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Jim Hall Altered Chords – Chord Scales And Practice

After I recently posted my lessons titled “Jim Hall Diminished Voicings” and “Wes Montgomery Chord Scales” I was contacted by the great Athens, Ohio based jazz guitarist and educator John Horn with a cool chord run that mixes Wes’ chord scale approach and Jim’s diminished voicings.

Since John was kind enough to let me post the run as a lesson on my site we can now dig in and learn this great approach to comping and chord soloing over Altered Dominant Chords.

This chord run is based off of the Half-Whole Diminished Scale, so let’s begin by taking a look at this scale with all the notes on the 5th string.

This is going to be important later on because we are going to take this scale on the 5th string and build a chord on top of each of these 8 different notes to construct our Jim Hall inspired chord scale.

Have a question or comment about this lesson? Visit the Jim Hall Chord Scale thread in the MWG Forum.


Half-Whole Diminished Scale

Half Whole Diminished Scale

Now, let’s look at the Jim Hall chord voicing that inspired John to send me his chord scale.

This chord voicing, shown here on Gdim7, is constructed by taking the normal diminished chord voicing that we all know and raising the third note, here E, up a tone, in this key to F#.

By doing so we are creating a dimMaj7 chord, which is a cool sound, one that functions as any normal diminished chord that we already know, yet it gives us a new diminished sound to add to our vocabulary.

Check out the 5th string version in particular as we’re going to use it in every second voicing for the Jim Hall chord scale. If you are trying out different fingerings for this chord, I like to play the 5th string with my first finger and all the rest with my 2nd finger.


Jim Hall Diminished Chord


Jim Hall Altered Chords


Now, all we are going to do is take the Jim Hall chord voicing above and adding it the the second note in each bar of the half-whole diminished scale.

For the first note of each bar we are going to use a 7(#9) chord, with the “Jimi Hendrix voicing” that we all know from the riff to his classic track “Purple Haze.”

So we are taking two simple voicings, using them to harmonize a half-whole diminished scale, and now we have a cool sounding, Jim Hall inspired chord scale that we can use to spice up our comping, chord melodies and chord solos.

The best part about this run is that it’s based on a diminished scale, which means that you can use this particular chord scale, shown below, to play over four different chords, C7alt, Eb7alt, Gb7alt and A7alt, the four chords that come from harmonizing a Cdim7 chord. Pretty neat huh?

Now take this idea into the woodshed. It’ll add a new dimension to your altered chord playing, allowing you one more tool in your bag to navigate these common, but often tricky chords.


Jim Hall Altered Chords Scale


Jim Hall Altered Chords Scale


To check out more of John’s lessons and keep up on what he’s doing, please visit his website.

Return to the Learn from Jazz Guitar Masters Homepage.

Do you have a question or comment about Jim Hall Altered Chords? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Russell, July 27, 2011:

    At the risk of sounding foolish Matt,with respect to the Half-Whole Diminished Scale,is it safe to say that it’s the same as the Altered Dominant 7th?,I know that was the Title,but i’m asking so i can (in my minds eye)unify the two.Thanks for your patience.

  2. Russell, July 27, 2011:

    ps,please forgive me,very few Harmonic instruments(piano,Guitar),use this chord,i notice that there’s both a mIII,and a MIII,in the scale,which one is used in the chord voicing?

  3. Matt Warnock, July 27, 2011:

    Both! lol The b3 in this case is considered a #9, so you have a b9, #9 and M3rd.

    You can use any or all of those in a chord voicing. Normally on the guitar we only use one 9, so b9 or #9, since it’s tricky to grab both, but on piano that’s easier to do.

  4. Matt Warnock, July 27, 2011:

    The Altered Scale and the Half-Whole Diminished scale can both be used over a 7alt chord.

    The altered scale has a b13 note in it, while the half-whole diminished scale has all the same notes except a natural 13th, so there’s only one note difference.

    Guys usually go between the two of them, Herbie like half-whole scales for building 13(b9) chords, while guys like Martino prefer altered.

    It’s good to practice both so you can learn the difference between the two sonically and then you can use either or, or both, when soloing over alt chords.

  5. John Horne, July 27, 2011:

    Hi Matt,

    Glad you could use the idea for the blog. It’s a lot of fun to use as part of an intro or in a solo arrangement. I hope your readers find it useful.

  6. Matt Warnock, July 27, 2011:

    Thank you John for passing it my way and allowing me to share it on my site!

  7. Leandro Martins, October 11, 2011:

    Wow!!!!! Amazing sound!!!!

  8. Matt Warnock, October 13, 2011:

    For sure, glad you enjoyed the lesson!

  9. moose, March 21, 2013:


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