This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the symmetrical Half-Whole Diminished Scale. Exercise. You will discover various ways to utilize and practice this iconic jazz scale. A jazz piano lesson taught by professional jazz pianist and educator Dr. Bob Lawrence.
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Every JazzPianoSkills weekly podcast episode introduces aspiring jazz pianists to essential Jazz Piano Skills. Each Podcast episode explores a specific Jazz Piano Skill in depth. Today you will discover, learn, play the symmetrical Half-Whole Diminished Scale. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
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Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Two weeks ago, two weeks ago, we had a tune Tuesday, and we studied the classic jazz standard autumn leaves. Last week was supposed to be a theory Tuesday, but I made a bold move and inserted another tune Tuesday so that we could explore a Christmas tune the week of Christmas. So we had some fun with possibly, at least I think possibly the best known and recognized Christmas tune of all time. Jingle Bells. So today, I thought we would get back on track and in the year with a bang with a theory Tuesday that will indeed test and challenge our musical IQ. Today we are going to take a look at one of the most popular symmetrical scales of all the half whole diminished scale. I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas. And of course spent precious time with family and friends. I was reminded this Christmas just how precious time and family are. My mom 90 years of age, died on Christmas Eve, which of course was difficult and very heartbreaking. She was a wonderful mom and boy that she loved music. In fact, my mom and dad both were big time music lovers. They always had music playing in the house, lots of big band music, and lots of traditional jazz. It was their love for music that actually inspired me to study and pursue music professionally. So I thought I would start this episode with a tribute to my beautiful mom. She loved singers. And she especially loved Judy Garland. One of her all time favorite tunes, which she always asked me to play was a tune written by the great Harold Arlen and put Judy Garland on the map when she performed it in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. Of course I am speaking of that gorgeous tune over the rainbow. So I would like to take a couple minutes right now and play a chorus of over the rainbow for my mom. So Mom, this one's for you. I love you. Thank you mom for everything I miss you big and always will. Okay, let's get on with theory Tuesday and the half whole diminished scale. I already mentioned that the half whole diminished scale is a symmetrical scale, which simply means it is a scale that is structured is built using a recurring set of intervals. And this recurring set of intervals is pretty easy to figure out with the half whole diminished scale because it is stated in the name half hole, which is telling us that if you want to build a half whole diminished scale, you simply move in alternating half steps and whole steps. Pretty straightforward. If you are already familiar with this scale than you probably know about its amazing versatility, for example, hidden in the half whole diminished scale. Check this out, hidden in the half whole diminished scale are for minor triads. For major triads, eight diminished triads, for minor seventh chords for dominant seventh chords and eight diminished seventh chords. Wow. That is a lot of buried shapes and sounds within one scale. In fact, I think you would find it pretty difficult to find another scale that packs that kind of punch when it comes to discovering various shapes and sounds that you can use for developing jazz improvisation or language. And it's because of this versatility. It is a commonly used scale with jazzers when improvising, especially over the dominant chord, which is the angle we are going to explore today. But before we jump into discover, learn and play the half whole diminished scale. I want to take just a second. As I always do at the beginning of every jazz piano lesson, every jazz piano skills podcast episode, to personally invite all new first time listeners and all you old timers to to join jazz piano skills. To become an active member. Simply go to jazz piano skills, calm, select a membership plan, click on the join link. And welcome to our jazz family. It's that easy. As a jazz piano skills member, you will have instant and full access to all of the educational content, all of it, the resources, all the support. All of it will be at your fingertips. It's an educational content and resources that are continually growing each and every week. So here's what you can immediately access and begin using to maximize your musical growth as a jazz piano skills member. Number one, all of the educational podcast guides, the illustrations, the lead sheets and the play alongs that accompany every jazz piano skills podcast episode every week. Number two, you have Access to the interactive courses, which make up a sequential jazz piano curriculum that utilizes a self paced format. Number three, you'll have access to the weekly jazz piano skills master classes that I host every week for one hour online. Using the zoom platform, you'll have access to join those classes every week, if you