Augmented triads in all 4 keys.
Hi everyone, and welcome back to another lesson on augmented triads.
In this one we will study augmented triads, and if you’re wondering why the title mentions only 4 and not 12 keys, just keep reading and you will find out why. First of all, an augmented triad is based on a simple idea: if we divide the 12 notes of our system in three exact parts, we obtain four note arpeggios (including the octave), where all the tones are at the same distance of a major third between each other. Therefore, from whichever point of view we see it, we will always have major third intervals between the single tones of this triad, as we can see in the examples below here, based on C, E and Ab aug. From an harmonic perspective, to say it with Schonberg own words, augmented triads can be considered a "vagrant" chord, i.e. very adaptable to different harmonic contexts, but mostly used with dominant or secondary dominant function.
Since the triad notes are at same distance between each other, it doesn’t make sense to talk of inversions, since each major third is the root of a new triad whose new root is the subsequent major third.
That being said, since the augmented triad tones are always at a major third distance among each other, in our twelve tones series we have 3 different sounds at a 3rd major distance, meaning that, in order to play the augmented triads in all twelve keys, any four subsequent semi-tones will cover all of them, as shown below here with the keys of E, F and F# and G.
Please note that sharp and flat alterations might be mixed throughout the following exercises, in order to keep the right distance between the tones while avoiding double alterations. For example, while Gaug can be notated as G-B-D#, the D#aug would become D#-F##-A##: clearly easier to notate and read this last one as Eb-G-B.
As for the scale related to this arpeggio, the music theory gives us a double solution, since the so called augmented and the whole-tone scales are both recognized as related to the augmented triad. Differently from major and minor triads, belonging to heptatonic scales (seven note sounds), the two mentioned scales belong to an hexatonic scale (six note sounds). More specifically, the augmented scale is based on two superimposed augmented triads at a semitone distance between each other, as we can see in the example below based on C augmented (C-Eb-E-G-G#-B).
On the other hand the whole tone scale is based on a very simple idea: create a scale where each note is at a distance of a whole tone from the next one, as you can see below here with the C whole tone scale C (C-D-E-F#-G#-A#).
Since both scales are based on augmented triads, we can infer that any two of those two scales, starting at a semitone distance (for example C and C#), can cover all the 12 sounds available in our actual system.
From a practical point of view, I have to admit that the whole tone scale is well more used than the first one. Also, being this one based on six subsequent whole tones, it seems to be more naturally related to the augmented triad, carrying over the idea of a dodecafonic system divided in 12 equal parts.
Since the augmented triad is a symmetric chord, the following exercises will be based on the four available keys. Starting from the lowest notes available on the bass, these four keys are Eaug (including the keys of Ab and C), Faug (including the keys of A and Db), Gbaug (including the keys of Bb and D), and Gaug (including the keys of B and Eb). Remember that, given the nature of the electric bass, every arpeggio has more than one fingering option, so feel free to explore different ones from those presented in the following charts. As usual, start practicing at 60 bpm, and gradually increase the tempo.
That was it for this lesson. Take your time to absorb the previous exercises, and don't forget to use an iRealPro chart to make your “painful but effective” practice more enjoyable!
Happy practice and see you in the next lesson!