Using Diminished Seventh Chords as Passing Chords

Diminished seventh chords are one option you may consider when writing musical lines whereby the melody moves in and out of chords tones (i.e. contains passing tones in the musical line).

You should become proficient at inverting diminished seventh chords so that when you use them each musical line within the resultant voicing is smooth and not disjunct or awkward for the players in the band.

The fully diminished seventh chord works well as a passing chord between chord tones because it is functioning as a temporary V(b9)-I chord progression in the musical line.

In this video, I take the notes of a C major scale (and C6 chord) and use the diminished 7th chord to act as a passing chord all the way up the scale. This is one example of how you could voice four instruments in close position using the diminished 7th chord as the “glue” between the notes of the C6 chord.


10 Replies to “Using Diminished Seventh Chords as Passing Chords”

  1. Julian Garelli

    Hi Jim, that’s great, very practical! but… what about the parallel, chromatic, dominant and diatonic ways to approach?
    Many thanks!!!

  2. Jim Martin

    Julian: this is just one method, those others would be separate lessons each. This one comes in handy when you are writing for, say, a trumpet section in close voicing. The diminished chord actually works as a temporary V7(b9) chord and makes the voice leading very smooth when moving a line by step.

  3. Julian Garelli

    OK Jim, I understand! So, do you suggest to use this method for close position voicings more than some open?
    Thanks a lot!!!

  4. Jim Martin

    Julian, it depends on the style you are writing in. This technique works well for straight ahead, fast moving stuff when sections are written in close position or even a drop 2 sort of thing. Its just one more technique to add to your arsenal.

  5. hernan biancardi

    Hello Jim the link of the chromatic planning is redirecting me to another page that doesn’t exists, is it still avaiable?
    Thank you !

  6. Steve Mashburn

    I think a better way is to:
    1. Write the scale
    2. add C6 chords to all the chord degrees first
    3. THEN write in the dim chords

    Filling in the chord tones first (1) develops the proper mindset where the passing chord is “targeted” to its resolution, (2) allows the arranger to better determine if a passing chord is actually needed (many times beginning arrangers use too many passing dim chords – especially on slow tunes), and (3) will allow room for an analysis (when other types of passing chords are learned) as to the best passing chord for a particular passage.

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