• Week 2: The Augmented Triad + Cheat Sheet

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano

    augmented triad

    Welcome to this lesson on augmented triads.

    The term augmented triad can be broken down into two words. The first one is augmented and the second is triad.

    Augmented literally means “to make larger.”

    And I suppose you’re familiar with what a triad is from our past lesson. But to review, it is a chord of three notes.

    Our focus today is on the augmented triad.

    “So what is an augmented triad?”

    There are so many definitions and approaches to the augmented triad out there. However, I’ll define an augmented triad as a major triad with an augmented fifth.

    Using the C major triad (aka – “the world’s most popular triad”):

    …we can form an augmented triad by raising (or augmenting) its fifth (G) to produce:

    …an augmented triad (C E G#). It’s called an augmented triad because of the augmented fifth interval it contains. With any known major triad, you can form an augmented triad by raising its fifth.

    Read more about major triads in my previous post.

    Dissecting the Augmented Triad

    To get started with our study on augmented triads, let’s cross-examine it.

    Intervallic Components

    A good way to get started is by showing you what stuff the augmented triad is made of.

    If C augmented (consisting of C, E, and G):

    …is broken down into intervals, this will produce C-E:

    …and C-G,

    C-E is a major third interval because it consists of an interval between the first and the third scale step of the C major scale.

    In the C major scale:

    …the distance (aka – “interval”) between the first (C) and third (E) scale tones is a major third. This is because from C to E:

    …encompasses three letter names – C, D, and E.

    (By itself, three letter names is not the only thing that makes this interval a major third. But when it comes to the major scale, the interval between the 1st and 3rd tone will always be major).

    Another interval in the augmented triad is the augmented fifth, which is a half step higher than the regular fifth.

    Using the C major scale as a reference, the regular fifth (aka – “perfect fifth”) is G:

    Raising this perfect fifth (G) by a half step:

    …produces an augmented (fifth) interval. C-G is an augmented fifth.

    If you stack these intervals together, you’ll have a major third:

    …plus an augmented fifth:

    …which gives us an augmented triad:

    From what we’ve covered so far, it’s clear that knowledge of the major third and augmented fifth intervals in all keys is invaluable.

    The intervallic makeup of the augmented triad is:

    • 50% Major third
    • 50% Augmented fifthAugmented Triad

    Knowledge of all major thirds will equip you with 50% of the intervals you need to create the augmented triad.

    “How do I learn major thirds?

    You can learn the major third interval in all keys by knowing the major scales. Using any given major scale, you need to highlight the first and third scale steps to form the major third interval.

    Therefore, if you don’t know major scales, it’s best to review and learn major scales in order to get the most out of this post. This is because, in music, it is scales that produce intervals and from intervals, you get chords. In other words, scales are musical grandparents to chords.

    If you don’t know scales, understanding certain things about chords will be difficult.

    So, it is from our scales that we’ll be able to produce the intervals that make up the augmented triad.

    Harmonic Properties

    Now that we’re familiar with the intervals that make up the augmented triad, let’s look at two important harmonic properties of the augmented triad.

    The two harmonic properties include quality and stability. The quality of a triad is determined by the third while stability is determined by the fifth.

    Quality. A chord can be major or minor in quality and this depends on the quality of third it has. From what we covered earlier, the quality of the augmented triad is major and this is because of the interval between the first and third scale tones (major third).

    Stability. The stability of a chord depends on the quality of fifth it has. Chords that have a perfect fifth are stable while other qualities of fifths are said to be unstable. Remember what I told you in a previous post on dissonant intervals – that all augmented and diminished intervals are dissonant. Therefore, the augmented triad is unstable because its fifth is augmented.

    Owing to the instability of the augmented triad, it is not an everyday average chord. However, it is important for you to know augmented triads because certain seventh chords like A min-maj7:

    …contain augmented triads. Also, you’ll hear it played on the fifth degree in traditional gospel songs and in bigger extended chords that transition to the fourth degree. It certainly has its uses.

