Herbie Hancock Half-Whole Diminished Lick

I recently wanted to expand my vocabulary for playing over altered dominant chords, specifically a Dominant 7#11 (Lydian Dominant) chord. I went straight to Cantaloupe Island as it has 4 bar sections of a Db7#11 chord, check out the lick I found on the video below at around 2:00



When you first play this lick you may notice that it is just a straight run up the C Half Whole Diminished scale, this is a scale that I usually use for a C Dominant 7b9 chord but in this case it works really well over the Db7#11, accenting the altered tones – including the #11.

Note that although a Maj 7th doesn’t usually feature over an altered dominant chord it is included in the Dominant Bebop scale so doesn’t sound too out of place, it functions as a chromatic passing tone.

Whilst this lick is actually fairly straight forward, one thing it has forced me to do is find a new position to play the H/W Diminished scale in. The lick Herbie plays is all 16ths and at around 110bpm it’s not exactly easy! The original position that I had learnt the scale in made this lick pretty tricky to pull off but after messing around with various fingerings I’ve found something which works much better for me.

As this scale is a repeating pattern of half step – whole step it actually makes it fairly easy to play on a bass or guitar! Check out the TAB below showing the original position I had for the scale and my new position.


That’s not to say the first position isn’t worth learning as that shape helps me think a bit more logically when playing over Dom7b9 chords i.e. the R 3 5 b7 are all where I expect them to be!

Below is a video of me playing this lick, the backing track I’ve made is also available for download. If you like this lesson please hit like on my video as it really helps me out! And if your not already signed up, click here to join my mailing list. You’ll receive great subscriber only content as well as access to my transcription download page.

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  1. The video lesson idea is excellent.
    Very well executed, and sounds brilliant.

    I thought about potentially doing something similar myself but for sax.

    Any advice?
    Are u using an expensive camera?


    • Hey Mike,

      Thanks for checking it out! I’m currently filming everything off my iPhone 5 and recording sound direct into Reaper. I want to upgrade my camera/mic set up this year to start giving some spoken tuition on the videos too but at the moment the iphone can’t really handle the bass so I need to keep audio and video separate. I do all my editing (which isn’t much!) in Windows Movie Maker or iMovie for iphone too, so my full rig cost me about £2.99 haha! Bass on a budget =)

      Hopefully catch you soon mate!



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