Piano Triads: Diminished Chords

Diminished Chords: Ohhhh The Drama!

diminished chords - dramatic soundDiminished chords may not sound like those augmented chords but they do share a couple of attributes: 1) They are used as “connecting” chords more often than not 2) When played on their own, the effect they create is pretty awesome.

Back in the days of silent movies, when music played a primary role in expressing the mood of a very dramatic scene, the diminished chord would have been a composer’s best friend. Picture this: It’s dark… very dark… the anticipation of something scary coming around the corner… [diminished chord!]… it seems to be getting closer… [another diminished chord!]… the scene is getting more intense… [diminished chord!]

Haha… well, yeah, that’s kind of how it went. The diminished chord portrays intensity, for sure.

Little Things Mean A Lot

Let’s look at a super easy way to arrive at a diminished triad…

Do you remember how we constructed our minor triads? Here is that Cmin chord again:

C minor triad in root position

With just one little modification and we’ll have a diminished triad. Take a look:

C diminished triad on piano

Just one small change makes a big difference in sound!

It’s pretty clear now, right? So if we are to construct an diminished triad from scratch, we can use this simple procedure:

  1. choose a root (letter name of the chord)
  2. moving up 3 half steps to the next note of the chord
  3. moving up 3 more half steps to the final note of the chord

It’s All In How You Look At It

Since you’re becoming an expert at this, you can very likely see that you can take an alternate approach to coming up with a diminished  triad, right? If you play a minor triad in root position and simply lower that last note one half step, you have a diminished chord! However you choose to go about it, that’s great. As with all your other chords, instant recognition will soon make analyzing the structure of these chords obsolete.

Listen To Those Diminished Chords!

Go ahead an play that minor triad above… then play the diminished. What do you hear? How are they different to you? Does one sound more dramatic than the other? How would you describe that difference? Remember, whenever you are recognizing sound distinctions, your description is perfect for you. There is no such thing as being wrong. It’s a personal experience.

The Diminished Chord In Context

In this small excerpt from Till There Was You by Meredith Wilson (made so very popular by The Beatles), we can see an example of how the diminished chord is used as a “connecting” chord between a Major and a minor chord:

excerpt from Till There Was You by Meredith Wilson illustrating diminished triad

That diminished chord really adds interesting energy to a chord progression. You want to master these chords as well. Of course, you will want to practice that diminished triad on all these roots:

C   F   Bb   Eb   Ab   Db   Gb   B   E   A   D

Chord Mastery, Here You Come!

Wow, you now have enough knowledge and ability to play ALL FOUR chord quality types – Major, minor, augmented, and diminished. Furthermore, since you will be playing them on all those roots above, you will have 48 chords at your fingertips! You can play a lot of songs with those chords!

You’ve learned a lot… good for you!

Sure, there is lots more to learn when it comes to these basic triads and other chords that you will learn. Just know that you what you know up to this point will serve as a strong foundation for all to come!

Piano Chords 101 – Triads
(Video session & guidebook – instant access)

Fun video session and cuidebook for playing triads on the piano
Just $11

(access will be sent to your email address)