Locrian Chords & Alternative Scales or: The Old Man And The Dog


Locrian Chords

“What the hell else can I do with a Minor 7 flat 5 chord? Locrian Mode? Ok, that sounds weird, I’ll maybe stick to chord tones…”

Sound familiar?

Let’s start here with this D-7b5 chord with a natural 13th on the top that I really like.

It’s a great chord for making you poor, and confusing the old man and the dog ;)

You know, like the old joke:

What’s the difference between a rock musician and a jazz musician?

A rock musician plays 3 chords for a million people, and a jazz musician plays a million chords for 3 people.


This here chord is from the C Harmonic Minor scale, it’s like a *super bright* version of the II chord in a minor key. I find it really useful in something more modal like Joe Henderson’s tune ‘Inner Urge’, for example, where you’ve got F#-7b5 for four bars.

Using this structure (on the 9th fret), or even just that natural 13th on that sound is an interesting alternative colour to use.

More Options

Another way to explore the different colours available on a given chord type is to take the essence of the chord: (in this case) m7b5 = 1 b3 b5 b7, and then go through some of the other options for the remaining degrees of a scale: the 2nd, 4th and 6th.

So we have:

  • b2 or 2
  • You could have a b4, but I think that moves the sound more into dominant territory, so we’ll ignore that. No #4 as that’s just the same note as the b5th.
  • b6 or 6

That gives you these scale possibilities:

(b2, b6) – 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 – Locrian (parent scale: Major Scale)
(b2,  6) – 1 b2 b3 4 b5  6 b7 – Locrian Nat. 6 (parent scale: Harmonic Minor Scale)
( 2, b6) – 1  2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 – Locrian Nat. 2 (parent scale: Melodic Minor Scale)
( 2,  6) – 1  2 b3 4 b5  6 b7 – Dorian b5 (parent scale: Harmonic Major Scale)

There are, of course, other scales you could use, but these are some sounds to have a go at for now.


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Finally, I’ll leave you with Joe Henderson playing Inner Urge. Check this out and see if you can figure out how he’s approaching that F#m7b5 chord..

Comments on Locrian Chords & Alternative Scales or: The Old Man And The Dog

  1. Mike Outram says:

    It’s a joke. Sort of. The more you know, the poorer you get. It’s like that joke: What’s the difference between a rock guitarist and a jazz guitarist? A rock guitarist plays three chords for a million people…

  2. Katherine Tomkins says:

    This one is too cryptic – why would it make you poor?
    You have to spend a lot on it? :)

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