24. Minor scales and augmented chords

So you finally decided to not ignore these augmented chords anymore?

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we will be taking a short look at augmented chords and just where exactly they appear. So, let’s have some fun.

2. Augmented chords in use

During our tutorials, we didn’t really discuss augmented chords up until now. The reason behind that is that they don’t really occur in the common keys used to write songs in.

Augmented chords (notated with the + sign or the aug notation) do appear though in the harmonic and melodic minor scales. As you already know, the minor scale has 3 variations:

  • natural minor scale – the major scale relative, containing the exact same notes of the major scale, with the 6th degree of the major scale as the root note
  • harmonic minor scale – the natural minor scale, but with a sharpened 7th note
  • melodic minor scale – the natural minor scale, but with a sharpened 6th and 7th notes

As a result, the scale formula for the natural minor scale is:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The scale formula for the harmonic minor scale is:

1 2 3 4 5 6 ♯7

The scale formula for the melodic minor scale is:

1 2 3 4 5 ♯6 ♯7

The Am key is the simplest of minor keys and it contains the A, B, C, D, E, F and G notes. Consequently, the harmonic Am key consists of the A, B, C, D, E, F and G♯ notes, while the melodic Am key consists of the A, B, C, D, E, F♯ and G♯ notes.

And as you can see, if we want to play a C chord in the key of harmonic Am, it will contain the augmented triad: C-E-G♯.

Augmented chords are used to create kind of a dark and tense sound and as you might expect, they feel the need to be resolved somehow, usually by the tonic chord (Am in our case).

Aside from harmonic and melodic minor scales, you can actually get a bit festive with these chords, in a chromatic way, by making the dominant triad of a major scale (the triad formed on the 5th degree) from a major triad to an augmented triad, and then resolving that tension with the tonic chord.

The augmented fifth from the major triad also is very useful when playing power chords, because it helps you create a somewhat sinister sound. The idea is to play a power chord with a raised fifth. Here is a G5(♯5) example:

E|-----|
B|-----|
G|-----|
D|--5--|
A|--6--|
E|--3--|

You can get an interesting effect when you play back and forth between the G5 and the G5(♯5) chords, like this:

And since these tutorials are all about the music, two examples of songs that make use of augmented chords are Beatles – Oh, Darling and Eminem – Lose Yourself.

Let’s learn how to play the Caug chord, using the CAGED system.

First off, the C form:

E|--0--|
B|--1--|
G|--1--|
D|--2--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, this is how we play it:

Caug_Cform

Let’s move on to the A form:

E|-----|
B|--5--|
G|--5--|
D|--6--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, this is how we play it:

Caug_Aform

Let’s move on to the G form:

E|-----|
B|--5--|
G|--5--|
D|--6--|
A|--7--|
E|--8--|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, this is how we play it:

Caug_Gform

Let’s move on to the E form:

E|------|
B|--9---|
G|--9---|
D|--10--|
A|--11--|
E|--8---|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, this is how we play it:

Caug_Eform

Let’s move on to the D form:

E|--12--|
B|--13--|
G|--13--|
D|--10--|
A|------|
E|------|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, this is how we play it:

Caug_Dform

I don’t really use augmented chords when I play, at least not until the moment of writing this post. However, feel free to experiment with them.

That about covers it for this post. Next up, we’re going to talk a bit about playing chords outside the CAGED system box. See you then.

Chord charts generated using this chord generator

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