Mysterious Sounds: Augmented - Diminished Chords

pumpkins with painted faces.



Around this time of year, I'm always reminded of those mysterious sounds of the augmented and diminished chords. Here's an article I wrote awhile back.


When you play three notes at the same time, you are playing a chord. Triads are chords that have three notes. What we learn is that those three notes are all stacked in thirds.

To begin with, let us start with the F Major Chord. The first note that would be on the bottom is the root (F), the second note up is a third higher (A), and the third one is a third up from the second note (C).

Now, there are different types of thirds between the music notes in triads. Each third can be either major or minor. A major third has four half-steps between the notes, so we are looking at C to C# to D to D# to E. A minor third has 3 half-steps, C to C# to D to Eb, for an example.

The Diminished triads use only the minor thirds, one on top of the other. They sound dissonant and very scary like the interesting background music we hear from an old vaudeville skit. You know, when you see the lady tied to the railroad tracks. Oh, gosh, here comes the train! That is the sound I am hearing. They often create a very restless, nervous and tense feeling. So, C to Eb is a minor third and Eb to Gb is a minor third, too. Some folks refer to them as 'the Halloween' sound.

Keep in mind that the diminished triads can be used in your song playing as passing chords. They help connect two chords that are a whole tone apart. Here is an example of what I am talking about. If you are playing a song and at the beginning you play C-E-G (a C chord), why don't you hop on a C#dim chord on your way to Dm (D-F-A)?! I think you will agree, that is a very cool sound and a great transition in piano playing.

Moving on to Augmented triads, you will discover that they are made up of two major thirds. They also sound dissonant, and quite a bit noisy at that, like a honking truck on the street. In music they will definitely grab your attention. I have found these special sounds and transitions in popular songs that are from the 40's. When you look at these tones, C to E is a major third and E to C# is a major third as well.

From the Beatles music, (I'm a great fan) to Contemporary Worship (Gospel) songs, you will be discovering in your chord charts and soon playing these very interesting, set apart chords, the augmented and diminished chords.



  • Miss Celie's Blues (Sister)
The vehicle for this bluesy number was the critically acclaimed Warner Bros. film The Color Purple, which starred Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. Composer Quincy Jones was recently honored for his lifetime achievements by the Songwriters' Hall Of Fame.



B               D° 
 
 Sister, you've been on my mind 
 
 D#m5-/7       G#7 
 
 Sister, we're two of a kind 
 
  C#7/9 
 
 So     sister,  
 
     F#7                B   C° 
 
 I'm keepin' my eyes on you 
 
 C#m      F#5+/7         B 
 
 I betcha think I don't know nothin' 
 
     D° 
 
 But singin' the blues 
 
 D#m5-/7          G#7  
 
 Oh sister, have I    got news for you 
 
     C#7/9 
 
 I'm       somethin' 
 
   F#5+/7          
 
 I hope   you think that  
 
  F#7              B 
 
 You're somethin' too 
 
 B6  Bb6  A6  B  A#° 
 
 
 
 
 
  G#m       C#9 
 Scufflin',  
 
        G#m         C#9 
 
 I been up that lomesone road 
 
       G#m            E7+       G#m  C#9 
 
 And I seen a lot of suns goin' down 
 
         G#m     C#9 
 
 Oh, but trust   me 
 
     G#m              G#7       C#7  F#7 
 
 Now low life's gonna run me around 
 
                             B 
 
 So let me tell you something   sister 
 
   D° 
 
 Remember your name 
 
 D#m5-/7 
  
 No       twister,  
 
        G#7  
 
 Gonna steal your stuff away 
 
    C#7/9  
 
 My sister 
 
 F#7                           B    D#7  G#7 
 
 Sho' ain't got a whole lot of time 
 
                  C#7/9 
 
 So shake you shimmy, Sister 
 
 F#7                              B6  Bb6  A6  B  B7/F# 
 
 'Cause honey I sure is feelin' fine 
  
  • Arrangement to the song (different key)


C               B7
 
 Sister, you've been on my mind 
 
Em7-5     A7 
 
 Sister, we're two of a kind 
 
 D7 
 
 So     sister,  
 
     G7                 C C#dim
 
 I'm keepin' my eyes on you 
 
G7                           C
 I betcha think I don't know nothin' 
 
    B7 
 
 But singin' the blues 
 
Em7-5            A7  
 
 Oh sister, have I    got news for you 
 
           D7
 
 I'm       somethin' 
 
   Ab7          
 
 I hope   you think that  
 
                  C  E7
 
 You're somethin' too 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 Am        
 Scufflin',  
 
 E7/B   Am/C             E7/B
 
 I been up that lomesone road 
 
       Am            F7         Am 
 
 And I seen a lot of suns goin' down 
 
 E7/B    Am        E7/B
 
 Oh, but trust   me 
 
     Am/C              A/C#    D7 Ab7 
 
 Now low life's gonna run me around 
 
                                C
 G7
 So let me tell you something   sister 
 
  B7
 
 Remember your name 
 
 Em7-5 
  
 No       twister,  
 
        A7  
 
 Gonna steal your stuff away 
 
    D7  
 
 My sister 
 
Ab7                           C    E7  
 
 Sho' ain't got a whole lot of time 
 
                      D7   Ab7
 A7
 So shake you shimmy, Sister 
 
G7                             C  G7+5  C7
 
 'Cause honey I sure is feelin' fine 
 
 
 
Here's the chord breakdown to the song.  
C = EG/EC
B7 = F#A/D# 
A7 = GA/C#EG
D7 = F#A/EC 
G7 = F/GEEb
C = EG/E
C#dim = C#GBb/E
G7 = FGB/G
C = EG/EC
B7 = F#A/D#BBb
Em7-5 = GBb/DG
A7 = GA/C#G
D7 = F#A/EC
Ab7 = EbGb/AbC
C = CEBb/GC
E7 = EG#/DE
Am = CA/CE
E7/B = BG#/DE
Am/C = CA/EA
E7/B = BG#/Eb
Am = CEa/EC
F7 = CEbA/G
Am = CEA/E
E7/B = BG#/ACD
Am = CA/CE
E7/B = BG#/DE
Am/C = CA/EA
A/C# = C#GA/Bb
D7 = DF#/CD
Ab7 = EbGb/CEb
G7 = F/BDG
C = EG/EAC
B7 = F#A/D#B
Em7-5 = GBb/DG
A7 = GA/C#Bb
D7 = F#A/EC
Ab7 = EbGbAbC
C = EG/E
E7 = EG#/D
A7 = GA/C#E
D7 = F#A/EC
Ab7 = EbGb/C
G7 = GF/GC
C = C/GC
G7+5 = GF/BD#
C7 = CEG/BbC
4 Free Video Lessons

Have a fun Halloween!
Best,






"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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