    Chord Formation of Augmented Triads

    Now that the augmented triad is fully dissected, let’s look at the chord formation of augmented triads. We’ll be considering two simple ways of forming the augmented triad.

    Formation #1 – Stacking Two Major Thirds

    At this point, it is appropriate to say that augmented triads are symmetrical.

    Symmetrical triads are triads that can be broken down into two EQUAL intervals. A closer look at the augmented triad (from a different perspective) will reveal two major third intervals:

    C-E:

    …is a major third and in turn, E-G:

    …is also a major third interval.

    Pretty much, if you are familiar with major third intervals in all the keys (like I recommended earlier), you can create an augmented triad with this alternative method.

    Here’s how…

    A major third from C is E:

    In turn, another major third from E is G:

    Put together, C-E and E-G produces the C augmented triad:

    This can be applied to any other key.

    In the key of D:

    …a major third from D is F:

    …a major third from F is A♯:

    Stacking these two major third intervals produces the D augmented triad:

    If we go on and on, we’ll have all other augmented triads on the keyboard.

    Lets move on to chord formation of the augmented triad using the major triad.

    Formation #2 – From the Major Triad

    As we covered in the beginning of this lesson, it’s possible to derive the augmented triad from the major triad.

    Using any known major triad, you can easily form an augmented triad by raising the fifth chord tone by a semitone (half step).

    If the fifth of the C major triad:

    …is raised by a semitone (half step), this will produce C augmented triad:

    This sounds a lot easier but will depend on your knowledge of all the major triads on the keyboard.

    Let’s take one more example.

    E major triad is given as E-G♯-B:

    Raising the fifth from B to B♯:

    …will produce an E augmented triad (which is spelled: E G B♯). We can go on and on until we exhaust all the augmented triads on the piano.

    Take Note…

    While raising the fifth, I am using sharp(). This is because, in music, sharp is used to raise the pitch level of a note.

    It’s easy to spell E augmented:

    …as E G C:

    This is not appropriate because the augmented fifth of E is B and not C.

    Considering that B and C are enharmonic equivalents, both spellings will sound alike when played. However, it is important for me to emphasize the importance of spelling correctly.

    Whenever you augment a major triad, the base letters should not change. If they do (like in the case of E augmented, from “B” to “C” instead of the correct “B#”), you are spelling the chord wrong.

    Let’s start winding down by looking at the relationship between augmented triads on the keyboard.

    The Relationship Between Augmented Triads

    There are 12 augmented triads on the keyboard, one for every major key. Below are all the augmented triads in all 12 keys.

    C augmented:

    D augmented:


    D augmented:

    E augmented:

    E augmented:

    F augmented:

    G augmented:

    G augmented:

    A augmented:

    A augmented:

    B augmented:

    B augmented:

    * The use of G instead of F♯♯ is regretted, due to the limitations of this graphic tool. Remember, the base letters should never change so if B major has an “F#,” then B augmented has an “F##” (but we’re using G here, informally).

    There are twelve of them. However, these augmented triads are related.

    The inversion of a given augmented triad will show you other augmented triads that are related to it. Using C augmented as an example, inverting (rearranging) C augmented:

    …will produce:

    This chord is related to E augmented. The only thing that’s different is its spelling (“E G# C” vs “E G# B#”) but they make the same sound.

    Inverting again will produce:

    …an augmented triad related to G augmented (or Ab augmented, Ab C E).

    Summarily…

    It shouldn’t escape your notice that the C augmented triad containing C, E and G, is related to C augmented, E augmented and G augmented.

    That means, you can look at the notes in an augmented chord and know that they each share the same tones in their individual chords. That is, when inverted, C augmented makes the same sound as E augmented, which makes the same sound as G# augmented. A “3 for 1” special!

    In the same vein, D augmented:

    …containing D♭, F and A notes, if inverted, will yield F and A augmented triads:

    F augmented:

    A augmented:

    Again, the spelling is obviously different but if you closed your eyes, these chords would all sound the same because they contain the same tones.

    As you can see, a knowledge of D augmented triad will also put F and A augmented triads within your grasp.

