C1C | Diminished 7th and half diminished 7th chords

Diminished 7th chords

In Germany, during the eighteenth century, a literary movement came about called Sturm und Drang. (Storm and Stress.). It also touched musical developments during the same period. The aim of this movement was to bring some excitement and a descriptive element to the abstract nature of Classical absolute music. It included many diminished 7th chords.

  • Diminished 7th chords were popular when composers needed to include or describe tension in their music.
  • The diminished 7th was also included as musical accompaniment to the first black and white films at the beginning of the twentieth century. When a musical chord was needed to describe the baddie, or to create an atmosphere of tension, horror or general excitement, this was the chord used.
  • There are no inversions in a diminished 7th chord. It may appear so, but even with ENHARMONIC changes, the note remains the same.

think of B♭♭ as A

think of B♭♭ as A and D♭♭ as C

the chord simplified

Keeping to the rule of a minor 3rd between each note, notice how the chord and notes become complicated. In the final example, the Gb has turned to an F# making it easier to understand and read!

  • Beethoven came under the influence of the Sturm und Drang movement. His Sonata no.8 in C minor op.13 bears the title Grande sonate pathétique. Some say that it was Beethoven himself who gave this title to his work, others think it might have been his music publisher.
  • The work releases extreme emotion and tension and includes a myriad of diminished 7th chords throughout the slow introduction.

Diminished 7th and half diminished 7th chords

  1. The diminished 7th is a chord created from a series of min.3rd intervals. Some have described it as a tritone upon another tritone (tritone being a dim.5th interval).
  2. A half-diminished chord is similar but it has a major 3rd interval upon a diminished triad. It has been also described as a dominant 9th chord without its root.

Half diminished 7th chord. What kind of emotion does this chord create?

A semi diminished chord on E. Notice how the top note is a semitone higher

Diminished chord on E


C1C Exercises

Composition task

C1C Composition task