Piano Player World

How Are Augmented Chords Formed

creating raised chordsIn this article, we’re going to go over how augmented chords are formed on piano. If you’ve never heard of augmented chords before, don’t worry!

We’re going to make things really easy to understand. If you do know what augmented chords are, read on, because we’re going to see how you can use these in your playing and composition.

An augmented chord is basically a standard major chord with a sharpened fifth. What does that mean? Get in front of a keyboard, and play a C major chord. That’s C, E and G. The G is a perfect fifth, so make that a G sharp, and you’re playing an augmented chord. Another way to say this is that you’re playing two major thirds on top of one another.

Now I’m going to show you how you can use this chord when you play and compose. Basically, an augmented chord is a tension chord, and it releases back into the tonic. That might sound a little complicated, so I’ll explain a little further.

If you play G augmented, that’s G, B and E flat, you’re going to feel the tension in the chord pushing you to move to a C major. Try playing both of those chords together now.

Again, the G augmented resolves into the C major, which is the tonic. Depending on your musical ability, you may already know that G is the perfect fifth of the C major scale on piano. So this rule can be applied to any key: Playing an augmented chord in the perfect fifth creates the expectation and anticipation of resolving to the tonic.

chords on piano

getting highHow can you use this in your playing? Most obviously, you can hit an augmented chord when you want to build a great deal of tension, and give your listeners the expectation of hearing the tonic soon after.

Another way to keep your tunes interesting is to use this anticipation and send it to an unexpected place, giving an audience something new to listen to. Mastering this control over tension is something that will take years of practice, so get started now! 

An example of augmented chords being used to create tension is a song from Toy Story that you’ve probably heard, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. Take a listen to the song, and just before the verse you’ll hear an augmented chord come into play, before it’s resolves into the major. This is a happy kids tune, so the composer obviously doesn’t want to spend too much time in a tense musical area before resolving.

So to recap, an augmented chord is most often used in the dominant (fifth) chord of a scale to create tension, usually to be resolved soon after in the tonic (first) chord.

Being able to go beyond simple major, minor and seventh chords is essential for any musician looking to reach a new level of ability. Now that you know how augmented chords are formed on piano, it’s time to start experimenting. Find out how the chord sounds in a variety of musical situations. Use it somewhere you wouldn’t expect it to work, and you may be surprised with what you hear!

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