Exotic Sounding Chords - Augmented and Diminished



You may think that your chord vocabulary is vast. But, if you’ve been working through these lessons, you’ve only begun to graze the surface. Major and minor chords are pretty straightforward and extremely common. But augmented and diminished chords can both give your music a depth and level of emotion that may not be achieved using just major and minor chords.


As you work through this lesson, play the sound clips often. Your goal is to acquaint yourself with the distinct sounds of the augmented and diminished chords. Think about how these chords make you feel. If you like, write your observations of these chords down. You can draw on them later as you begin to compose your own music and start to improv.


Augmented and Diminished Definitions


By definition, an augmented chord is a triad chord that has an augmented interval. In general something is termed augmented if it is raised by a half step. For example, the C major chord has the notes C, E, and G. The augmented C chord is C, E, and G#. The end result is a chord that sounds slightly discordant. It is generally considered an unstable, unresolved chord.


As an exercise, play a C Major. Then, remove all of the G notes and instead finger the G#. Notice how the major chord sounds resolved and complete? Well this is because all major chords have what is known as a tonal center. This gives it that “complete” quality you hear with your ear. When you play the augmented chord, you may notice that the chord doesn’t have this quality. That is because augmented chords don’t have a tonal center and therefore do not sound resolved.



A diminished chord is also a triad but has different qualities than the augmented chord. This type of chord includes the root note, a minor third above the root, and a diminished fifth above the root. Let’s find the diminished chord using C as the root note. This would make E Flat (Eb) the minor third above C and G Flat (Gb) the diminished fifth above C. Therefore, the notes in the Diminished C chord are C, Eb, and Gb.


As another exercise, play C Major and then change the E to an Eb and the G to a Gb. Play the Diminished C chord. Switch back and forth playing C Major and C Diminished so you can get a feel for how it sounds. You’ll want to have this sound memorized because it will equip you to be better able to improvise and compose.



Just like the augmented chords sound dissonant, so do the diminished chords. They also lack the tonal center that the major chord has. Think about this as you play the two chords, above. Or if you aren’t ready to play them, just listen to the clips.


Learning Augmented and Diminished Chords


Now that you understand some of the theory, it is time to learn the diminished and augmented chords. A good bet is to find as chord book and practice the chords one by one. You may start with a certain key- for example the Key of C. Review the major and minor chords you’ve learned so far as a warm up then work through the augmented and diminished chords that are listed.


You will also want to set up a practice schedule that will help you learn, memorize, and apply the augmented and diminished chords you would like to learn. Devote at least some time each day, even if you can only find five minutes. Thirty minutes to one hour is ideal, but practicing five minutes a day does add up.


Practicing Augmented and Diminished Chords


Here are some exercises that will help you learn and master the augmented and diminished chords.


This exercise will help you build your chord vocabulary from key to key. It will also help develop your strumming skills, your ability to change from one chord to the next, and your timing.


  • Set your metronome at a pace that’s comfortable
  • Pick a key such as the Key of G.
  • Strum the major chords in that key to the beat. Use a strumming pattern you are comfortable with. This is your warm up.
  • Do the same with the augmented chords in the key, and then repeat again with the diminished chords.
  • Set the metronome faster as you get comfortable
  • Repeat the exercise using different keys.


The last exercised included the major chords. This exercise leaves the major chords out.

  • Set the metronome at a speed that’s comfortable for your skill level.
  • Pick one augmented chord from each key.
  • Using the metronome to define your rhythm, strum each chord in rapid succession at a strumming pattern and pace that is comfortable.
  • Speed up the metronome setting as you build your skills.
  • Repeat the above with the diminished chords.


After you become familiar with the augmented and diminished chords, you will have a good library of chords that are both resolved and unresolved. This will give your playing a depth that wasn’t present when you only knew the major and minor chords.