, F, F#, G#, A, B

V7b9 Chords in All Keys

V7b9 chords are built on the dominant seventh chord with an added flat ninth. Here's how they appear in all keys:

  1. C7b9: C, E, G, Bb, Db
  2. C#7b9 / Db7b9: Db, F, Ab, Cb (B), D
  3. D7b9: D, F#, A, C, Eb
  4. Eb7b9: Eb, G, Bb, Db, E
  5. E7b9: E, G#, B, D, F
  6. F7b9: F, A, C, Eb, Gb
  7. F#7b9 / Gb7b9: Gb, Bb, Db, E, G
  8. G7b9: G, B, D, F, Ab
  9. Ab7b9: Ab, C, Eb, Gb, A
  10. A7b9: A, C#, E, G, Bb
  11. Bb7b9: Bb, D, F, Ab, B
  12. B7b9: B, D#, F#, A, C

Strategies for Improvisation over V7b9 Chords Using Diminished Scales

  1. Practice the Scale in Intervals: Instead of just playing the scale up and down, practice it in intervals (thirds, fourths, etc.). This helps to internalize the sound of the scale and builds technical facility.

  2. Create Sequences: Use sequences within the diminished scale to build interesting lines. Because the scale is symmetrical, patterns can be transposed up or down in minor thirds and still fit within the scale.

  3. Enclosures: Practice targeting chord tones (root, third, fifth, flat ninth) by using the surrounding scale tones. This creates tension and release, a fundamental aspect of jazz improvisation.

  4. Rhythmic Variation: Apply different rhythmic patterns to the notes of the diminished scale. Experiment with triplets, dotted rhythms, and syncopation to add interest to your lines.

  5. Combine with Arpeggios: Mix diminished scale runs with arpeggios of the V7b9 chord. This blends the color of the scale with the harmonic structure of the chord.

  6. Listen and Transcribe: Listen to how master jazz musicians use the diminished scale over V7b9 chords. Transcribe their solos to understand their approaches and vocabulary.

Daily Practice Ideas

  • Scale Practice: Spend time each day practicing the diminished scales in all keys, focusing on clean execution and even tone.
  • Improvisation Over Backing Tracks: Use backing tracks or a metronome to practice improvising over V7b9 chords in various keys.
  • Transcribe Solos: Regularly transcribe sections of solos by musicians who effectively use diminished scales.
  • Compose Licks: Write your own licks using the diminished scale over V7b9 chords. This helps to develop your personal voice.
  • Play With Others: Whenever possible, play with other musicians. Applying these concepts in a live context is invaluable for growth.

By integrating these strategies into your practice routine, you'll gain a deeper understanding and fluency in improvising over V7b9 chords using diminished scales, enhancing your overall jazz improvisation skills.

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