Augmented, Diminished & Suspended Triads
Here’s something interesting that expands on basic chords. Previous posts have gone over major and minor triads, including how they’re derived from the major and minor scale, respectively. They’re the two most basic chords in Western music and are each comprised of 3 notes – the root (or 1), a variable 3rd (major or minor) and the 5th degree of the given scale. So, they’re spelled out as:
- Major triad: 1 – 3 – 5
- Minor triad: 1 – b3 – 5
There are apparently three other chords that are variations of the triads. Two of them alter the 5th chord tone, which generally remains the same in a major or minor triad (which is why the 5th is called a perfect fifth). The last one replaces the 3rd with a 4th, regardless of whether its major or minor. These triads are called the Augmented, Diminished and Suspended triads.
An augmented triad is a major triad with a raised 5th. This means that the 5th is sharped, or played one fret higher. A diminished triad is the opposite. It’s a major triad with a lowered 5th. This means that the 5th is flatted, or played one fret lower. Finally a suspended triad is a something of an ambiguous chord. It replaces the 3rd with a 4th, so its neither major nor minor in sound. Here are the spellings for each:
- Augmented triad: 1 – 3 – #5
- Diminished triad: 1 – 3 – b5
- Suspended triad: 1 – 4 – 5
I first came across these new chords in Chapter 5 of Bass Guitar for Dummies. There, fingerings were presented for each. However, the book didn’t give any additional information about them. For that, I turned to the internet, and found the following.
- Idiot’s Guide: Major, Minor, Diminished & Augmented Chords
- Music Theory Site: Constructing Major, Minor, Augmented & Diminished Triads
- StudyBass: Diminished triads
There seem to be more resources discussing augmented and diminished chords than suspended ones. The suspended triad is interesting to me, because its neither major nor minor. Its apparently used to help move from a major to minor tonality, or vice versa. So, in a way, its like a passing tone, buy expanded into an entire chord.