Diminished arpeggios can be used by guitarists in any style of music, but they are particularly popular among jazz and metal guitarists.
In this lesson we show you how to play diminished arpeggios. We have also provided example diminished licks in jazz and metal styles. By playing these you’ll be able to hear how the arpeggios sound in a musical setting.
Diminished Arpeggios And Diminished Licks
Diminished arpeggios have a very recognizable sound; once you know what to look out for, you will hear them everywhere. Get to know the sound by playing the arpeggio shapes in the diagrams below.
Once you are familiar with the shapes, try playing the example diminished arpeggio licks provided.
Don’t worry if all the theory goes over your head; just try out the TABs and get a feel for playing the arpeggio shapes and how they sound!
Diminished Arpeggios Shapes For Guitar TAB & Notation
Here are three common ways of playing diminished arpeggios:
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Diminished Arpeggio Theory (Skip This Bit If You Want To Get To The TABs!)
Diminished arpeggios have a number of interesting features:
Each note in a diminished arpeggio is a minor 3rd (3 half-steps) away from the next.
An important thing to remember about diminished arpeggios is that any note in the arpeggio can be a root note.
For example, an E diminished seventh arpeggio contains the notes E, G, B flat and D flat. These are the same notes as those in a G diminished arpeggio, a B flat diminished arpeggio and a D flat diminished arpeggio.
This means that there are really only three diminished arpeggios:
- C diminished seventh arpeggio (the same as E flat, G flat and A)
- C sharp diminished seventh arpeggio (the same as E, G and B flat)
- D diminished seventh arpeggio (the same as F, A flat and B)
Diminished arpeggios are common in classical music. Because of their characteristic sound, they are often used to create special musical effects. They have an ‘expectant’ quality that makes the listener ‘lean forward’ to hear what’s coming next.
Diminished Licks TAB
The example licks below demonstrate how diminished arpeggios can be incorporated into phrases formed from other scales. See if you can recognize the diminished parts!
Diminished Licks In Metal
Diminished licks are often used in metal, most often when a ‘classical’ sound is required. They work very well in minor keys, with the starting note of the arpeggio being a semitone down from the I chord (e.g. play a D# diminished arpeggio if you are in the key of E minor).
Try playing the following licks with a heavily-distorted guitar tone:
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Diminished Licks In Jazz
Diminished arpeggios are also widely used in jazz music. They are most often played over dominant chords. The arpeggio should start a half step (semitone) above the root note of the dominant chord (i.e. play an A flat diminished arpeggio over a G7 chord).
Try playing the licks below to get an idea of how it sounds (use a loose, swing rhythm rather than playing straight quavers):
Using Diminished Arpeggios
Now you have learned the diminished arpeggio shapes, experiment with creating your own diminished licks. Remember which arpeggios to use: if you are in a minor key, the diminished arpeggio starting a half step below the root note usually sounds good. If you are playing over a dominant chord in a major key, the diminished arpeggio starting a half step above the dominant chord can sound good.