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Let's discover, learn, and play Half Diminished Arpeggios. It's a reality that arpeggio study and practice is rarely discussed and explored for half-diminished sounds (chords). I'm not sure why this is the case but surmise that because of its rare occurrence in music, when compared to the major, dominant, and minor sounds, the half-diminished sound is merely overlooked. The neglect of the half-diminished sound is unfortunate because it is gorgeous - especially when expressed from the root through the 13th. So, today we resist the temptation to overlook the half-diminished sound and instead set out to discover, learn, and play Half Diminished Arpeggios from the root to the 13th.
Half Diminished Arpeggios
Let's discover Half Diminished Arpeggios. As with any musical sound we need to understand its origin in order to determine an appropriate scale and arpeggio; the half diminished sound originates from the major scale. When arranging the notes of any major scale into modes we discover the half diminished scale in the 7th mode. Let's take a look at the Eb major scale and its modes:
Mode VII gives us the notes D F Ab C which is the D half diminished sound (chord). We know this because of our understanding of interval relationships, especially the 3rd, that formulates the all the harmonic structures/sounds of music. Knowing a major 3rd equals four half steps and a minor third equals three half steps, we discover the following combinations when exploring the modes of a major scale:
DO NOT PANIC! Modes and interval study is a ton of math to sort out which I present in this blog only as a way of illustrating the legitimacy of determining the origins of a musical sound like the half diminished. You do not need to fully grasp this theory at this point to learn Half Diminished Arpeggios.
Half Diminished Arpeggios
Let's learn Half Diminished Arpeggios. Today we're going use the D Half Diminished Arpeggios to learn how to approach and explore the half diminished sound. As illustrated above, the D half diminished sound comes from the Eb major scale. So, let's begin by formatting the seventh mode of the Eb major scale as an arpeggio:
Now that we have our D half diminished sound in an arpeggio format starting on root (D) and going to the 13th (Bb), we can establish four "D" Half Diminished Arpeggios with each having a different destination point:
Using this approach is not only great for your technique development, it is phenomenal ear-training. Here are what the "D" Half Diminished Arpeggios look like using traditional music notation:
Now that you now have an organized way to learn Half Diminished Arpeggios, it's "paper-practice" time. Create the above illustrations for each half diminished sound (C, F, Bb, Eb, etc.). The more "paper practice" the better when you're trying to learn a jazz piano skill.
Half Diminished Arpeggios
Let's play Half Diminished Arpeggios. In my video below I demonstrate how to play "D" Half Diminished Arpeggios by placing them into a musical context. In the video I play at a tempo of 110; however, I can not stress enough of how important it is to play a tempo that allows you to comfortably perform each of the Half Diminished Arpeggios. After you have a command of the notes, fingerings, and articulations you can begin to challenge yourself with faster tempos.
Once you play the Half Diminished Arpeggios for "D", put a plan in place to play the Half Diminished Arpeggios for the remaining eleven keys. I strongly recommend using an app like iRealPro or software like Band In a Box to help you play Half DIminished Arpeggios and all jazz piano skills.
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I am a professional jazz pianist and music educator residing in Dallas. I founded The Dallas School of Music and currently serve as President. Likewise, I am the creator and developer of JazzPianoSkills.com.
Location (Dallas, TX)