I had a fascinating guitar lesson last night. Tony Guitar began to uncover for me the remarkable depth of the diminished scale.
My mind was blown.
The diminished scale is a weird conglomerate of four major triads and their minors. It’s pretty much like Super Smash Brothers for music. You’ve got the musical equivalent of Link, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, and Mario all fighting on screen ALONGSIDE their respective enemies. All eight characters fighting for dominance in this chaotic mess that smells diminished. All the while hammers, banana peels, and poke balls fall from the sky with a pattern that continuously repeats itself every three half steps.
Tony told a story. He was walking through the halls of Wesleyan where he teaches and he heard a girl totally owning a piano piece in one of the practice rooms. I don’t recall the piece that Tony referenced, but apparently it has an aggressive progression of these major and minor characters. As this girl pounded through the series, Tony popped his head into the practice room.
Tony: “That sounds great! do you know what you’re playing?”
Girl: “Yes it’s [something or other] by [so and so]”
Tony: “Yes, but did you know that’s all from a single scale?”
So Tony showed her the diminished scale and pointed out that the last eight measures of music she’d played all come from a single diminished scale. The girl was awestruck.
Later, her piano teacher stopped into Tony’s office: “Tony… did you musically molest my student?”