What is an augmented chord?
- Augmented chords are unstable, or tense sounding chords.
- They are typically written as “+” or “aug”.
- They are usually used as a passing chord between to other chords because of the tension in their sound.
- They also tend to be led by that sharp 5th to the next half step up.
The augmented chord formula is: 1-3-#5 (or +5)
This is 1 note different than playing a major triad (which is just a major chord)
Aaron Tomberlin has a GREAT explanation on how to play augmented chords. If you haven’t already, check him out at www.aarontomberlin.com
When to use the Augmented Chord?
The simplest answer to this is… “sparingly.” Not because it doesn’t sound good but because it’s a tension chord. To my ears, the augmented chord really wants to go either directly to the 1 chord or get their shortly.
The reason for this is called chord leading.
Here’s another useful video that GuitarSoling, Tony Asia (I think) put up that shows a little more of the theory and application of the augmented chord.
- Let’s take a D augmented chord. D (1) – F# (3) – A# (#5)
- Now let’s take a G major chord. G (1) – B (3) – D (5)
- Now here’s a little fact in chord theory… if you build a chord on every note of a major scale (7 chords in all)… 2 of those chords in particular really want to get back to the root chord (the chord built on the 1st note of the major scale)
- Those 2 chords are the 5 chord (the chord built on the 5th note of the major scale) and the 7 chord. If you want to know more about that check out my lesson on chord harmonization
- Now why is that? well because of physics and stuff that’s too complicated for me to understand, the 5th note and the 7th note just want to resolve to the 1 note.
- So let’s compare the D augmented triad and the G major triads
- All the notes of the D augmented triad are leading notes to the G major
- the D is the 5th of G so it naturally want to go to G
- the F# is the 7th of G so it naturally wants to go to G
- and the A# is the 7th of B so it really wants to land on B
- ALL the notes want to move to their landing notes in G
- This pretty much works for all Aug chords… the 5th aug resolves to the 1 major chord …
|The augmented 5th resolves to the 1|
|C° (5th of F)||F|
Augmented Chord Notes
- A = A – C# – E#
- B = B – D# – F##
- C = C – E – G#
- D = D – F# – A#
- E = E – G# – B#
- F = F – A – C#
- G = G – B – D#
The charts below are a LOT to remember. It’s better to really understand the concept of chord formation instead of just memorizing a bunch of charts. If you really want to master chords, start with the Mastery Trio Suite. It includes all you need to know to master chord positions on the fretboard and the major scale.