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How To Construct A Diminished Chord In Less Than 10 Minutes

Although not as common as major and minor chords, diminished chords are equally as important to understand.  Learning how to build diminished chords is a crucial skill for musicians in all genres, and you can learn how to do it in just a few minutes.

Learning how to build diminished chords for the first time can be intimidating for the beginning musician.  Diminished chords aren’t used nearly as much as major or minor chords, as they produce a harsh and unsettling sound when they are used.  But the process of building these types of chords doesn’t have to be harsh or unsettling.  I have boiled down the basics of diminished chords so that you can learn how to build them in less than 10 minutes. 

Just like major and minor chords, all diminished chords are made up of 3 notes.  The lowest note is called the root, the middle note is called the third, and the highest note is called the fifth.  While the notes will change depending on which note you start on, the distance between the notes will never change.  The first step in building a diminished chord is to select a starting note, or root.  Once you have picked your root note, follow this formula to figure out the other two notes... 

(Root)  ---- 3 half steps up-->  (Third)  ---- 3 half steps up ----> (Fifth) 

For this exercise, I’ll pick the root note as D.  Starting on the note D, and count up 3 half steps:  One (Eb), two (E), and three (F).  I landed on F, which make that the middle note in the chord, or the third.  Next, I would start on the third (which I just calculated to be F) and count up 3 half steps:  One (F#), two (G), and three (Ab).  The last note in the chord, or fifth, is calculated as Ab. 

The three notes I ended up with are D, F, and Ab.  I would call this a D diminished chord because all diminished chords are named after the root note they start on.  If you were to play the notes D, F, and Ab at the same time, and you will sound a D diminished chord. 

The easy part about figuring out any diminished chord is that no matter which note you decide to start on, the formula will never change.  Once you figure out one of themFeature Articles, the rest come easy by sticking to the formula.

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Kyle Morrison Lovely is the author of “Music Theory For The Modern Rockin’ Metalhead: Write Better Songs, Right Now!”  More information can be found at

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