HomeBlogMastering The Fretboard: Half Diminished Chords

Mastering The Fretboard: Half Diminished Chords

In our last Mastering The Fretboard lesson we went over Dominant 7th chords and learned how to play these chords all over the neck. In case you haven’t been following this series up to date, check out Minor 7th chords, Major 7th chords, or even go back and work on triads.

This lesson we will be talking about Half Diminished chords. You may also know these chords by minor7(b5) as well.  Most often these chords are used as a ii chord in a minor ii-V-I.  Let’s take a look at these:

The formula for a Half Diminished chord:

Formula: Root-b3-b5-b7

We are going to continue to use the key of G as an example, so using this formula the notes in a Gm7(b5) would be: G-Bb-Db-F.

Let’s take a look at what a Gm7(b5) looks like notated in root position, 1st inversion, 2nd inversion and 3rd inversion:

Half diminished

My method for mastering Half Diminished chords:

As it has been for all of these lessons, my method is: play the root position voicing and both the 1st, 2nd and 3rd inversions on all possible sets of strings.

So what are the possible sets of strings? The first set is E (low)-A-D-G. The second set is A-D-G-B. The third set is D-G-B-E (high).

Let’s see what this looks like on the first set of strings:

Gm7b5 EADG

Of course, notice the similarities to the minor 7th chord voicings. Essentially the only difference is the b5 (Db), so if you know your minor 7th voicings already this can be a helpful way to think about them.  Let’s look at the next set of strings:

Gm7b5 ADGB

If you’ve been playing jazz for a while you’ll probably recognize the root position voicing. It’s a pretty typical minor7(b5) stock voicing.

Let’s look at the last set of strings:

Gm7b5 DGBE

How to practice these:

  • Practice the shapes on each set of strings slowly and make sure you can play them forwards and backwards.
  • Once you feel comfortable with one set of strings move onto the next.
  • Repetition is key and be able to play all sets of strings consecutively forwards and backwards.
  • Ultimately, if you want to master these Half Diminished chords you need to take them through all 12 keys. That is a huge undertaking, but if you take the time to do it you will really be opening up your knowledge of the fretboard!

In the next lesson we’ll move on and talk about Diminished 7 Chords. Watch the blog often!

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstrahttp://www.brentvaartstra.com
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for learnjazzstandards.com which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."

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