3

The recently posted question "What chord is Dm7 with a Bb?” asks:

If I have a Dm7 chord played on the 5th fret of a guitar as a barre chord and move my pinky to play the Bb note next to the A on the 4th string I have the notes

D Bb C F A

so basically a Dm7 with an added Bb. Can someone please tell me the name of this chord?...

It initially occurred to me, as a semi-literate musician, that a simple answer might be that it’s an augmented minor 7th chord, as the Bb would be a raised 5th. No answers from more studied theorists here arrived at this, so I searched around a bit and found that conventional theory seems to say that there is no such thing as an augmented minor chord.

Why not?

As a case in point, in the answers to that question there seems to be some consensus around this being a BbMaj9/D, or something similarly notated, against which I have no authority to argue. But with theory being meant to explain what’s happening in music, it seems to me that it would be less complicated and more direct to call it a Dm7+. It’s rooted on D, has a flat 3rd, a flat 7th, and a sharp 5th. Contextually it’s preceded by Dm, and followed by F (according to comments from OP.) But if augmented minor chords are not valid, then I suppose it’s necessary to explain the chord some other way, like calling it a BbMaj9/D. Perhaps there are more foundational elements of theory which, in my semi-literateness, I am not aware of, and which invalidate augmented minor chords. Someone please enlighten me!

To summarize: Why do augmented minor chords not exist as a valid part of chord theory and notation?

2
  • 1
    "with theory being meant to explain what’s happening in music": sometimes theory is a framework to help decide what to do in music, but, regardless, neither "what's happening" nor "what one wants to do" typically involves playing a single chord in isolation. What a chord should be called will often depend on what happens after it and/or before it. But B-flat is not the augmented fifth above D; it is the minor sixth above D. The augmented fifth is A sharp.
    – phoog
    Feb 15 at 22:39
  • @phoog I am not looking at the chord in isolation, as you can see I mention its context in my question, situated between Dm and F. Bb and A# are the same tone, though I understand its necessary to spell that tone correctly within the context of the composition. So in this case if we call it Bb, and consider it the minor 6th, is it valid then to name the chord Dm7b6?
    – wabisabied
    Feb 15 at 23:07
5

If you simultaneously play the notes D, F and A, it very clearly sounds like a minor chord, D minor. If you play D, F and Bb, it sounds like a major chord, Bb major. Clearly like a sunny day, that's a major chord. If D is the lowest note, it's a first inversion Bb major. Calling it a minor chord would be very misleading. Well ok, how about D, F, A# ... but it still sounds like Bb major.

Edit. If the question wasn't really about simple triads but this D,Bb,C,F,A contraption, then I'd summarize it like this:

Harmony is a sum of its parts. All intervals contribute and work kind of stand-alone too, but the bass has special importance. So it's like a democratic vote, one man, one vote, but in the event of a tie, the chairman's vote decides. What we have in the D,Bb,C,F,A chord is: the Bb and F notes form a fourth, which points at Bb being a potential root. But D and A have a similar relationship and that points to D being a potential root. D-F says D minor, and Bb-D says Bb major. Who wins? Since the ingredients for both Dm and Bb interpretation are there, the bass note ultimately decides. If you voice the Bb as bass, then it sounds more like a Bb major chord. But if you swap octaves and put D in the bass, then it sounds slightly more like a D minor something. But it still doesn't sound the way augmented chords sound like. Augmented chords create a pressure or tension, expectation that at least one of the voices better take a step in some direction soon. That sort of feeling is not there in this D,Bb,C,F,A chord.

