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Augmented Piano Chords: What They Are & How To Use Them
Augmented Piano Chords: What They Are & How To Use Them by Duane Shinn
Augmented chords are to a piece of music like pepper is to a meal; you would never sit down to a meal of pepper alone, but you might sprinkle a little on your food to liven up the taste a bit.
Augmented triads (triads are 3-note chords) are one of the 4 basic chord types, yet they are used very little compared to major and minor chords.
There are four basic kinds of triads in music:
Major triads: composed of the root, major 3rd, and perfect 5th of a major scale.
Minor triads: composed of the root, minor 3rd, and perfect 5th of a major scale.
Diminished triads: composed of the root, minor 3rd, and diminished 5th of a major scale.
Augmented triads: composed of the root, major 3rd, and augmented 5th of a major scale.
As an example, the C major scale is:
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
So a C major triad would be:
C, E, G
A minor triad would be:
C, Eb, G
A diminished triad would be:
C, Eb, Gb
An augmented triad would be:
C, E, G#
Most of the songs we know or hear on the radio or TV (or on our IPOD’s or other MP3 player) are written in a major key. That means that most of the chords in those songs are major chords – only 20% or so are minor chords.
The other 10% of songs and musical compositions are written in a minor key, which means that there will be several minor chords within the context of the piece.
So if nearly 100% of all songs contain major and minor chords, what place is there for diminished and augmented triads?
They are the salt and pepper of a musical meal.
In other words, major chords are like the main dish – the steak, if you will, of a song. Minor chords are like a side dish of corn or broccoli (yuk!) or whatever.
You would never sit down to a meal of just pepper or just salt, would you? Same way here; you use diminished and augmented triads to add spice to your meat and potatoes. We covered diminished triads in an earlier article, so this time we will focus on augmented triads.
Here are the 12 augmented triads:
C aug: C, E, G#
F aug: F, A, C#
G aug: G, B, D#
D aug: D, F#, A#
E aug: E, G#, B# (enharmonic with C)
A aug: A, C#, E# (enharmonic with F)
Db aug: Db, F, A
Eb aug: Eb, G, B
Ab aug: Ab, C, E
Gb aug: Gb, Bb, D
Bb aug: Bb, D, F#
B aug: B, D#, Fx (F double-sharp, which is enharmonic with G)
So like diminished chords, augmented chords are used to add spice to your musical meal. You don’t linger on them, but use them as transition chords between a major and another major chord, or between a major and a minor chord, or sometimes even between two minor chords.
As an example, let’s say you are playing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the key of C and your first chord is C major on the entire first phrase “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” As you transition to the F chord on the word “trampling", you can insert a C augmented triad on the words “He is". It only lasts one beat, but it adds interest to the song by leading smoothly from the C chord to the F chord.
You could also use a C augmented chord in the chorus as you move from the 1st phrase “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” to the second “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” You are moving from a C chord to an F chord, so insert a C+ chord (the symbol for an augmented triad is a + sign)right before you play the F chord.
As you play various songs, look for opportunities to use augmented triads as transition chords. And just like pepper is to a mealof food, so augmented triads are to a musical meal.
A free email newsletter on exciting piano chords and chord progressions from Duane Shinn is available free at “Color Tones”
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
As my name is mentioned earlier, l know how to form chords but am not able to use them rightly.so l need a guide form my piano playing. Aside am complaining of my ears. good bye . Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
pls teach some 14th chords 11 chords and the plus and minus chords thnks
I really lyk ur work! But my problem is how and when do we use these augmented and diminished chords when playing a song on the piano
In playing piano chords You no longer need to memorize the structure of each piano chord. All you need to know is the formula associated with each type of chords. We will discuss major chords, minor chords, diminished chords and augmented chords in this lesson.
Good way to consider chord structure. A number system (ie. 1 - 4 - 5 for Augmented) works well aswell.
I do liked your work. But the problem is How and when do we use these augmented, dominant and diminished chords when playing a song on the piano
You would use them when requested by the composer, or if you are composing yourself, you place them whereever you like. I’m not really following your question.
Thanks very much for the explanation!
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