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Augmented and diminished chords . . .


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When's a good time to use them?


I know that there is no formula or guidelines dictating when a dim. or aug. chord MUST or even SHOULD be used, but when would music benefit from some dissonent spice in the aug. or dim. form?


I was playing "Fixing A Hole" today and realized - none of my music has an augmented chord, and only ONE piece has a diminished chord.


I do my best to spice up the harmonies with inversions (3rd / 5th in bass), and extensions (to a degree, I don't get TOO jazzy, usually just 7ths and 9ths) and color (2nd's / 6th's), but I never use these "tension" chords.


So, where should I start? :D



Amateur Hack
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Well, since it's the Christmas season, how 'bout a couple of Christmas tunes...


Jingle Bell Rock and Holly Jolly Christmas.


No kidding. Those two songs are how I broke the "diminished/augmented" ice with my guitar class.




And even if you're a seasoned player who plays styles that don't normally use those chords, it's still good to get 'em in your repertoire. They're transition chords, they don't sound great on their own, but they make perfect sense in those cases.

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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Ah yes, demented and demolished chords. Really, I don't know. It goes back to what I said in the "progressions rut" thread... I tend to write stuff in my head first, without a guitar in my hands, and every once in awhile, a diminished or augmented chord is just what I hear in my head... it just WORKS. And I couldn't tell you why or how. Probably too many years of listening to Beatles records, they just sneak into my brain. :D
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Well, though I always maintain that music theory is a way to analyze what happens in music rather than dictate what should occur, there are certain things that would suggest the use of either.


In the way that chords are derived from the scale one might use, when you get to the 7th degree of the major scale, for one example, a diminished chord is automatic.[see below*]

There are other possible examples & any book about theory or harmony will yield more.

Also note that there are actually several types of dim. chords. Most beginners first learn a full, 4 note diminished but there's a basic dim. chord that, like all triads, just has 3 notes (2 consecutive minor 3rds). That chord can be extended to have either a major 7th (1-b3-b5-#7) or a dominant 7th (1-b3-b5-b7) or a diminished/double flat 7th (1-b3-b5-bb7), which is, of course, the one most people think of first.


For augmented chords, the basic thing is that you're accenting---or at least using---the #5th in reference to the chord name or tonic note.


Again, however, all music happens in the ear & if it sounds right to you that's the money!



* for example :

scale = cdefgabc

first chord= ceg (major)

2nd= dfa (minor)

3rd= egb (min.)

4th= fac (maj.)

5th= gbd (maj.)

6th= ace (min.)

7th= bdf (diminished)

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Originally posted by The Tedster of Christmas Present:

One of my fave oldie Brit-invasion songs that used the crap out of augmented chords was "Because" by the Dave Clark Five....

Ahh... I can still play that one!


also, there was a countryish song... I never really knew it but that was one of the changes... ""I remember you---uuuuu. You're the one that made my dreams come true, a few kisses ago...." I can do that much, but I don't know any more of it.



"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."


Steve Martin


Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.



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I think the Seseme St song "Rubber Ducky" has a augmented chord in the progression.


a Dimimished 7th chord can act as a dominant 7 with a b9, most often in the bass which resolves down to the tonic of the key in a cadence type thing. It can also be used between a major chord like a I going to a ii where the root of the I^7 goes up a half step and the major 7 goes down to the b7 of the tonic I (or the bb7 in the diminished spelling). So, it can be for transitioning or subing for dominants. Doesn't Dolly Dagger by Hendrix have a diminished chord vamp for the verse?


Augmented chords are mostly used as alterations of dominant chords, like in Stormy Monday, but very often in ii7 V+7 i minor prgressions.


If I'm right about "Rubber Ducky" then I'm a sucker for that kind of use. I guess they "naturally" occur as chords in the chords pulled out of the Harmonic Minor scale, but outside of the realy stock uses I describe I guess anytime the voice leading gives a chance for them they could be used. It would give a chance to modulate maybe because of their "rootless" and ambiguous nature.

check out some comedy I've done:


My Unitarian Jihad Name: Brother Broadsword of Enlightened Compassion.

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  • 3 weeks later...

This is just for the curious! :)


Ill try to explain how one may look at augmented chords. Its supposed to be played and listened to rather than read. I wrote a very simple chord pattern for guitar on three strings to illustrate what I mean. The pattern is best played with the fingers so that each of the notes is heard simultaneously. The second chord in each pattern is the actual augmented chord. The last chord in every progression is the same as the first. Let that one rest before you play the progression again. I think all one needs to know to understand this is what a tonality is and what the notes are. In any case if someone has doubts PM me or post ;)

Here it is: * = don't play this string


Pattern 1 in C major:

*320** ---->C major-------->c e g

*321** ---->C Augmented---->c e (g#)

*322** ---->A minor (enharmonically) --->c e a

*323** ---->C7------->c e (b flat)

*332** ---->F major---->c f a

*322** ---->F minor---->c f (a flat)

*320** ---->C again


Now the second chord in the progression is the augmented chord. It's an easy shape and if you displace it up a major third we end up with the same notes:

*765** ---->e (g#) c.

If we displace it yet another major third up we still get the same notes:

*(11)(10)(9)**---->(g#) c e

So I can call it C augmented, E augmented or G# augmented at my own convenience.

For the moment let's keep calling it C augmented.

