How To Improvise Over Half Diminished Chords

This lesson will discuss how to improvise over half diminished chords.

  • A half diminished chort is a minor 7th chord with a flat 5th instead of natural 5th.

  • Here are the notes in a half diminished seventh chord: 1-b3-b5-b7. Example: B-D-F-A = B half diminished chord.

  • Half diminished chords can be notated as such: bmin7b5, b-b5, or bø.

1. Using the Locrian mode is the most popular scale to use over a half diminished chord. Over a bmin7b5 use the B Locrian Mode(B C D E F G A B).  Here are the diagrams for the different locations to play the B Locrian mode: *Note that you can relate these to C major because B Locrian is the 7th degree of C.

Half diminished chord

2. The most important step is learning the arpeggio shapes. Here are the diagrams for the 5 shapes of Bmin7b5 on the fretboard: 

Half Diminished Chord Arpeggios

3.  Use the diminished scale. The diminished scale provides more altered tones over a minor 7 b5 chord. The diminished scale provides a useful trick when improvising over a minor ii-V-i progression. For Example, if you take a D minor b5 - G7b9 - C minor 7 progression, you can use the Ab, B , or D diminished scale over the D minor as well as the G7 chord. The diminished scale works because it contains altered tones that work over a half diminished chord, and it is commonly used over altered dominant chords for a b9, #9, and b5 sound.

Miscellaneous Methods

  • The Locrian b2 (6th mode of the melodic minor) may also be used. (A-B-C-D-Eb-F-G-A-B).

  • The harmonic minor scale can also be used. When playing a bmin7b5 use the A minor harmonic minor scale(A B C D E F G# A).

  • Use a minor pentatonic scale with a flat 5th. When playing over a bmin7b5 use a B minor pentatonic scale with a flat 5th. You can also think of this as a blues scale but without the natural 5th.