Augmented Triads on Guitar
In previous lessons we’ve learned about major, minor and diminished triads. In this lesson we’ll round out the triads with augmented triads. We’ll take a look at the interval structure that creates the augmented triad and map them to the guitar fretboard.
What is an augmented triad?
Like all triads, an augmented triad contains three notes. It’s built by stacking two major 3rd intervals.
|Quality||Stacked 3rd Intervals||Semitones||5th Quality|
|Augmented||Major 3rd + Major 3rd||8||Augmented|
Essentially, it’s a major triad with a raised 5th.
Augmented Triads on the Guitar Fretboard
We can explore augmented triad shapes across the fretboard using string groupings. Augmented triads are unique in that on any given string grouping, the root position, first and second inversions are all the same shape. This gives us only four distinct shapes to learn across all of the string groupings.
Augmented Triad Shapes on Strings 1-2-3
On strings 1, 2, and 3 you get the following note arrangements:
- Shape 1: 3rd on string 3, 5th on string 2, root on string 1 (1st inversion)
- Shape 2: 5th on string 3, root on string 2, 3rd on string 1 (2nd inversion)
- Shape 3: root on string 3, 3rd on string 2, 5th on string 1 (root position)
In the diagram below you can see the shapes up the fretboard. The triad shapes will repeat up and down the entire fretboard.
Augmented Triad Shapes on Strings 2-3-4
On strings 2, 3, and 4 you get the following note arrangements:
- Shape 1: root on string 4, 3rd on string 3, 5th on string 2 (root position)
- Shape 2: 3rd on string 4, 5th on string 3, root on string 2 (first inversion)
- Shape 3: 5th on string 4, root on string 3, 3rd on string 2 (second inversion)
Below is the full diagram with the triad shapes up the fretboard.
Augmented Triads on Strings 3-4-5
On strings 3, 4, and 5 you get the following note arrangements:
- Shape 1: 5th on string 5, root on string 4, 3rd on string 3 (2nd inversion)
- Shape 2: root on string 5, 3rd on string 4, 5th on string 3 (root position)
- Shape 3: 3rd on string 5, 5th on string 4, root on string 3 (1st inversion)
The full diagram is below.
Augmented Triads on Strings 4-5-6
On strings 4, 5, and 6 you get the following note arrangements:
- Shape 1: 3rd on string 6, 5th on string 5, root on string 4 (1st inversion)
- Shape 2: 5th on string 6, root on string 5, 3rd on string 4 (2nd inversion)
- Shape 3: root on string 6, 3rd on string 5, 5th on string 4
Below is the full diagram for strings 4, 5 and 6.
Example Use of the Augmented Triad
When I think of augmented triads, one song in particular stands out and it’s Eddie Money’s “Baby Hold On”. The main riff is a back and forth between the I chord, D major, and the augmented I chord, D+.
Then the D augmented chord is used to build tension in the transition to the Em7 chord.
If you notice in this progression, the 5th ascends chromatically from the perfect 5th (D major chord), augmented 5th (D+ chord), major 6th (D6 chord), minor 7th (D7 chord). This releases nicely into the Em7 chord, as you can hear in the audio sample.
In this lesson we learned about augmented triads. Because of the symmetry of the stacked major 3rds, each string grouping produces only one unique shape. This makes it a little more tricky to identify the root position and inversions as the shape itself won’t make it obvious. With these triads you really have to understand the relationship between the intervals.
While augmented triads certainly aren’t as commonly used as the major and minor triads, they do have their place in adding color and tension to chord progressions.
Cheat Sheet: Augmented Triads
Download the cheat sheet for this lesson: