augmented chord – The Magic Harmony

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This is an excerpt lesson from the [STUDY PACK] VARIOUS GENRES- MOVIE IDENT, SPOOKY, SUSPENSE, CRIME DRAMA. Complete editions of video lessons, music scores (PDF), score analysis (PDF), and HD music examples used in this lesson can be viewed here.

A video that explains what an augmented chord is. Video presented by Tim Maurice.

Components of an Augmented Chord

An augmented chord is a triad that consists of three notes: the root note, a major third above the root, and an augmented fifth above the root. The augmented fifth can be referred to as a raised fifth or a sharp fifth. In musical notation, an augmented chord is typically represented as “aug” or with a “+” symbol, such as Caug or C+.

Here’s a breakdown of the components of an augmented chord:

  1. Root Note: This is the note upon which the chord is built. For example, in a C augmented chord, the root note is C.
  2. Major Third: The major third is the interval between the root note and the third note of the chord. It consists of four half steps or two whole steps. In the case of a C augmented chord, the major third is E.
  3. Augmented Fifth: The augmented fifth is the interval between the root note and the fifth note of the chord. It consists of eight half steps or four whole steps. In the case of a C augmented chord, the augmented fifth is G# (or Ab).

The augmented chord is distinct from other chord types like major and minor chords because of its augmented fifth, which creates a sense of tension and instability. It has a unique and somewhat dissonant sound, and it is often used in music to create tension that resolves to a more stable chord, such as a major or minor chord.

Dramatic Usage of Augmented Chords

An augmented chord often inspires an uncertain and magical tone. It is a major triad whose 5th has been raised (or ‘augmented’) by a half-step (see Fig. D). Each note of an augmented chord is a major 3rd away from the next one; thus, the notes are equidistant to each other. Some composers use these chords to capture inquisitive and supernatural feelings. In the following two pieces, we explore how augmented harmonies affect mood.

Fig. D


Augmented Chord Composition Example

Ex. 5-7 draws its harmony from a Baug chord (B, D♯, G). We build the composition in layers by introducing one element at a time.

The piece begins softly with a low cello tremolo on B. Violins join in m. 2 with tremolo on G (an octave apart). This string harmony creates a background layer, and the tremolo technique adds an element of anxiety (①). At the same time, harp begins playing Baug arpeggio patterns. The harp’s repetition and upward motion create an almost hypnotic effect (②). Glockenspiel joins in m. 3 to respond to the harp and add variety.

In mm. 4-5, we hear a hint of melody in the bass clarinet, doubled by viola (③). At this point, we start using the B whole tone scale for passing tones and other non-chord tones. Bassoon harmonizes underneath the melody, moving in contrary motion (④). Horn sustains an F, a tritone above the B bass.

This piece combines several musical elements to create the mood. The melody sounds brooding due to its low register and dark timbre of the woodwinds. The quiet tremolo technique in the strings creates a subtle uncertainty. The augmented harmony sounds mysterious at a soft, slow tempo.

*Tips) Augmented Chords and Whole Tone Scales
Augmented chords are compatible with whole tone scales. For instance, the Baug chord (B-D♯-G) is part of the B Whole Tone scale (B – C♯ – D♯ – F – G – A). 

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