I recently had a request for some 3NPS diminished scale patterns of the half-whole and whole-half variety. If you’ve ever studied the 3NPS (3-note-per-string) patterns, you’ll usually find there are 7 of them to learn; however, if you look at them closely, you’ll find that 4 of these patterns are pretty much redundant as far as covering the notes on the neck goes, leaving you with 3 that are actually worth learning. You can see this in action in our free 3NPS scales book.
What are diminished scales?
Diminished scales are 8-note symmetrical scales that come in two varieties, the half-whole (aka the dominant diminished scale) and the whole-half (aka the diminished 7th scale); this simply refers to their pattern of whole and half-steps.
What are diminished scales used for?
The half-whole diminished scale can be used to create tension over a dominant 7th chord, while the whole-half diminished scale can be used over a dim7 chord. You can also use diminished scales in a blues and one the great exponents of this is Robben Ford, who has a great course on Truefire called Solo Revolution: Diminished Lines.
The half-whole diminished scale has the interval structure 1 b2 #2 3 #4 5 6 b7, though you’re better off writing it out as 1 b9 #9 3 #11 5 13 b7 so that you can match it up to the chords you know. The whole-half diminished scale contains the intervals 1 2 b3 4 b5 #5 6 7, though again you should write it out as 1 9 b3 11 b5 #5 13 7 for chord-matching purposes.
Back to the 3NPS patterns
While you decide how and where to use it, check out the 3NPS patterns for these diminished scales. What’s interesting here is that our 3 patterns are actually only 2 and repeat alternately up the fretboard.
Have fun with these, use sparingly when playing live and remember that the challenge here will be to resolve the tension created for your audience’s sake!
3NPS Half-whole Diminished Scale
3NPS Whole-Half Diminshed Scale