4
  • 1
    This is an interesting way to look at (or listen to) this, after all the whole point of music is the sound received by the ear, so why not use that as a reference point? But when I play this chord with a root of D, it sounds minor to my ear (D, Bb, C, F, A.) When I play the chord with D omitted and Bb as the bass note (Bb, C, F, A) then it sounds Major. Not being argumentative, just telling you what I hear. I suspect the D, F, A in the former makes it sound minor (Dm, or Dm7b6 with the C and Bb additions) and the C, F, A of the latter makes it sound major (F, or BbMaj7 with the Bb bass).
    – wabisabied
    Feb 15 at 21:32
  • @wabisabied D,Bb,C,F,A sounds like the Steely Dan chord with a D pedal note. Or a Dm with a simultaneously played Bb major chord. The Bb note twists the balance slightly towards subdominant, but the D bass keeps it bolted down. Harmony is a sum of its parts, so all intervals work kind of stand-alone too. The Bb note works as a couple with Dm's third, F, and the F-Bb interval points to Bb. But the D and A have a similar relationship and that points to D. Since the ingredients for both are there, the bass note ultimately decides. If you voice the Bb as bass, then it's more of a major chord. Feb 15 at 22:26
  • then in this case, where we go from Dm at 5th fret (D, A, D, F, A) to this contraption of a chord (D, Bb, C, F, A) to F (F, A, C, F, A) would the bass notes (D, D, F) be deciding D minor instead of Bb Major?
    – wabisabied
    Feb 15 at 23:25
  • @wabisabied Simple and clearly defined chord names are used for clearly defined chords. It is possible to combine notes in a way which doesn't form a clearly defined stereotypical chord. These chords are somewhere in between, with characteristics of several simpler chords, and you'll have to listen to the sound and use the chords only if you like the result. What happened before the chord means something too. Playing the Bb note louder makes a difference too. Try playing all diatonic notes as a cluster chord, and then use a strong bass to move the harmony. It's an art more than a science. Feb 16 at 9:42
4

An augmented triad, by definition, is two major thirds. It's not that a particular note is changed, thus making the chord "augmented". The fact that the fifth is raised from a major chord is just a convenient way to introduce the chord when teaching.

In standard theory, chords are defined as stacks of major and minor thirds; diminished and augmented thirds are not considered in chord building. An "augmented" minor chord would comprise a minor third and an augmented third, so would be outside the realm of chords defined in standard theory. Most likely, a "minor augmented" chord would be interpreted as a misspelled first inversion major chord.

Example

C augmented triad = C E G#
C "minor augmented" triad = C Eb G# = C Eb Ab = Ab major triad in first inversion.

Also

Spelling is important. In a chord with D as the root, Bb is a lowered sixth (or thirteenth); A# is a raised fifth.

1
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Richard
    Feb 18 at 1:25
1

The question starts with Dm Dm7+ F and for the other question it's apparently supposed to be going into F major.

So, that's F: vi vi7+ I

The alternative is Dm Bb9 F or F: vi IV9 I

I think there are three strikes against the augmented minor chord idea:

  • augmented minor D F A# is enharmonically D F Bb and while the augmented triad is relatively rare in tonal music a major triad is fundamental, it's more likely to be aurally identified by it's commonest identity rather than an odd enharmonic respelling.
  • in terms of root movement the descending fourth of Bb to F is "stronger that an ascending third of D to F, ascending thirds it one of the "weakest" progressions

But what really is the special quality of an augmented chord? I'm thinking augmented triad rather that something like an augmented sixth chord. Augmented triads are one of those funny "symmetrical" chords. You can't really tell if they are inverted. The same thing happens with diminished seventh chords. If you invert these chords, you get the same stack of intervals with some enharmonic respelling, ex. C E G#, E G# B#, Ab C E, each is a symmetrical stack of two major thirds. This brings us to the third strike:

  • a minor triad with an augmented fifth lacks the characteristic symmetry of an augmented triad

You might also look at this in terms of voice leading. If chord tone C is truly a seventh, then the root must be D. But in terms of voice leading does C move like a seventh? The typical movement would be to step down to the next chord's third which would be a Bb of a G minor chord. Another common voice leading move is to hold the seventh and then when the root changes the held tone resolves to the third of the next chord which would be the C of an A minor chord. The actual progression does neither and that is an argument against regarding the C as a seventh above the D of a Dm7+. If C isn't really a seventh then D isn't the root and we need to give it another identity. This is basically the same point as the root movement point but restated in terms of voice leading.

