Diminished Chords - The OutsidersWhy do diminished chords feel like strange and creepy outsiders whenever you add them into your chord progressions. Like a pink and angry elephant in a horde of ordinary elephants.

Diminished chords simply feels out of place, and makes you anxious and confused, whenever you use them in your music. Let’s find out why! =)

Why Diminished Chords are Strange

First of all, let’s learn what a diminished chord is. Basically chords are traditionally made by stacking 3rds on top of each other. Major 3rds, and minor 3rds.

A Major chord is a major 3rd with a minor 3rd on top. A minor chord is the opposite of this, starting with a minor 3rd. But what happens if you stack two minor 3rds on top of each other? That is how you create a diminished triad. And if you add another minor 3rd on that same diminished chord, you end up with diminished 7th chord, which is a stack of 3 minor 3rds played together.

The Devil’s Interval in Diminished Chords

The main reason for the strange, anxious and creepy vibe is because when you stack 2 minor thirds to create the diminished triad, you end up with one of the intervals inside the chord being a Tritone. Also called the devil’s interval in music, because of the extreme dissonant emotion it creates.

Now if you go on and add another minor 3rd, making a diminished 7th chord, you actually have two Tritone intervals inside your chord. Which makes it the most dissonant chords you can use in music, unless you get into cluster chords and complete random intervals.

The Diatonic Chords in all 7 Modes

Now let’s have a look at all diatonic chords in all 7 modes of music, which includes the most common scales, such as the major scale and the minor scale. You can see that in every one, there is one chord that stands out, and that is the diminished chord.



Because in both the major scale and minor scale, you have 3 major chords and 3 minor chords. They simply switch place relative to the root note of they scale, meaning your key. But they also both have that pink elephant chord, a diminished chord.

If you listen to any popular music, they basically never use this chord in the chord progression. Because it is simply out of place, strange, and high tension.

However, in soundtracks for movies, video games etc. you can use this tension to your advantage. It can work great for scary music, high tension underscores etc. Or simply as a transition chord in between two more pleasing sounding chords.

So experiment a bit, by trying to add a diminished chord in a chord progression. Sometimes a pink angry elephant might be just what your music needs.


Mikael Baggström - Composer and Sound DesignerMy name is Mikael “Mike” Baggström, and I am a composer, sound designer, artist and educator.

PS. Do you want to LEVEL UP your music? – Learn How here.