wish to do so. Number four, you will have access to the private community, the global community skills specific and course specific forums. And number five, you will have personal and professional support 24 seven, provided by me, you'll have way to access and contact me and interact with me on a daily basis. If you wish, anytime you need help, I'm here to help you. So I say this every week because it's so important and I simply cannot stress it enough. If you are serious about developing the jazz piano skills needed for you to become an accomplished jazz pianist, then you should absolutely become a jazz piano skills member. And begin taking advantage of all of the educational content, the materials, the resources and professional support. There are several membership plans to choose from, so you can definitely find one that is going to be a good fit for you. You can become a member for a month if you just simply want to try it out. There is a quarterly membership plan. There is an annual membership plan and of course there is even a lifetime membership plan. All plans will grant you full access to all of the educational content, materials, resources and professional support makes no difference which plan you choose. So check everything out at jazz piano skills.com. If you have any questions, let me know. I'm happy to spend some time with you by phone through speakpipe email. To help you determine which jazz piano skills membership plan is best for you. Alright, let's dive into theory Tuesday. let's dissect this half whole diminished scale. Today you're going to discover the symmetrical half hold the mini scale, you're going to learn how to apply the half whole diminished scale to dominant chords. And you're going to play the half whole diminished scale from various and essential perspectives. So regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner an intermediate player, an advanced player or even if you are an experienced professional, you're going to find this jazz piano skills podcast lesson, exploring the half whole diminished scale to be very beneficial. To begin, all you jazz piano skills members need to pause this episode right now. And as always take a few minutes and print the podcast guides, the illustrations and the lead sheets. Made sure your printer tray is loaded. As always, there's quite a bit of information to print. always important to have these in front of you as we go through the lesson. As I always say, a picture's worth 1000 words. And the illustrations the lead seats along with the play alongs that I produced for each jazz piano skills podcast episode are designed to illuminate various aspects of the essential jazz piano skills that we are about to explore. So take a second right now and print those guides. Okay, now that you have the podcast guides in front of you, I want to walk you through them. So let's begin with the illustrations. There are 15 keyboard illustrations in front of you that are going to help you illuminate this amazing scale from a dominant chord perspective. With each one of the keyboard illustrations I have taken the time to map out the construction of the half whole diminished scales from different perspectives. Okay, so to begin, take a look at the first three keyboard illustrations on page one. You will notice that there are three half hold the mini scales, one starting on the note C one starting on the note D flat and one starting on a note D I want to point out right away that this is it. When it comes to the half whole diminished scale. There are only three of them Because as you notice, if you start the pattern over on E flat, you're simply recreating the same half whole diminished scale that you built when starting on the notes. See, this is the first thing to wrap your mind around, that there are only three half whole diminished scales. So spend some quality time thinking, right thinking through this fact and testing this claim by redrawing these illustrations, starting from various notes, trust me a little theory gruntwork will go a long way to helping you to begin obtaining that conceptual command of a half whole diminished scale. Now, the next 11 illustrations are placed into three groups of four scales each. Let me say that again, the next 11 illustrations are placed into three groups of four, half too many scales, each. group one consists of C, E flat, F sharp and a half whole diminished scales. group two consists of D flat, E, G, and B flat, half whole diminished scales. And group three has D, F, A flat, and B half diminished, scales grouped together. These are not random groupings. These groupings illustrate the four dominant chords that share the same half whole diminished scale. Now, let me say that again to these groupings illustrate the four dominant chords that share the same half whole diminished scale. Again, spend some quality time studying these groupings. If you do, you'll notice that the half whole diminished scale generates the exact same alterations within each dominant sound. The alterations being the flat nine, the sharp nine and the sharp 11. Now that's pretty amazing. Just think about that. That's, that's pretty amazing. To help illuminate this phenomenon I used I used orange and green x's on the illustrations that you're holding the orange X's mark the upper and altered extensions of the dominant sound. Right, they illustrate the sharp, a flat nine, the sharp