This lesson will do two things - show you how to play augmented guitar
chords and teach you some common functions these chords can serve in
A lot of guitarists don't know when or how to use augmented chords in a
progression. Unlike major and minor chords, augmented chords have a
more specific and arguably limited function (similar to diminished
chords). Don't use them for the sake of it. Use them
sparingly and when it feels "right" to use them.
When played on their own (there are audio samples below), they lack
context or a tonal centre. In other words, they're better used as links
between major and minor chords in a progression. An exception to this
is when you're creating more ambient styles of music, where drawn out
augmented chords can create a tense and unstable atmosphere.
Augmented chords basic theory
Augmented is another way of saying "sharpened by one semitone". In the
context of chords, the word refers to the sharpened 5th (#5) interval
from its regular triad position (a perfect/natural 5th).
For example, a major triad consists of 1 3 5, whereas an augmented
triad is 1 3 #5
(as learned in the guitar
chord theory series).
So, when people use the term "augmented chord", they'll most often be
referring to some kind of #5
major chord. There are other chords with augmented in
their name, such as augmented 6th chords, but as the 6th is expressly
stated after "augmented" we know it's the 6th that is being
sharpened and not the 5th!
We can identify three main types of augmented chord, detailed in the
As the tones column shows, the most important intervals in any
augmented chord or scale is the root
major 3rd (3)
and augmented 5th (#5).
So, think of an augmented
as a major
chord with a sharp
An augmented seventh
chord is the above augmented
with an added minor/flat
An augmented major
chord is an augmented
triad with an added major
Why no minor
augmented chord? Good question! This is because if we
played a 1 b3
#5 chord (a minor triad with a #5), it would actually be better
described (in terms of harmony) as a major
chord inversion. If you don't know what that means, just
ignore it for now!
Each one has its own sound, so get to know the difference between these
three types. To help, I've included a chord chart below.
Augmented guitar chords chart
Below are the most
common augmented guitar chord forms with their
fingerings. The root (1)
is the note we reference when writing the chord. For example, if we
built one of the following shapes on the note C,
the chord would be Caug.
Augmented triad chord chart
Augmented seventh chord chart
root note #2
Augmented major seventh
As you can hear by
playing any of the shapes below, this particular type of augmented
chord has a very dissonant quality (although I find it quite hauntingly
beautiful!). However, if you're interested in
jazz harmony, you should know this chord.
root note #2
Augmented chord function
So how do we actually use
augmented chords in a progression? However
you want! As always, don't be afraid to use a bit of trial and error.
Experiment and let
your ears be the ultimate judge.
However, there are some "tried and tested" functions you can use in
your own songwriting.
Augmenting the tonic major chord
is simply where we play the tonic major chord as usual and then augment
it, on the same root. This works with any three of the augmented chord
types (triad, seventh, major seventh).
For example, in the key of D major, first moving to the IV
chord (from which we can continue the progression however we wish)...
if you're learning scales, harmonic minor would be the choice over
minor key progressions like the above two. The augmented 5 chord is the
natural dominant chord of this scale.
major 7th augmented chord also works very nicely (albeit in an unusual
way!) in the dominant position, as it carries a lot of tension. You'll
hear it mostly used in jazz. This time, in the key of A major...
using these functions in your own songwriting, try linking them with
different chords, both before and after the augmented chord.
Experimentation is the most important thing. There are no rules!
The symmetry of augmented chords
Similar to diminished chords, augmented chords are made up of intervals
an equal spacing apart. To be specific, each interval in an augmented
triad is separated by a major
3rd interval. Let's break it down...
This gives the chord what is known in music as symmetry.
Playing these intervals separately gives you an augmented arpeggio.
Note, this symmetry only applies to the triad form, not the
7th or major 7th
forms (they are not
symmetrical, since the 7th in both forms is not a major 3rd from the
what can we do with this symmetry?
Well for one, you can play an augmented triad shape in any of its
interval positions. In other words, if you were playing Gaug, you could
also play Baug (as B is a major 3rd above G) or Ebaug (as Eb is a major
above B and a major 3rd below G). Because each interval position uses
the same notes as the root chord, you'll get the same augmented sound,
but with a different voicing.
This is useful for things like voice leading, which is where you play a
particular note in a chord higher or lower to create a smooth,
connected harmony through the chord changes. There'll be a separate
lesson on voice leading so don't worry too much about it right now!
Some more examples of this symmetry...
You can learn how to move fluidly in major 3rds and other intervals
across the entire fretboard using this interactive
It also allows you to move between these related positions and create
an ascending or descending chord pattern as follows...