Chromatic Couplets: Another Way of Unlocking Diminished and Augmented Scales

Have you had enough of the augmented scale yet? Hungry to get back to something nice and basic–a good, old-fashioned diminished scale, for instance?

How about the best of both worlds. The two exercises shown here (click image to enlarge) take you through two sets of chromatic couplets, each beginning with the note A. However, the first exercise is built on a diminished scale while the second is based on an augmented scale.

While both scales are symmetrical scales, which implies ambiguity of tonal centers, let’s for the sake of convenience call the topmost scale a Bb whole-half diminished scale, and the bottom scale a Bb augmented scale. A quick glance will tell you that both exercises start on the leading tone of the scale, which also corresponds to an altered dominant chord that the scale works well with.

I love the ethereal, rather mystical sound of  chromatic couplets used in this fashion. The first half of each exercise emphasizes chordal structure; the second half, without adding any extra pitches, creates a more linear feel.

Remember, because each scale is symmetrical, it functions equally well with more than just one chord of the same quality. The first pattern, built on the diminished scale, will not only work with an A7b9, but also with C7b9, Eb7b9, and F#7b9. The second pattern is a good choice for A+7#9, C#+7#9, and F+7#9.

And with that, it’s time for me to wrap up this post and go practice what I’m preaching. For more exercises and articles of interest to jazz and improvising musicians, visit my jazz page.

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