Augmented chords can sound pretty ugly to the novice and you may wonder how or why we use them. But team them up with a nice melody and play one at the right moment and augmented chords can add an amazingly powerful element to your music!
When & why to use augmented chords
Augmented chords are most often used as a passing chord between two other chords, no more than a whole step/tone apart, and usually for brief periods of time. For example: AMA7 to BMA7, we can place a B♭+ in between those two chords which has the effect of smoothing out the transition, and adding color and depth to the musical piece.
The same can be done to the chords Dmi7 to EMA7, we can place a D♯+ between them, again smoothing out the transition and adding something different to the chord progression.
In terms of why to use an augmented chord, try and think of it as another tool in your toolbox that cam be used in compositions, adding color, depth and more importantly, something different.
Augmented chord profile
An augmented chord is a major triad with a augmented (raised) fifth degree or ♯5. Augmented chords are classed as dissonant and unstable, which means they are wanting to resolve, but not necessarily to the root. A strange thing about augmented chords is that the triad can be inverted, but it will always produce the same chord. For instance: a C augmented chord is made up of the notes C-E-G♯, but the same notes belong to the chords E+ and G♯+ which means they are enharmonic to one another.
|intervals||root/1st, major 3rd, augmented 5th or R/1-3-♯5|
|Stability||Dissonant, unstable, unresolved|
|Common names (examples in C)||C⁺, Caug, C♯5, C(♯5)|
Augmented chord voicings
Try to memorize all of the augmented chord voicings below as it's handy to have them up your sleeve.
|C Augmented chord voicing #1|
Example augmented chord usage
Below is a light Jazzy progression that incorporates an augmented chord in between the change from D6 to EMA7 with a C♯+. If you don't want to learn the chords then just play the audio sample below this chart to hear what the change sounds like, but I do recommend learning the chords as it can only help to reinforce what we have already learned in this lesson.
This is an example of using an augmented chord as in introduction to a musical piece. A lot of old time songs used this method (The Platters etc) where they would just play a V+ chord in place of the regular V7.
|Turnaround example using augmented chord|
Well I hope this lesson has demystified the augmented chord and its usage for you, learning new ways to expand your musical horizons is a lot of fun.
Cheers & enjoy!