Cameron Allen - Diminished Scale Mini Lesson

Posted Mon, Dec 1, 2014 by Levi Clay

Today we're going to dig into the world of the diminished scale and end with a lick from the incredible Cameron Allen.

Now I'm sure you've heard the term "diminished" before, you may have even played a diminished chord or arpeggio, but what is a diminished scale?

Well, the half whole diminsihed scale is a synthetic scale consisting of consecutive half and whole steps. So if we take the note C and move up a half step we're at Db, if we move up a step from there we're at D#, a half step from there is E, a step from there is F# and so on. This resultis in an 8 note scale that looks like this when played on a single string.

The intervals contained within the scale are displayed above, R b2 #2 3 b5 5 6 b7, meaning this scale fits nicely over a dominant chord (or more specifically a 13b9 chord).

It's also worth pointing out that this is a symmetrical scale that repeats every 3 notes, so C half whole diminished contains the same notes as Eb half whole, Gb half whole and A half whole. This also means that when we take any scale fingering like the one below, you can move it up in three fret chunks and you'll have the same scale.

Lastly its worth considering a horizontal shape as it's sometimes nice to be able to play a scale like this up the fretboard rather than across it too. Again, the symmetrical nature of this scale really helps turn it into something that's quick and easy to learn.

Now there's obviously a lot more to this scale than we can fit in a short lesson here and there are a multitude of applications for it and tricks to bring out the sounds it contains, so it would be well worth picking up a copy of Don Mock's wonderful book on the subject for further study, check it out here, and be sure to check out the amazing Jimmy Herring who used this scale a lot in his own playing.



Now on to Cameron's lick, check it out here


What we're given is a G half whole diminished lick starting in the 3rd fret area of the neck. It's worth noting that nothing makes the diminished scale sound stale more than just playing it straight up or down, so Cameron breaks that barier in bar one by playing a slick little idea using two notes per string which adds some ear catching jumps for the ear.

In bar 2 he shifts position by ascending an Abdim7 arpeggio which resolves to a Gmaj triad arpeggio towards the second end of the bar, nothing more than tension (Abdim7) and resolution (G), ending the 6th (E) which gives it a real funky vibe.


I hope you've enjoyed this short lesson and you're lookign forward to more installments in future where we dig deeper into the theoretical applications used by some of the greatest players in the world! 


Cameron Allen

Vigier Guitars



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