Diminished Chords on Guitar

What is a diminished chord

Diminished chords are unstable chords, they are very dissonant. They seem like they lack something, they need something. And usually that something ends up being the major chord a half step up from that diminished chord.

Diminished chords are usually written like “o” or “-” or “dim”. And they are usually used as passing chords. You don’t stay on them too long. They lead to other chords

One reason for this is that the diminished tends to be a 7 chord, and we’ll get into the theory of chord progressions later. But for now just know that, for example, a c# diminished chord would naturally want to lead into a D major chord. Or an Edim would want to go into an F major chord

There are really three different kinds of diminished chords that are commonly heard.

  • diminished triad
  • diminished 7th (fully)
  • half diminished 7th

Diminished chord formulas:

diminished triad 1 – b3 (m3) – b or O5

(basically this is playing 3 minor 3rds in a row)

half diminished 7th 1 – b3 (m3) – b or O5 – b7

(also called min7b5)

diminished 7th 1 – b3 (m3) – b or O5 – bb7

(actually a M6 interval)

Diminished Triads The min7b5 chords (half diminished) fully diminished 7th chords
A = A – C – Eb
B = B – D – F
C = C – Eb – Gb
D = D – F – Ab
E = E – G – Bb
F = F – Ab – B
G = G – Bb – Db
A = A – C – Eb – G
B = B – D – F – A
C = C – Eb – Gb – Bb
D = D – F – Ab – C
E = E – G – Bb – D
F = F – Ab – B – Eb
G = G – Bb – Db – F
A = A – C – Eb – F#
B = B – D – F – G#
C = C – Eb – Gb – A
D = D – F – Ab – B
E = E – G – Bb – C#
F = F – Ab – B – D
G = G – Bb – Db – E


Diminished Chord Charts

dim chords

Diminished chords on the fretboard (key of A)

dim chords

Check out augmented chords or 7 chords. For a great foundation in building chords. You HAVE to understand major triads. If you want a complete understanfding of how they work, which will make learning augmented and diminished chords a lot easier, get the Major Triads Mastery eBook.


    • adam says

      I think the best chord to make that sound (by itself) would be the tritone.. that’s just when you play a note and simultaneously play a sharp 4/flat 5 (on the guitar… root note and the note on the string below it a fret up)

      But of course, minor chords work too. The trick is anticipation I think. I mean look at the “Jaws” theme. There are literally only 2 notes played at a minor 2nd interval… it’s the silence between the notes that create the suspense and fear.

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