Half Diminished, Four Chords In One. Welcome to the 5th installment of the series “Exploring Chords”. Today I dive into another type of seventh chord, the Half Diminished chord. This is an interesting type of chord, because it is really four chords in one.
As you dive deeper into functional music theory, you notice that chords are more versatile than they originally seem.
By looking at any chord type over different root notes, you can create many different variations.
For instance, if you take a major triad and put it over the relative minor root note you get a minor 7 chord. Another example is to take a minor triad and to put it over the note that is a minor third lower. That would make a half diminished chord.
Thinking in this way opens up a lot more options to you in rhythm and chordal playing. I approached this lesson in that way, looking at the four different chord types you can derive from the half diminished chord.
Here is the idea of the half diminished being four chords in one.
Take any half diminished chord. In this lesson I use E half diminished, or Emin7(b5). These are two ways of naming the same chord. Below are the three other chords you can derive from this.
- If you take any voicing of this and put it over a G, the note a minor third up from E, you get a Gmin6 chord.
- Put the same chord over F#, the note a whole step above E, you get an F#7alt. This is also known as F#7(#5,b9).
- Finally if you put it over a C, the note a minor 6th above E or major 3rd down, you get a C9.
In this practice workout we cover all of these. The exercise will teach you how to go through the inversions of this chord, connecting each with a melody note. This makes it sound better and is easier to learn.
Here is a song for you to check out. “Sex Machine” by James Brown. This song is a perfect playground for this concept. The guitar part here is an Eb9 chord, and you can hear the top note of the part moves up and down by a whole step.
Try playing along to that song, using the half diminished chord from the 3rd of Eb. In this case you’d play a G half diminished chord to get the sound of the Eb9.
Once you get comfortable with the exercise from today’s lesson you can move around the inversions over this song. The song doesn’t change chords so just play around! Any of the inversions of G half diminished will work!