If we invert the rest of the chords we get:


Pattern 2 in C major

*755** ---->C major

*765** ---->C augmented

*775** ---->A minor

*785** ---->C7

*875** ---->F major

*865** ---->F minor

*755** ---->C major


And inverting the progression yet again would lend:


Pattern 3 in C major:

*(10)(10) (9)** ------>C major

*(11)(10) (9)** ------>C augmented

*(12)(10) (9)** ------>A minor

*(13)(10) (9)**------>C7

*(12) (10) (10)** ------>F major

*(11) (10) (10)** ------>F minor

*(10) (10) (9)** ------> C major


If anyone is still with me I'll be surprised :D . You may have noticed the main difference between the patterns is which of the voices move and which of the voices stay on the same note. If anything, playing this may have got you to get used to the sound of the augmented chord in a certain contexts.

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Now, the important thing about augmented chords is that they act as wildcards between tonalities. If I'm writing something in C major and I want to go to E major, I'll have to modulate. The modulation between these tonalities will usually be abrupt, because these two tonalities don't share any chords. I may want it to be abrupt, but usually you'd want it to be as smooth as possible. And that's were the augmented chord kicks in. In my previous post I said that one can choose to call this augmented chord C augmented, E augmented or G# augmented. It's for you to choose.

Now, this is Pattern 3 in E major:


Pattern 3 E major

*221** ------> E major

*321**--------> E augmented "wildcard¨

*421** ------> C# minor

*521** ------> E7 (and quite a stretch too)

*422**------> A major

*322** ------> A minor

*221** -----> E major


One way to modulate is by changing the name of the augmented chord and creating a hybrid progression.


Modulated pattern from C major to E major

*320** ------> C major (I'm starting with pattern number 1 of the previous post)

*321** -----> C augmented which I know decide to name E augmented

*421** ------> C# minor (I'm now in the tonality of E major)

*521** ------> E7 (and quite a stretch too)

*422**------> A major

*322** ------> A minor

*221** -----> E major


If you play Pattern 1 in C for a while and then play this last modulated pattern you'll find that the transition between one tonality to another is quite smooth. At least it is to my ears.

Hope this helps!


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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting thread. Heres my two pennies worth . .


Diminished 7ths are like gateways to new tonal centres and can be used to modulate between what at first seem harmonically distant keys.

There are effectively only 3 diminished 7th chords since a diminished 7th is effectively 4 notes each separated by a minor 3rd. Example:

C dim7 = C, D#, F#, A

now the diminished 7th starting a minor 3rd up from C is:-

D# dim7 (enharmonic Eb dim7) = D#, F#, A, C . . .

. . . just the 1st inversion of C dim7.


One of the great things about a dimished 7th is its ability to modulate to 4 harmonically distant keys just by flattening any one of its notes by a semitone so that it becomes a dominant 7th and we all know how powerful dominant 7ths are for resolving a 5th downwards (or a 4th upwards). I dont think there is a quicker way of modulating between unrelated keys. Heres a few examples illustrating concept using C dim7 as above:-



C DIM7 = C, D#, F#, A

Now flatten the C by a semitone =

B7 = B,D#,F#, A

Which naturally wants to resolve to

E (major or minor)



C DIM7 = C, D#, F#, A

Now flatten the D# by a semitone =

D7 = C,D,F#, A

Which naturally wants to resolve to

G (major or minor)



C DIM7 = C, D#, F#, A

Now flatten the F# by a semitone =

F7 = C,D#(Eb),F, A

Which naturally wants to resolve to

Bb (major or minor)



C DIM7 = C, D#, F#, A

Now flatten the A by a semitone =

G#7 = C(B#), D#, F#, G#

Which naturally wants to resolve to

C# (major or minor)


You can see now how the C dim7 chord can very quickly using just 1 transition chord modulate into 4 different keys - in this case E, G, Bb or C#.


You probably notice that the root notes of these 4 keys also form a diminished 7th chord.


This is just one of an infinite number of reasons why music is so appealing to me - its got the power to send shivers up your spine, move you to tears and yet at the same time, its essence is mathematics, geometric progressions, frequency ratios and series which wrap full circle.


Apologies for the over-babble


Hair-on-a-G-string (alias Paul from NZ)

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Originally posted by Hair_on_a_G_string:

This is just one of an infinite number of reasons why music is so appealing to me - its got the power to send shivers up your spine, move you to tears and yet at the same time, its essence is mathematics, geometric progressions, frequency ratios and series which wrap full circle.

Amateur Hack
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Thanks for your nice words, but it was you guys/gals who started it.


Music more than any other art can stimulate the intellect as well as emotion.


In all this conversation, it seems our old friend the augmented 5th is is not getting as much air time, so in an attempt to even the score, here goes . . .


Take any augmented 5th chord (there are really only 4 of them taking into account inversions) and flatten anyone of the notes by a semitone - result 3 different major chords - example . .


C AUG = C,E,G#

Flatten the C = B,E,G# = Chord of E major

Flatten the E = C,Eb,G#(Ab) = Chord of Ab major

Flatten the G# = C,E,G = Chord of C major


Now take the same aumented chord and sharpen anyone of the notes by a semitone - result 3 different minor chords - example . .


C AUG = C,E,G#

Sharpen the C = C#,E,G# = Chord of C# minor

Sharpen the E = C,F,G#(Ab) = Chord of F minor

Sharpen the G# = C,E,A = Chord of A minor


You can now see the modulating power of the Augmented 5th chord acting as a pivot between harmonically distant chords/keys - each of the 4 augmented chords can, by adjusting one of its constituent notes by a semitone, go in 6 different directions.


Sod all this theoretical garbling, anyone for a jam?!


Hair-on-a-g-string (Paul in NZ)

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