1

D F A# would make it a minor chord with an augmented fifth. If one wants to make it clear that it's an augmented fifth, make it a 13th chord and employ the B natural (and the E natural) in your melody / solo. Such a minor 13 augmented chord would build up from D F A# C E B or {0, 3, 8, 10, 14, 21}. And here comes the interesting part: depending on the intonation the tonal center of such a chord could be either Eb or Ab, so this is a very dissonant, and as such, very unstable chord. It can be utilized, but should be used for a very short time, for dramatic purposes, and very rarely. As the A# will want to resolve to B natural, this chord can be followed by an E minor, a B half-diminished or a G major.

1

How about the „Bond chord progression“?

Is there a music theory explanation behind what gives (recent) James Bond theme songs their tense, dramatic, dark mood?

Nobody can forbid us to hear a 5th, and between the major 6th (dorian) a chromatically augmented 5th, if we only listen only to the leading voice.

But our „ear“ is trained to hear a VI6 chord when we listen to the harmony. Theory and history go hand in hand.

So we must say: no, in theory a A5 in minor doesn’t exist.

0

I appreciate the answers and comments given, so far, and have learned from them. Thank you.

According to my summary understanding, it seems that one argument says that “augmented minor” is not valid because that’s not how chords like this have ever been described in musical theory before, and in fact augmented chords are not built by raising the 5th, but rather by stacking Major thirds. The raised 5th may correlate, but it is not what defines augmentation. Fair enough from an analogical standpoint.

There’s also some ambiguity about whether theory gives us the tools to define this chord in a concise and absolute way. Again, fair enough, but this seems counter to the whole point of applying theory to music. Maybe there is more than one correct answer, but there can only be one best answer - the one by which the chord is most clearly and thoroughly explained to the majority of readers.

If music is a language, and all languages evolve to better accommodate contemporary communication, it would seem indisputable that music theory, the codification of musical language, also evolves.

Are we due for some evolution here, or am I just stuck on over-analyzing an outlier that's irrelevant to the greater body of musical theory? I find that a progression spelled "Dm, BbMaj9/D, F” is more cumbersome to digest than “Dm, Dm7+ (or Dm7b6), F,” plus that middle chord sounds minor to my ear.

Even if we simplify and remove the flatted 7th, we get “Dm, Bb/D, F” or “Dm, Dm+ (or Dmb6), F,” respectively. That middle chord, with the D bass note, still sounds minor to me and more aptly named as such than as an inverted Major chord.

If the reason this shouldn’t be called “augmented minor” is that functionally the Bb is a diminished 6th, not an augmented 5th, thus could/should be named Dm7b6 (or Dmb6 when simplified,) then that makes total sense to me and maintains the bass note as the root, without the cumbersome notation of an inversion.

So this is the answer that makes the most sense to me at this point: “Augmented minor” chords do not exist in chord theory and notation because the raised 5th that incidentally correlates to an augmented chord is actually a diminished 6th when the chord is minor, therefore defining the chord as minor with b6.

I welcome further ideas, corrections, contrary theories, etc.

3
  • There’s also some ambiguity about whether theory gives us the tools to define this chord in a concise and absolute way. I would say that the particular chord you consider (D-Bb-C-F-A) may sound ambiguous, and depending on the surrounding harmony, voicing, melody, rhythm, instrumentation, or even articulation its interpretation might be different. Feb 17 at 20:09
  • We are conditioned! What do you „hear“ if we only have the root tone and the chromatic line above it, the 3rd omitted? Feb 18 at 13:10
  • @Albrecht Hügli I hear ambiguity.
    – wabisabied
    Feb 19 at 3:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.