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I've been studying for music theory for many years and I enjoy just writing little chord progressions and melodies to see what certain progressions sound like and how interesting I can make them. The only chord I don't really use is the augmented chord besides in passing. I was wondering if certain chord progressions would lend themselves to utilize the augmented chord.

Edit: By an augmented chord I meant some form of an augmented triad.

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I've asked my self the same question. It's hard to use because it's not found in the major or minor scale. It's found in the harmonic and melodic minor. –  Caleb Oct 7 '13 at 23:03
@Caleb - just to clarify for other readers that the augmented triad only occurs in those keys on the third scale degree - as well as natural minor if the seventh degree is raised (as is customary.) –  jjmusicnotes Oct 7 '13 at 23:33
Assuming you mean the same thing by Augmented as I understand, this is one (actually the only) song I play regularly which uses one. I think it works really well. I see the chord written as Gaug or G+, are these what you mean? tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/m/matt_redman/… –  Mr. Boy Jan 20 at 15:08

4 Answers 4

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Augmented triads use, effectively, a major third stacked on another major third. Thus there are really only 4 of them. E,g, C-E-G# is the make-up of C+, but also an inversion of E+ (using E-G#-B# ), and G#+, (with G#-B#-D## ). The names of the notes have to be changed, technically, but the sound is the same.There is another 'starting' on C#, then two more, on D and Eb. After that the cycle starts again.

Thus they can be interchangeable between keys, rather like diminished chords, which effectively use a minor third stacked on another minor third, making 3 of them before they cycle round to repeat themselves in inversions of the same notes.

I know the augmented actually uses a maj. 3 and an aug. 5., but I'm trying to portray the mix in a different way.

Having said all of that, the usual modern use seems to be as a sort of dominant, moving, for example, from C maj-through C+ to-F.The sound is too unstable to stand on its own.

So, using an aug. chord, the tune can stray into another key - or modulate.

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As @Tim sez, augmented chords are too unstable to stand on their own. That tension demands to be resolved. And THAT is why they spice up some of my favorite blues turnarounds, often from the V+ to the I7. –  Kirk A Jun 12 '14 at 11:37
Which is, in fact, too unstable to stand on its own. Is it just because we've got used to that 7th sound? –  Tim Jun 12 '14 at 11:53

Augmented Sixth chords are a staple of the late Classical and Romantic periods and were used by many, many, many composers. There are three types of augmented sixth chords: Italian, German, and French - each with subtle differences but all serving the same inherent purpose: to change the function of the (boring) dominant-seventh chord.

For example, a plain-jane C7 (C, E, G, Bb) would be re-written (C, E, G, A# - "German-sixth") thus allowing the chord to serve a different harmonic function (therefore creating more interest!) So, in the context of chord progressions, aug-sixth chords are typically substituted for dominants or pre-dominants to redirect the harmony to either a secondary dominant or to modulate to another key entirely (sometimes completely unrelated!)

The Augmented Triad is probably what you are most likely referring to, as the fifth of the chord is typically raised in passing to another chord. There are examples of composers throughout history using them as bread-and-butter for compositions, but unfortunately no specific example leaps to mind at the moment.

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@Dom - To be fair, in your question, you didn't specify. As for the triad, if you were expecting someone to merely list a bunch of chord progressions, then you will probably be disappointed as it may be akin to someone asking "what are all the chord progressions for minor chords?" The breadth of that answer would essentially be too-large to be answerable, so what remains is to describe how the chord has been used stylistically throughout history. Typically, the augmented triad is used to point somewhere else - either by rising upwards or by "leaning" downwards implying tonicization. –  jjmusicnotes Oct 8 '13 at 2:09
These are convenient for modulating up by one half-step, e.g.: I - V(4/2)/IV - IV(6/3) - bVI(+6) - V(8/6/4 - 7/5/3)/#i - #i in other words, C - C/Bb - F/A - Ab+6 - C#m/G# - G#7 - C#m This is especially effective when going into a minor key as demonstrated here. (Bonus: if you practice your scales by playing a major scale, minor scale, diminished arpeggio, and German sixth arpeggio, you can seamlessly transition into the next chromatic key.) –  ninemileskid Jun 11 '14 at 5:30
when you say augmented six chords do you mean the ones built on the sub mediant or just ones in first inversion? –  Neil Meyer Jun 11 '14 at 5:56
This wikipedia article has some interesting examples of the augmented triad in classical tonal music. –  BobRodes Jun 12 '14 at 3:05

I believe David Bowie's song Life on Mars? uses an augmented triad (on the line `look at those cavemen [go]' in the chorus). Here it is part of the bridge from the relative minor back to the tonic major:

Am C+ G Gm Dm Fm C

I'm pretty sure there are songs with a variant of this progression, along the lines of

Am C+ C D F G(7) C

but I can't think of any examples. This progression lends itself to a falling melody line A-G#-G-F#-F-F-E.

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further to the great examples above, there's a fine example of augmented chords in Eminem's 'Lose yourself' the whole chord pattern is just a minor chord, then that same chord with an augmented 5th!

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