nine, the sharp 11 and the flat 13. The green axes, the note the primary chord tones, the root, the third, the fifth, and the seventh. So again, the orange axes mark the upper altered extensions, flat nine sharp, nine sharp 1113. The green axes denote the primary core tones, the root, third, fifth, and seventh. I have also included as always some essential study tips to help you efficiently and effectively conceptually and physically learn the half whole diminished scale. As always, I want to strongly encourage you to spend time with these illustrations. Not only at the piano but away from the piano. Definitely have them at your fingertips and within eyesight when practicing Of course, but use these illustrations as a reference to help you maintain focus and save you a ton of time and I promise you frustration when dissecting, studying and practicing the half whole diminished scale. Okay, so that's a quick run through of the illustrations. Now, let's take a look at the lead sheets. Okay, you have 15 lead sheets. The first three lead sheets musically notate each of the three half whole diminished scales. And the four dominant chords that the scale produces the remaining 12 lead sheets are devoted to each individual dominant chord and playing the half whole diminished scale from various entry points within the sound. In other words, Being able to play the half whole diminished scale launching from the root, the third, the fifth and the seventh of the dominant sound, it's crucial, it's important. You'll notice on all 15 of the lead sheets, the same structured is used not only for consistency with the musical notation, but to also present a practice plan, if you will, for you as well. All LEED seats, use for measure phrases that are intentionally built, utilizing alternating sound and silence. In measure one, you are going to ascend through the half whole diminished scale with a different entry and destination point, measure two, you're going to do what I like to call, rest and assess. Measure three, you're going to descend through the half whole diminished scale, again, utilizing a different entry and destination point. Measure for you are once again going to rest and assess which by the way, it is so important to stress that rest and assess those measures are just as important as the actual plane of the half whole diminished scale. And you might be asking why. Because this is where you actually determine what was good, what was bad, what was ugly, about what you just played. Listen very carefully. If you are not assessing the good, the bad and ugly of your plane, then you are not practicing correctly. This is a vital component of practicing. And it should always be built into the exercises that you're practicing. This is exactly why I structure all of my lead sheets to include this essential element. I'm going to model this for you today in all of the demonstrations I play. So you have an idea of how they sound and how you should approach practicing the half whole diminished scale. In fact, how you should approach practicing any scale. I strongly encourage you to have these lead seats, sitting on your piano and ready for action. And just like the illustrations, I want to encourage you to study the lead sheets away from the piano. I have said this a million times to students over the past 30 plus years, my best practicing has always been done away from the instrument. And this is where you can truly sort everything out conceptually. And then adequately and properly prepare for the physical work you're going to do once you do approach the piano. Remember, conceptual understanding drives physical development, you cannot play what you do not know. It's that simple. Study the illustrations and the lead sheets, study them. I want to also take a second to provide you with some insight regarding the play alongs that you can and of course should be using. When practicing. There are 48 play along tracks for for each dominant core that allows you to thoroughly practice the half whole diminished scale from the various entry points from the root from the third, the fifth and the seventh. The play it the play long tracks sync beautifully with the lead sheets. so important to use this tool right to use the play along tracks, not only for the development of your time, feel and articulation, which of course are dimensions of plain jazz that no teacher can teach you. You simply have to experience them and experience them a lot in order to properly develop and acquire them. But the play alongs will also help your ears recognize and internalize the altered dominant sounds the flat nine the sharp nine the sharp 11 which is another essential jazz piano skill. So all of you jazz piano skills members Listen up. You have access to these amazing educational resources all three podcast guides the illustrations, the lead sheets, the play alongs for every podcast episode Every week, of every month of every year, so use them, study them, and practice with them, they will maximize your musical and jazz growth, I guarantee it. Okay, now that we've gone through the podcast guides, and we have them in front of us, let's discover, learn and play the half whole diminished scale, I am going to focus today on the first half whole diminished scale, and use this scale exclusively in all of my demonstrations. Of course, everything I am doing with the first half whole diminished scale can and