Greetings Premier Guitar readers and welcome to Lethal Guitar. First off, thank you so much for the emails concerning my last few lessons. Apparently you guys like the technical stuff and I enjoy teaching in that area as well. It makes my day to get messages asking for help or comments on the content of Lethal Guitar. I always get back to everyone who contacts me so don’t be timid if you feel you’d like to ask me about something.
Now let’s get down to business. Many rock players omit the use of augmented scales and/or arpeggios in their writing, while most jazz guitarists make constant use of them. Some of my favorite players use this idea extensively, i.e. Ron Thal/Bumblefoot and Brent Mason. The augmented idea offers some very interesting tensions in any style of music if utilized properly.
What does “augmented” mean in the context of Western music? It simply means the distance from the root to the fifth of the key/chord has been raised by a semitone or one half-step. Therefore the distance from one to five has been augmented or increased from seven half-steps to eight half-steps. The plus sign (+) is the symbol for the augmented chord; thus B+ equals B augmented.
Where do you use the augmented scale or chord? The easiest place to use anything augmented is over the dominant/five chord of a key. For example, in E major your dominant chord would be B+ augmented. Let me give you some examples of how to apply augmented ideas to your own playing!
Let’s start with the blues scale in a minor, utilizing an augmented arpeggio over the dominant chord E+ augmented, resolving to an A major chord.
The harmonic major scale is simply a major scale with a lowered sixth tone and works well over an augmented chord – in that the lowered sixth acts as a raised fifth, giving the scale augmented tonality. Here we use the scale over a G+ augmented chord, resolving to a C major chord.
D Lydian augmented sharp two over a D+ augmented chord will resolve interestingly to the tonic G major. Lydian gives us a raised fourth, augmented gives us a raised fifth, and of course a raised two. Strange yet beautiful.
The Ionian/major sharp five scale over an E+ augmented chord will again give us a strange/beautiful resolution to an A major chord.
Here we’ll use the Hindu scale over a C+ augmented chord to resolve to the tonic F major.
This example uses a Phrygian natural three (C#) over an A+ augmented chord, resolving to a D major chord.
Next we have the Super Locrian scale over an E augmented chord, resolving to the tonic, an A major.
When you first try these it will certainly challenge your ear, if you’re not already acclimated to the augmented scale or some of its common uses. A good way to get your ear acquainted is to play these lines over the augmented chords that are mentioned and the parent major chords they resolve to. This lesson is not for the faint of heart, so diligence is a key to using these ideas successfully. Remember, inch by inch, it’s a cinch. See you next month and God bless.
Jeff Beasley holds B.A. degrees in Music and Classical Guitar. He offers his readers 30 years of experience in studio, teaching and performance. He is on the National Guitar Workshop faculty in Nashville, TN. Jeff's CD "Tiebreaker" is available through CD Baby, Guitar 9, and Jeff's website; GuitarSource3.com. Jeff holds endorsement agreements with Peavey, DiMarzio, RKS, THD, Ensotec, Robert Keeley, Knucklehead and In Tune.