In this issue’s video tutorial on the cover CD I discuss an invaluable tool for every shred/metal player’s arsenal – the diminished seventh (dim7) arpeggio. I don’t want to bore you too much with the theory here, so check out the video for a more in-depth theoretical explanation.  For now, all you really need to know is that on the guitar the notes of a dim7 arpeggio are all three frets apart from one another and that the formula is 1-b3-b5-bb7 (lower the fifth of a minor triad and add a double flat seven.)


Here are three common fingerings for dim7 arpeggios - on one string, three strings and six strings. The main point to note is that because of their symmetrical nature, to play any dim7 fingering across the neck in different positions (or inversions) you simply have to move that fingering up or down three frets at a time.

Hear Exercise 1


When using diminished arpeggios to solo, I tend to break it down into two types. The first would be the more traditional or ‘classical’ way. This is where the arpeggio is used over the V7 chord in a minor key. This works because the dim7 arpeggio functions as a substitute for the V chord. The key to using them like this is to start (or include) the note one fret below the root. Exercise 2 is a typical Yngwie Malmsteen style lick where the arpeggio ascends in different inversions using sweep picking over an E7 chord (the V7 in Amin), before resolving to the root note in Amin.

Hear Exercise 2


The abundance of atonality and chromaticism in many metal riffs means that you can also experiment with using dim7 arpeggios by starting on the root note of whatever key you’re in. For example, if the overall tonality is E, use E dim7 arpeggios and inversions. This can create quite an eerie and evil sound. The trick to using them this way is to surround your diminished licks with safer scales and chord tones. In this way, exercise three starts with a simple minor pentatonic lick, runs through a diminished phrase using fingering 1c, then resolves with another minor pentatonic lick. Alex Skolnick from the thrash band Testament commonly uses phrases like this.

Hear Exercise 3


Dim7 arpeggios are also a great tool for writing metal riffs. Exercise 4 is a simple riff mixing E power chords with diminished shapes. The point of the riff is to show you that even though it’s not correct in traditional music theory to do so, it sounds pretty cool to use diminished arpeggios chromatically (moving the diminished pattern up or down one fret at a time.) The result is a pretty sick sound that’s common in extreme metal.  If you listen to this example on the CD, you will hear that I also added a second guitar harmony part. Harmonizing dim7 arpeggios is easy – just play the exact same thing three frets up or three frets down.

Hear Exercise 4


Let’s finish off with a hyper-sonic shred lick where the notes of the dim7 arpeggio are arranged into a three note-per-string grouping. This necessitates a string skip and requires a very large stretch (use your first, second and fourth fingers.) Strict alternate picking (down, up, down up) is the way to go here. Start off slowly and don’t let the five notes-per-beat grouping confuse you – at speed you’re really just trying to play as fast as you can and squeezing the extra note in won’t be too hard.

Hear Exercise 5