How to Play Augmented Triads on the Piano

Augmented Triads are a new type of chord that we're going to learn about today.

To understand the concept of what an augmented chord is - let's review what it means to augment something.

It simply means to ~add to or increase something~. You can augment your checking account by going to work, for example. :)

Now let's find out how we can apply this to a major triad so it becomes an augmented triad; and what they sound like, look like on the music staff and what they sound like on the piano.

Step 1: What Does an Augmented Chord Sound Like?

It's a mystery. <--- That's the clue!

Augmented chords sound very mysterious and maybe a little spooky at times. This is the most defining and distinguishing characteristic in the sound of augmented chords.

Major chords have a certain type of resolution sound to them and minor chords have a sort of sad sound to them.

Augmented chords have neither and sound instead like something you might hear in the background of a thriller movie or when you're spooked by something.

Now let's see what these spooky chords look like in our music.

Step 2: What Do Augmented Chords Look Like on the Music Staff

First of all, remember that we're going to start with a Major Triad - which is made up of 3 notes starting with the root note, then the 3rd note, and then the 5th. This formula is for all major triads.

The notes will be stacked right over each other the same amount of steps from each other. (see 1st image)

Notice that the notes here are G, B, & D.

Now, to make this an Augmented Triad, we simply move the top note which is D in this case, go up a 1/2 step to D#. Notice in the 2nd image how the D is now D#?

That's how you recognize augmented triads in your piano music. Any triad that has the 5th note one 1/2 step higher than it normally is in a major triad, you will have an augmented triad.

Now let's see just what these chords look like on your piano keyboard.

Step 3: What Do Augmented Chords Look Like on the Piano Keyboard?

Remember that we're adding in one 1/2 step to a major triad when we play them on the piano.

Let's take a C Major Chord to start with. (This is also the example I use in the video at the end of this lesson)

We're not going to start on Middle C, we're going to start on the C an octave higher than that. So you have the notes C, E, & G.

Now think about this...what note do you have to move and with what finger, to make this an augmented chord?

Well, if you remember that you're moving the 5th note up, you'll simply move your 5th finger/pinky finger up a 1/2 step, and in this case, it would be the note G. So your notes in the augmented C Triad will then be, C, E, & G#.

Another way to do this is to count up four 1/2 steps and then four 1/2 steps again from the bottom or Root note of the chord.

The best way to really understand what these types of chords look and sound like on the piano keyboard is to see me do it and then you can practice them with me to make sure you're doing them right. Ready to practice with me?

Step 4: Come Practice Augmented Triads With Me!

These mysterious sounding chords add so much to your piano playing because of the strong emotional texture in their sound. Once you know how to play them you'll really enjoy using them in different ways to add something new and surprising to your playing.

Watch with me and practice along on your keyboard as I show you what augmented chords sound like, what they look like in your music and how to play them on the piano. They won't be a mystery any longer once you've accomplished playing them on your piano!

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