The augmented scale is a symmetrical scale and gives you the option of building minor, major or augmented chords from the scale.
I have guitar chord patterns for all the chords from a C augmented scale and discuss how to use the augmented chords in chord progressions.
Also, I list popular song examples that use some of the chord types so that you can see the practical application of the chords.
Augmented Scale & Augmented Chord Formula
There are two different ways to build the augmented scale. The augmented triad, on the other hand, is straight-forward. Let’s knock out the augmented triad chord formula first.
You can think of the augmented triad as a major chord with an augmented 5th degree (A5). It has a major third (M3) similar to the major chord but the 5th is raised one semitone. The augmented triad formula is:
1 – M3 – A5 or 1 – 3 – #5
The distance from the root note to the 3rd of the chord is a major 3rd, and the distance from the 3rd to the 5th is another major third. Some people describe the chord as 2 “stacked” major 3rds:
M3 + M3
Symbols used for the augmented chord \ triad are aug, +, +5, and #5. I use either aug or + for the augmented triad and #5 for all other augmented chords.
The augmented scale is a 6-note symmetrical scale. All that means is the scale has symmetry ascending and descending and that it divides the octave into repeated intervals.
Other examples of symmetrical scales are the whole tone scale and the diminished scale. Take a look at the Dolmetcsh Music Dictionary page on the augmented interval, augmented fifth and augmented scale for a more in-depth definition.
You can also build an augmented triad on the tonic note of the Bebop Major, Whole Tone, and Altered scales and on the 3rd degree of the Harmonic & Melodic minor scales.
Augmented scale formula
The first formula for the augmented scale is to add the notes of two augmented triads that are separated by a half step. For example, B+ has the notes B-D#-G and C+ has the notes C-E-G#. That leads to the following:
C augmented scale: C – D#\E♭ – E – G – G#\A♭ – B
Another formula that can be used to build the augmented scale is to add notes in the pattern of a minor 3rd (m3) and a minor 2nd (m2). If you look at the notes in the C augmented scale above, you will see that they follow that pattern.
C to E♭ = m3
E♭ \ D# to E = m2
E to G = m3
G to G# \ Ab = m2
G# to B = m3
B to C = m2
So it’s up to you which formula you use to build the augmented scale.
Also, the augmented scale, like other symmetrical scales, repeats at regular intervals – a major 3rd for the augmented scale.
That means that any augmented scale has the same notes as augmented scales whose tonic is a major third away. For example, the C augmented scale has the same notes as the E augmented scale (M3 from C) and the G# augmented scales (M3 from E).
Therefore, there are only four augmented scales: C, D♭, D & E♭. To better understand the augmented scale, try building the D♭, D & E♭ augmented scales and use both formulas listed above at least once.
Chords built from the C augmented scale
The number of chord types you can build on each scale degree is limited, and there is a symmetry of chord types for notes separated by a major third.
There is also the strange chord construction options that occur in other scales like the altered scale. You have a choice of different 3rds and 5ths. The chord types built from the augmented scale are:
Maj & maj7, aug & maj7#5, min & m-maj7
The notes from the C+ triad (C, E, G#) are the notes that can have a major or minor third, and a perfect or augmented 5th. The B+ triad (B, D#, G) can only build augmented triads.
To summarize, the 6 notes of the augmented scale all build augmented triads. The tonic note of the scale, C in this case, also builds a major and minor triad. All three C triads also have a major 7th interval available to add to the triad. This gives the following chords:
Those same chord types can be built on the notes E and G#\A♭. A song example that uses chords from the augmented scale is “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane where he uses the 3 major triads in a B augmented scale to create 3 key centers.
You can also build a m-maj7 chord on the tonic of the harmonic and melodic minor scales, and on the 6th degree of the harmonic minor scale. The maj7#5 can also be built on the tonic of the major bebop scale and the 3rd degree of the harmonic and melodic minor scales.
Check out the table below to see all of the chords that are from the C augmented scale. The columns Equal1 thru Equal3 are for chords that have the same notes as the Chord Name column.
|Chord Name||1st Note||2nd Note||3rd Note||4th Note||5th Note||6th Note||Equal Chord1||Equal Chord2||Equal Chord3|
Note: When it came to A♭ vs. G#, I chose G# for the minor chords but A♭ for the major and augmented chords. The exception in the table above is for the equal chords of C+ and E+. I did the same for E♭+ vs. D#+ because E♭ is the III+ chord in the C Harmonic & Melodic minor scales.
Guitar chords from the C augmented scale
I’m only including guitar chords for the augmented triad, maj7#5 & m-maj7 chords. I’ll have the major, maj7 and minor chord shapes in articles associated with those chords and in their appropriate categories.
But I am including a minor chord here – the m-maj7 chord. And that is because it contains an augmented triad within it and it equals a 6+.
Now I know some theory guys are rolling their eyes at the mention of a 6th chord with a sharp five. I know – I don’t consider it a chord either but I did see a 6+ chord in a U2 song. They probably should have notated it as an Am-maj7\C instead of C6+ (or whatever the chord letter was).
- #3 Maj7#5 chord 1s difficult to hold. #2 sounds the best to me.
- The #6 Maj7#5 chord shape: I prefer the voicing with the root on high E as opposed to low E.
- In general, I prefer 4 or more notes in an augmented triad, not 3-note versions.
- Also, each note of an augmented triad can be the root of the chord, so I did not include every possible fret position. Just move the chord shapes a major 3rd and analyze the notes if it is an open augmented chord.
Closed and bar augmented guitar chords from the augmented scale
Best closed voicings: #1 & 3 for Augmented triad, #1 & 4 for maj7#5, and every m-maj7 voicing except # 3 & #7.
Open augmented guitar chords of the augmented scale
Best open voicings: both Caug, #1 Eaug, and #1 Em-maj7.
When to use augmented chords (+, maj7#5, m-maj7)
The augmented triad creates tension when it is played and there is an augmented triad within the maj7#5 and the minor-major 7th chord. That tension needs resolution similar to the tritone in a V7 chord, though the resolution is not as strong.
Take a look at my article on The Triads in Music to read more about the augmented triad.
The augmented triad can be used in place of the V chord. For example, a C augmented triad (C+) chord will resolve nicely to an F major chord. I think it is great as the final V chord in a blues turnaround.
A Caug chord will also resolve to an A minor triad, vi for C. C augmented is the ♭III+ chord in both A harmonic and melodic minor scales.
Actually, each note in the augmented triad can act as a major 7th leading tone, so a C+ chord (C-E-G#) will resolve to the major AND minor chord one half-step above each of the chord tones:
C+ to F or Fm (E as the leading tone)
C+ to A or Am (G# as the leading tone)
C+ to C# \ D♭ or C#m \ D♭m (C as the leading tone)
Quite a versatile chord. If you are writing a song, using an augmented triad would be great for a section with a change of key to Vi major or ♭II major or minor. The last one being quite radical. So try using a C+ chord for a key change to A major or D♭ major or minor.
You could also play just the augmented 5th interval with surrounding intervals. An example is the song “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin:
D5 – D#5 – D6 – D7, the interval notes being D-A, D-A#, D-B, D-C. The D6 & D7 are not chords.
Here are a lot of examples that use an augmented triad:
Beatles: Fixin’ A Hole, Michele, Real Love, I Want You, I’m Happy Just To Dance With You, All My Loving, I Am The Walrus, Oh Darling, Dear Prudence
Grateful Dead: Casey Jones
Allman Brothers: Stormy Monday (their version)
Stevie Wonder: You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, If You Really Love Me
David Bowie: Never Let Me Down
Beach Boys: Orange Crate Art, Friends, Warmth Of The Sun
Sting: Mad About You
The Who: Quadrophenia, Dr. Jimmy
Led Zeppelin: The Rain Song, Stairway to Heaven
Pink Floyd: Gunner’s Dream
Merle Travis: Cannon Ball Stomp
Ricky Skaggs: Life is Too Long (To Live Like This)
Silverman’s Folk Song Encyclopedia: The Rose of Tralee page 162 Vol. I, O Canada page 286 Vol. II
Augmented major seventh chord (maj7#5)
This augmented chord can act as a substitution for a regular major 7th to create tension. It also resolves to a IV, vi or VI chord as in Cmaj7#5 to F, Am or A.
I couldn’t find any popular song examples, but jazz guys use this chord a lot so I’m sure there are a lot of jazz songs with this chord in them.
The maj7#5 chord has a slightly nasty sound to me. I just don’t like it, therefore it will never be a chord in my guitar chord box. Let me know if you saw this chord in any song that is not a jazz tune.
Minor major 7th chord (m-maj7)
I’m not a fan of this chord either – sounds like dirt (if dirt made a sound).
It’s common in jazz as a tonic minor chord to create tension. Whatever. In popular music, it’s common to use it chromatically as in this E minor example:
Em – Em-maj7 – Em7 – Em6 or without the minor 6th and back to the Am triad.
Here are some song examples that use a m-maj7 chord:
Coldplay: Speed of Sound
Stevie Wonder: I Just Called to Say I Love You
Beach Boys: When I Grow Up
Beatles: Boys, Michele, Something, Real Love, Cry Baby Cry, Baby You Can Drive My Car
Pink Floyd: Us and Them
The Who: Quadrophenia
Silverman’s Folk Song Encyclopedia, Vol. II: Wanderin’ page 13, Let Us Break Bread Together page 102
I’m not a fan of the augmented scale for soloing or the maj7#5 chord. For augmented triads, I would just use a whole tome scale riff. It’s an interesting scale, but I’m not a jazz player.
So I don’t use the augmented scale, but I do like augmented triads and augmented guitar chords that have a ♭7 in them. Check my article on Chords From Scales for a list of augmented 7th chords as well as my total list of 77 chord types.
“It’s your mind, it’s your creativity, it’s your guitar, and most importantly, it’s your music – do what you want to do (just make sure it sounds good)”. ~ quote by Kernix