should be applied to half whole, diminished scale number two, and half whole, diminished scale number three. Remember, all of the illustrations, lead sheets and the play alongs will help you do just that. I know this is much easier said than done. And of course, as we march on today, you are more than likely going to have many questions pop up, which of course you should write. And that is precisely why I'm committed to providing all jazz piano skills members immediate personal and professional support. If you're listening to this podcast, through the jazz piano skills website, which I hope you are, you can use the extremely convenient speakpipe widget that is nestled directly beneath the podcast player to send me a voicemail message. It's that easy. It's that simple. One click, one click and the two of us are interacting and engaging with each other. Send me a voice message with your questions. And I will send you one back with answers. It's very cool technology. If you're listening on I Heart Radio, Spotify, apple, Pandora, amazon music, or any of the other popular podcast directories, you can use the link speakpipe.com jazz piano skills that URL again is speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills. And that will activate the speakpipe widget so that you can send me a quick message. And if you are a scaredy cat and by the way, there's been some scaredy cats that have you know, taken the plunge and that they're no longer scaredy cats. I'm so thrilled about that. But if you are a scaredy cat and are afraid to send me a voice message, then you can post your question in the private jazz piano skills forum and let the community help you write or if you wish you can join me I mentioned earlier that Thursday evening masterclass every Thursday evening, 8pm Central Time, join me online for an hour, right where we get to explore this episode in much more detail and address any other jazz specific questions that you may have. Right? I provide all jazz piano skills members with so many ways to get help. So definitely take advantage of the opportunities. As you know, my entire goal is to provide you with the very best jazz piano lessons, the very best jazz piano educational materials, and the very best jazz piano support that is available anywhere today. Okay, grab lead sheet number one. Let's get that in front of your lead sheet number one, this lead sheet deals exclusively with half whole diminished scale number one. On the lead sheet, you can see there are four dominant chords, C dominant, E flat, dominant, F sharp, dominant, a dominant. Notice how these chords are a minor third apart. And they themselves formulate a diminished chord. C, E flat F sharp a. Wow. What a coincidence. Now I'm saying that but tongue in cheek, right. It's amazing. Just music is fabulous. Just a side note. It's such a great puzzle, right? It's like a huge gigantic jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces just seem to kind of fit together perfectly. It's it's incredible study. Now these four dominant chords all share the same half whole diminished scale. So check this out. Here's the half whole diminished scale starting on C All right, so I'm gonna put c dominant under underneath that. When you play that, when you put your hands on that, you're gonna see that flat nine and that sharp nine, that sharp 11 jump out, right, you're gonna see it, and you're gonna see it as a C dominant chord, right, and you're gonna see it as a C dominant scale. Now, I'm gonna play that same scale starting on E flat. Alright, I'm gonna put E flat dominant underneath it. So check this out. Right now all of a sudden, it's an E flat dominant chord, and an E flat dominant scale, but it's the same scale. Right now. Now I'm going to play the same scale, starting on F sharp, and I'm going to put F sharp dominant underneath it. So again, how cool is that? So now when I'm playing that, I actually see that as F sharp dominant seven, which it is, and the scale F sharp down is seven scale. So I'm seeing that flat nine, jump out the sharp nine, that sharp 11 amazing. And then the last one on that lead sheet that you have in front of you is a seven, same scale but now starting on a and I'm applying it to a dominant again. Wow, it's amazing, same scale, four different dominant chords, and I see them in relationship to each one of those dominant chords. I see the scale and relationship to each one of those dominant chords. Now, one thing I want to mention I am using in harmonic Spelling's to try on that lead sheet I am using in harmonic Spelling's to try to best represent the chord scale relationship of the dominant chord, kind of a five one relationship, and of course, the altered sounds. So this may take some mental calisthenics. But it will be worth the effort for sure. And I guess what I'm saying to us on that lychee, it might look like the scales are different, but they're not. Right. So. So again, some mental calisthenics may be in order, but it will be worth the effort. In fact, this is very much like the classic optical illusion game, where you have one picture consisting of two different images. Remember those when we were kids, right? I love those pics, you have a picture that when you look at it one way, it's a vase. And when you look at it another way it's two faces looking at each other, or you have a picture of a frog. And you look at it another way and it's a