, a diminished scale
is a scale
in which the notes of the scale ascend in alternating intervalss
of a whole step
and a half step
. Because a scale constructed in such a way has eight tones (versus seven for conventional scales), it is sometimes called an eight-tone
scale (there are other possible eight-tone scales, but the diminished is by far the most common). The name diminished
comes from the fact that the first, third, fifth, and seventh notes of a diminished scale for a key form the diminished chord
for that key.
Because of the half-whole symmetry, there are only three distinct diminished scales, and a given diminished scale has only two modes (one beginning its ascent with a whole step between its first two notes, while the other begins its ascent with a half step or semitone).
Each of the three distinct scales can form differently-named scales with the same sequence of tones by starting at a different point in the scale. With alternate starting points listed in parentheses, the three are:
- D♭ diminished (E, G, B♭ diminished): D♭, E♭, E, F#, G, A, B♭, C, D♭
- D diminished (F, A♭, B diminished): D, E, F, G, A♭, B♭, B, C#, D
- E♭ diminished (G♭, A, C diminished): E♭, F, F#, G#, A, B, C, D, E♭
(Note: the flat
symbol "♭" may not display properly on some browsers.)
The diminished scale may first have been used by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and was extensively used by his student Igor Stravinsky, particularly in his famous piece The Rite of Spring.