How to Improvise on Half Diminished Chords

Welcome to my lesson on m7b5 chords. First of all, let me set the record straight. m7b5 = half diminished. Same thing, different name.

free lessonsM7b5 chords are very common in jazz. It is important you have a good understanding on how to improvise over them – and that is why I am here :)

This lesson is part of my minor ii V i lesson, which you can check out here.

Half Diminished Definition

  • A chord containing a root, b3, b5 and b7.
  • Most often functions as the ii chord in a minor key

Half Diminished Example

minor ii vi example In the key of Cminor, our ii chord is Dm7b5 or D half diminished.

Your 4 Steps for learning how to improvise

1. Play the Half-Diminished Chord

half diminished
Listen to how it sounds. Use your ears to accustom yourself to the sound of a half diminished chord. Brush up on you m7b57 chord voicings here before we continue.

2. Play the Scale

half diminished scaleYour scale of choice for any m7b5 chord is the locrian mode. Immediately check out my lesson on the locrian Mode to learn how to play this scale on the guitar.

For a more modern sound, I recommend you check out my lesson on the locrian #2 scale. This scale has a major 9th that sounds better than the b9 in a normal locrian mode. HINT for beginners: the Locrian mode of the ii chord has the SAME EXACT NOTES as the aeolian mode of your I minor chord.

For example, C minor aeolian = D locrian.

Isn’t that awesome!?

3. Play The Arpeggio

I  have a complete index of m7b5 arpeggios here for you to explore. Brush up on your arpeggios then return here when you are ready to continue.

4. Target Chord Tones

The b3 and b7 are your target notes on a m7b5 chord. The b5 is also a good note to land on. Play through your m7b5 arpeggios and the locrian mode and focus on where these important notes are. Feel their harmonic pull. Bounce off them to other color notes.

Here is a m7b5 arpeggio for you to recap on. The b5 is considered a chord tone on a m7b5 so your arpeggio notes, R b3 b5 b7 – will all sound great.


Wrapping Up

Use my ‘5 Important Steps’ to learn how to play on m7b5 chords:

  • Play the Chord – get the sound of the chord in your head.
  • Practice the Scale – locrian or locrian#2 mode.
  • Play the Arpeggio – the most important notes in a scale.
  • Target the Chord Tones – b3, b7 (and b5)
  • Start improvising! – try all of the above on a tune. Have fun!

Further Learning

Return to my minor ii V i lesson here to see how the m7b5 chord fits into context.

Thanks for stopping by, feel free to leave a comment below with any suggestions or questions.

~ Sam Blakelock |

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