We continue exploring chord symbols by looking at two chord types we
didn't cover last time
: augmented triads and diminished triads.
The augmented triad has a root, a maj. 3rd, and an augmented 5th. Augmented
(or aug.) means "larger," or raised by one half-step; in an
aug. triad, the 5th is one half-step higher than a perfect 5th. Picture
an aug. triad as a maj. triad with a raised 5th: the C aug. triad is C,
E, and G-sharp.
The diminished triad has a root, min. 3rd, and diminished
5th. As you might guess, diminished (or dim.) means "smaller,"
or lowered one half-step; in a dim. triad, the 5th is one half-step lower
than a perfect 5th. Picture a dim. triad as a min. triad with a lowered
5th: the C dim. triad is C, E-flat, and G-flat.
The symbol for an aug. triad is aug, or a plus sign: Caug and C+ both mean "C aug. triad."
The dim. triad symbol is dim, or a circle; G dim and G with a circle after
it both mean "G dim. triad."
You can add 7ths to these triads just as you can to major and minor triads.
For aug. chords, the 7th can be either maj. or min. For example, a C+
triad (C, E, G-sharp) can have a B added (maj. 7th), or a B-flat (min.
7th). If it has a maj. 7th, the chord is like a CM7 with a raised 5th,
which we call "C Maj 7 plus 5," or "CM7+5" (a triangle is often
used in place of the "M"). If the 7th is minor, the chord is
like a C dom7 with a raised 5th, called "C aug 7"; the symbol is "C+7."
Dim. triads can add a min. 7th or a dim. 7th; let's look at the
dim. 7th first. A dim. 7th is a half-step lower than a min. 7th. For example,
C to B-flat is a min. 7th. Lower the top tone even further (to B
double-flat, which is usually just called A), and you get a dim.
7th. Add an A to a C dim. triad and you have a dim. 7 chord: e.g. C, E-flat,
G-flat, and A (or C, E-flat, F-sharp, and A. The symbol is a circle and
a 7 after the letter.
You can also add a min. 7th to a dim. triad, e.g. C, E-flat, G-flat,
and B-flat. This chord has two names, each describing a different way
of looking at it. It's a "min. 7 flat 5" chord (min. 7th
chord with a dim. 5th), or it's a "half-diminished" chord
(dim. 7th chord with a min. 7th rather than a dim. 7th). Either name is
fine. The symbols are: min7 flat5 or -7flat5
(with a flat symbol in place of the word "flat"); or, or a circle with a
slash through it.
If you see the word "sus" or "sus 4" (short for "suspended")
in a chord symbol, it means play a 4th in place of the 3rd. Csus is C,
F, and G. You can "sus" minor chords too: "C minor sus" is the
same notes, C, F, and G. Why two names for the same chord? Because the
4th is seen as a 3rd that has been raised to produce tension, which releases
("resolves") when the 4th drops back down to the 3rd; the chord
is called "suspended" because that resolution hasn't happened
yet. If it's a maj. chord whose 3rd has been raised, it's called
a "sus"; if it's a minor chord whose 3rd has been raised,
it's called a "minor sus." Min. 7 and dom. 7 chords (but rarely
Maj. 7) can be "sus" chords, too: both have a root, 4th,
5th, and min. 7th. Again, the chords are identical but the 4th in each
will resolve to a different 3rd. Of course, you don't have to resolve
sus chords if you don't want to , you can just play them for the
unique sound that they have on their own.
If it's a "sus 2" chord, then the 2nd takes the place of the 3rd: "C sus 2" is
C, D, and G. These chords are sometimes written as "C 2."
, we began looking at chord extensions: 9th's, 11th's,
and 13th's. In practical use, a 9th is a maj. 2nd above the root,
an 11th is a 4th, and a 13th is a maj. 6th (just subtract 7 from an extension
to get it's lower-than-8 "incarnation"). The 9th in a C
chord is D; in an A chord, it's B; in a B-flat chord, it's C.
, we'll explore how these extensions are used in chord symbols and chord voicings. Enjoy!
Copyright 2000 by Richard Middleton.
All rights reserved.
is a songwriter, musician, teacher, and writer based in Seattle. He is the author of