Diminished and augmented chords are often used as passing chords in music. In practical applications, the use of these chords is often followed up with a major or minor chord to resolve their tensive-sounding nature.
And due to the nature of how they sound, this is also why they are sparingly used in music. As a matter of fact, the main applications of these chords are usually found in jazz music and not in many other types of genres.
So, if you are into jazz or want to broaden your chord vocabulary, you should start paying attention now.
To explain the diminished chord in layman’s terms, a diminished triad is simply a minor guitar chord with a flatted fifth. In sheet music or guitar tabs, they are often denoted by an “o”, “-” or “dim”.
For example, the C minor chord has the following notes: C Eb G. The C diminished chord contains the notes of C Eb Gb.
Interestingly, the diminished chord is rarely used in its “pure” triad form in music. In fact, one of the more commonly used extensions derived from the diminished chord is the diminished seventh: C Eb Gb A.
Now, you might have noticed that the spacing between the notes are all a minor 3rd interval apart. This creates a very dissonant sound to the ears when the chord is played and is why they are often played for the duration of a beat or less.
In music, the main use of the diminished chord is to act as a transitional chord for changing between keys in songs. Each note in the diminished 7th chord can be used as a leading note to a key change.
Let me show you an example of how this works by using the Cdim7 chord as an illustration. Let’s take a look at the individual notes which make up the Cdim7 chord:
C is the 7th of Db
Eb is the 7th of E
Gb is the 7th of G
A is the 7th of Bb
Using the Cdim7 chord as a passing chord, you can utilize it as a tool to help you change keys into Db, E, G or Bb.
Augmented chords are often denoted by a “+” or “aug”. To explain the augmented chord in layman’s terms, an augmented triad is simply a major chord with a sharp fifth. For example, the C major chords have the notes C E G and the C augmented has the notes C E G#.
Like the diminished chord, the augmented chord is very tense sounding and is usually used as a passing chord. As a guideline, when you are playing augmented chords, it should never be sustained for longer than the duration of a beat.
Another handy tip to bear in mind is that augmented chords are typically used to link up major and minor chords or major and major 6th chords. Truth be told, augmented chords sound really awkward when it isn’t used correctly.
Most of their usage is limited to jazz music and you have to trust your ears on whether it sounds right or wrong when using augmented chords.
Congrats on making it this far in the lesson. I know it’s a pretty tough guitar lesson especially if you aren’t well-versed in music theory. However, I do hope that I had addressed many of the questions posed to me via email with regard to augmented/diminished chords. If you have any further queries, feel free to leave a comment below…
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