prince. Right? Well, that is exactly what we are doing here today with the half whole diminished scale. You look at it one way and it's a C seven flat nine sharp, nine sharp 11. You look at it another way and it's an E flat seven, flat nine sharp, nine sharp 11. You look at it another way and it's an F sharp, seven, flat nine sharp, nine sharp 11 and yet another way, and it's an a seven, flat nine sharp, nine sharp 11. How cool is this? Again, it takes some mental calisthenics for you to get there, but you can definitely get there. And that is what I am going to demonstrate right now. So demonstration number one, we're going to focus on the C dominant seven flat nine sharp nine sharp 11 sound. I'm going to play the half whole diminished scale, starting on the root starting on C. ascending and descending. And you'll notice there on the lead sheet, measure one I ascend, measure to rest and assess, measure three, descend, measure for rest and assess, right. So let me bring the ensemble in. Let's listen to this. C half hold the mini scale with these beautiful altered sounds flat nine sharp nine sharp 11. Let's check it out. And then we'll talk about it. Here we go. Pretty cool, right, you can see, you can hear why this is a popular scale. With jazz musicians, it's a great sound. You also notice that I'm just playing up the scale. And down the scale. When I'm learning a jazz piano skill, I'm not trying to get fancy with this, I'm trying to digest the sound conceptually trying to digest the sound, physically, of course. And I'm trying to digest this sound orally with my ears. So I'm keeping things very simple. I'm starting on the route, I'm ascending up to the up through the seventh of this sound, and then decent, right, and then I use my rest and assess measures to really determine the good and bad and ugly of what I just played. Right, I want to sound like a jazz pianist, I want to sound like a jazz musician. I don't want this to sound like an exercise, I want this to sound very musical when I play. Even when I'm working out all the details of a jazz piano skill. I still want it to sound musical. Okay, so stay with lead sheet number one there, we're going to look at demonstration number two. Okay, now it's the E flat seven, sound, flat nine sharp, nine sharp, 11, same scale, except them starting on the route of E flat. And I'm going to use utilize the exact same process right, I'm going to ascend in measure one, rest and assess and measure to the sand and measure three, rest, and assess and measure for going to play through it several times wanting to digest this sound, conceptually, physically and orally. So let's bring out a sample and let's check it out. And we'll go from there. Here we go. Crazy, right? exact same scale, different entry point, right? Start on that E flat, and all of a sudden now it's an E flat dominant flat nine sharp nine sharp 11. Wow. How cool is that? So let's, let's do the exact same thing, right? You'll see right there on lead sheet number one, right? The very next scale, F sharp dominant seven, flat nine sharp, nine, sharp 11. kind of do the exact same thing I just did for C seven. And for E flat seven, right? For measure exercise, ascending and descending through the scale with two measures of rest and assess right I want to sound like a jazz piano. So now let's look at this half whole diminished scale from the perspective of F sharp. Okay, so here we go. Let's check it out. Again, same half whole diminished scale, different perspective, different context, different application. It's amazing. Now, the last dominant chord but this half, half whole diminished scale takes care of a seven. So now I'm going to play the exact same half whole diminished scale starting on a seven got a dominant in my left hand playing that scale using the same format, ascending and descending through the scale, ascending measure on one, restaurant, assess, measure to descending measure three, restaurant assess, measure four. Okay, let's bring the ensemble in. And let's play this half hold the mini scale from an a seven perspective. All right, here we go. Let's check it out. I mentioned earlier in the podcast that I think you would be challenged, you would find it very difficult to find another scale that packs this much punch when it comes to versatility. And when it comes to shapes, various shapes and sounds that can be utilized to develop jazz improvisation language, I think you would find that to be a very difficult task. I want to take a second right now. And just remind all of you jazz piano skills members, I want to encourage you to tap into the jazz piano skills interactive courses. If you have not done so already, please take the time to do so they are fantastic. The courses make up a sequential curriculum that uses a self paced format to help you thoroughly study the essential jazz piano skills that you need to command in order to become an accomplished jazz pianist. Each of my courses are packed with detailed instruction and illustrations, in depth educational talks, interactive learning media, traditional guides and worksheets, high definition video demonstrations of me playing the skills and all 12 keys, play along tracks, lead seats, and of course professional and personal educational support. On top of all that the courses are easily accessible through any of your smart devices, your tablet, your phone, your laptop, computer, desktop, computer, your TV and yes, even your watch. So check out jazz piano skills courses at jazz piano skills.com. If you have any questions, as always, let me know. Okay, grab lead sheet number four deals solely with C dominant seven. Okay, lead sheet number four. Now we're going to play that half whole diminished scale and have it focus just solely on the C dominant core. So we're going to explore that half whole diminished seven and a half whole diminished scale from the root from the third from the fifth and from the seventh of the C dominant chord. Okay, we're going to utilize the exact same format that we have been using where we have, we're going to ascend on measure one, or an arrest and assess on measure two. We're going to descend on measure three, and then we're going to rest and assess on measure four. Okay, same format, same structure. So here we go. Let's refresh our ears with the C dominant sound flat nine sharp nine sharp 11 launching from the root here we go. Let's check it out. Nice, pretty straightforward, right? See dominant chord starting on the root playing the half whole diminished scale up to the seventh and back down. In fact, that should be your number one objective, right now be able to play all 12 dominant chords, and apply the half whole diminished scale to each one of them from the root to the seventh, and back. Okay, so now with that in mind, let's take a look at the next step. The next step would be to do the exact same thing launching from the third. And that's exactly what I'm going to do right now I'm going to play the C dominant chord. And I'm gonna play the half whole diminished scale, right, same scale, but just now starting on the third of C seven. So I'm going to start on the node E. And again, send, rest and assess, decent rest and assess. So let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check it out, starting from the third. And this is what it sounds like, here we go. Not only do we need to be able to play the scales from different entry points in relationship to a specific dominant chord. But it's great for the ears, right? It's just great for the ears to hear this from a different entry point. And obviously, it's great technique as well. So now we're going to do the exact same thing, launching from the fifth. And again, you're going to notice it takes on a whole new sound. And technically speaking, it's a little it presents a different challenge, right? Because now we're starting from the fifth. How cool. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's see what this half hold the mini scale sounds like when we launch from the fifth of our dominant chord. Here we go. Check it out. You know, it's interesting. I'm, I've been referring to this scale as half whole diminished throughout the entire podcast and, and it is when we launch from the root, right? It is indeed. But it's interesting right when we launched from the third launch from the fifth and the seventh of the sound It actually becomes what we call a whole half diminished scale. And you'll hear people refer to it as that as well, half whole, diminished whole half diminished, right? In an application to a dominant sound, it's typically referred to a half whole diminished, because we're talking about launching from the root. But as soon as you move it to the third to the fifth or to the seventh, that set interval structure recurring structure that we talked about at the beginning of the podcast, actually turns into what we call a whole half relationship. Just a little trivia little side note there for you, right. Okay. Now, the final demonstration, the C dominant sound, launching our half whole diminished scale, or whole half diminished scale, from the seventh of C dominance. So starting on the note B flat, so let's check this out. Let's see what it sounds like to the ears. And let's see what challenges we have with technique and fingerings as well. So here we go. Let's check it out. C dominant seven flat, nine sharp, nine sharp, 11 sound using the half whole diminished scale. So here we go. Let's check it out. What a scale, what versatility, what a sound, the half whole, diminished scale. Definitely worth your time and your effort to study this scale. To study this sound to get familiar with it, and begin applying it to your dominant chords. You're going to love it. It will be time well spent in the jazz vocabulary that will flow from it will become invaluable for you. Well, I hope you have found this jazz piano skills podcast lesson, exploring the half whole diminished scale to be insightful, and of course beneficial. Just a reminder, no master class this week, Thursday is New Year's Eve. Share it with family, share it with friends, share it with loved ones. As a jazz piano skills member. Be sure to use the educational podcast guides for this podcast lesson, and the jazz piano skills courses to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant of the jazz piano skills forums, get involved. Make some new jazz piano friends. As always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 extension 211 by email Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe that handy little widget found throughout the jazz piano skills website, podcast episodes and the jazz piano skills courses. That's it for now. And until next week, enjoy the journey. Have a fabulous celebration New Year's Eve. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz