If you’ve been playing piano and learning piano chords, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term “augumented.” The word may sound a little scary to you. But augumented chords are not hard to learn! They sound a little strange at first, but once you know how to use them they can open up a whole new world in terms of harmony.
Augumented chords are the next step after learning major, minor, and diminished chords. They are not something that beginners typically learn right off the bat. Make sure you learn your major and minor chords before venturing into diminished and augmented.
What are Augmented Chords Anyway?
Augumented chords are really not as complicated as they sound. In a nutshell, an augmented chord is a major triad with the 5th note raised up a half step. This creates a chord with two major third intervals stacked on top of each other. The first and last note form what’s called an augmented 5th. Not your typical interval, I know. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. I’ll walk you through the process of finding an augmented chord soon!
How To Form An Augumented Chord on the Piano
I am going to continue in this post with the assumption that you already know how to play major and minor chords – because they are definitely a “pre-requisite” to augmented chords! Make sure you have learned those first before trying augmented.
So here’s how you form an augmented chord:
First, I want you to find a major chord on the piano. It can be any major chord, but let’s take D as an example.
D major is spelled with a D, an F#, and an A.
Now, we simply need to raise one note. Take that FIFTH note (the A) and raise it up a half step to A#.
And there you go! A D augmented chord has the notes D, F#, and A#. After we raise that fifth note, we have the augmented chord!
Here is what D augmented looks like on the piano: (note that D+ is the shortened way to write this chord! The plus sign stands for augmented!)
Here are those same notes as they would appear on the staff:
Of course, you can form an augmented chord starting on any piano note. If you know all your major chords (like G major, A major, B major, etc.) you can very easily start to find the augmented chord by following the process above.
Augmented chords can also be formed from any black key major chord as well, like Db major or Eb major. The exact same process to forming them is used! But if you want to see all the notes written out for you, keep reading.
Augmented Piano Chords Chart
Here are the spellings of ALL the possible augmented chords!
C augmented – C E G#
C# augmented – C# E# G## (G## = A)
D augmented – D F# A#
Eb augmented – Eb G B
E augmented – E G# B# (B# = C)
F augmented – F A C#
F# augmented – F# A# C## (C## = D)
G augmented – G B D#
Ab augmented – Ab C E
A augmented – A C# E# (E#= F)
Bb augmented – Bb D F#
B augmented – B D# F## (F## = G)
And here are all of these chords on a keyboard chart that you can save and refer to later:
You guessed it…augmented chords don’t stay at just the root position. You can invert them as well! Just take the bottom note and switch it to the top to form first inversion. Repeat for second inversion. Then, when you switch the bottom note to the top the last time, you’ll end up at root position again, just higher up!
Let’s go back to our D example. Here are the D augmented inversions written out on the staff. Keep in mind that the A# will continue through the whole measure. (And of course you’ll have the F# the whole time because of the key signature).
How To Use Augmented Chords on Piano
Augmented chords have a unique sound. They are not something you want to use all the time. However, used correctly they can add great interest and dimension to a song. Augmented chords make great passing chords and transition chords. They are often inserted as you pass from one major chord to the next.
In this section, I want to give you a bunch of examples for using augmented chords in actual music. All of these examples will be in the key of D.
Augmented Chord Transition
One of the best ways to use an augmented chord is as a transition chord—when you have two chords that you want to go between, but you need something unique to lead them into each other.
One great way to do this is by using a pedal point with the root of the chord, and then switching the chords on top.
Below we go straight from a D major chord, to a D+ chord, to a Bm/D chord (first inversion vi chord). As you can see, the only note that is changing is the top note! The A is first raised a half step to form the d augmented. Then, it is raised another half step and we magically have a minor inversion!
Augmented Chord in a Passage of Music
In the example above, it is easy to see the augmented chord. But in actual music, the augmented will often be a little more hidden. It will be a little more difficult to see because of…you guessed it…inversions.
In the passage below, I started off with the SAME chord progression: D, D+, and Bm/D. However, the augmented chord is split between the hands and the notes are more spread out. It is still augmented though, because it uses the same notes. D, F#, and A# make up a d augmented chord. Those notes are STILL there, even though they are in a different order.
This passage only has 1 augmented chord, but it uses the same concept I talked about above, just continued. The D pedal point progresses all the way to a D7 chord, before switching to a G and G minor chord.
We won’t get into all the details of those other chords here.
Song Example: Just a Closer Walk With Thee
As one last example, I just had to show you the hymn ‘Just a Closer Walk With Thee’. This is a beautiful hymn, and it actually uses the same chord progression we’ve been talking about! The augmented chord, again, is used to transition between the D and the Bm/D.
Augmented 7th chords On Piano
There IS also such a thing as an augmented 7th chord. This is a very advanced chord, so if you’re a beginner, just focus on the information we’ve already covered on augmented chords.
However, if you do want to form an augmented 7th, you will simply take a dominant 7th and raise the 5th. Going back to our D example, the notes would be D, F#, A#, C.
This chord can also be called a “major seventh sharp five chord.” It has a mysterious, unique sound and is most often seen in jazz pieces.
Can you have a minor augmented chord?
No. The very definition of an augmented chord tells us the answer is no. An augmented chord is formed by stacking two major thirds on top of each other. If you make these thirds minor, the chord transforms into a diminished chord, which is different altogether!
More Music Theory To Learn
Augmented chords are an interesting, unique chord that are so much fun to learn! They are easy to figure out, simply by raising the 5th of every major chord. So now it’s your turn – sit down at the piano and start practicing! First, play the root position augmented chords. Then, try inversions. Play through the examples I gave you above and listen carefully to how augmented chords sound. You’ve got this!