    Consider the following augmented triad relationships:

    C augmented is built off C, E, and G♯ and is related to E and G♯ augmented triads:

    C augmented in the first octave, E augmented in the second octave, and G augmented in the third octave.

     

    D augmented is built off D, F, and A and is related to F and A augmented triads:

    D augmented in the first octave, F augmented in the second octave, and A augmented in the third octave.

     

    D augmented is built off D, F, and A and is related to F♯ and A♯ augmented triads:

    D augmented in the first octave, F augmented in the second octave, and A augmented in the third octave.

     

    E augmented is built off E, G, and B and is related to G and B augmented triads:

    E augmented in the first octave, G augmented in the second octave, and B augmented in the third octave.

    If we repeat the same procedure on E, we’ll produce something related to the G# and C augmented triads we encountered earlier. We’ve circled back around.

    E augmented is built off E, G, and B (enharmonically C) and is related to G♯ and B♯ (C) augmented triads:

    E augmented in the first octave, G augmented in the second octave, and B augmented in the third octave.

    Obviously, with this method of relating augmented triads, the spelling will be informal. Surely, C augmented isn’t spelled the same as E and G# augmented. But, at the end of the day, they share the same notes and therefore make the same sound, when inverted accordingly.

    That means, there are really only 4 unique augmented triads to learn. Learn C augmented, Db augmented, D augmented, and Eb augmented and you have all that it takes to master augmented triads.

    Final Words

    Augmented chords are not as common as major triads.

    But, as you progress in chord studies, you’ll begin to find out that augmented triads have their place in some bigger chords and progressions.

    Take for example, the A minor-major 7th chord:

    If its root is played an octave lower:

    …this will produce a C augmented triad:

    …over A on the bass:

    There are a handful of such examples in music.

    So until next time, thank you so much and I will be talking to you about minor triads in the next lesson of this series. Until then.

    P.S.

    Don’t leave this page without submitting your email for our new free guide, “A Quick Reference on Augmented Triads.”

    You’ll be unfortunately walking away from the following if you do:

    • A deeper insight to all of what we covered in this post.
    • 126 exercises that will drill you to “augmented” perfection.
    • A chord cheat sheet containing all augmented chords with their appropriate spelling.
    • And much more.
    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 16 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Oka Gift Abam

    Good job…Sir.please can i get complete sharp major and minor Chords?

    Reply

    2 Olusola

    Whao!!! This is insightful……am blessed to be a partaker. God bless you more and increase your pool of knowledge!

    Reply

    3 Elsona

    Great job thànks for being genuine

    Reply

    4 carolyn

    Thanks Jermaine you made it easy to comprehend, I am learning from you since 2006 or 2007. God bless you keep the lessons coming

    Reply

    5 paulgracez

    thanks bro.

    Reply

    6 eremi samuel

    i’m really greatful for the teachings about augmented chords or triad.my question is in what kind of songs i’m i to apply this chord?

    Reply

    7 Chuku Onyemachi

    Well, owing to the instability of the augmented chord, it is not commonly used. However, it has its place in music. In future posts, I’ll be sharing on the application.

    Reply

    8 Shunnalo Brown

    Thank you for breaking down the explanation so it is easy to practice. I struggle with committing to 30 minutes a day. I can spend hours practicing one day and exhausted the next day. Trying to pace myself.

    Reply

    9 Elmer

    Very insightful and timely.
    Thanks

    Reply

    10 ORAFU Victor

    You are indeed a gift to the music world. God bless you and continue to use you abundantly.

    Reply

    11 Laura

    Thank you Mr. Onyemachi for the clear explanation of augmented chords. Very helpful.

    Reply

    12 John Tuohy

    Great information, thank you and God bless.

    Reply

    13 Austyn Okafor

    This is “Piano studies made easy”. May God bless you richly for your open-handedness.

    Reply

    14 Faruk oluwaseun

    This is awesome. more grease to your elbow

    Reply

    15 kingxchord

    thanks a lot my whole life has really being turned around just by reading

    Reply

    16 Kalson

    nice

    Reply

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