The Augmented Scale

A few interesting and fun facts about the augmented scale:
  • It's really two augmented triads a half step apart or an augmented triad with a half step leading tone into each note

  • there are 3 major chords in the scale as well as the same three minor chords (e.g. Cmaj, Cmin, Emaj, Emin, Abmaj, Abmin)
The tune "Hoedown" on Oliver Nelson's "Blues and The Abstract Truth" uses the ultimate "cliche augmented scale lick" that a lot of people know. Oliver Nelson also uses that very lick in a couple of solos on the record.
As far as practical applications, the augmented scale is interesting because it is never completely "right" over any commonly used jazz harmonies. On the other hand, it "almost" can fit over just about anything, give or take a "wrong" note or two. For example, since the maj 7#5 could be used as an upper structure for most, if not all of the chords diatonic to the "jazz" melodic minor scale, an F augmented scale could be played over:
  • (D melodic minor)
  • Fmaj.7#5/D, or D#min/maj7
  • Fmaj7#5/E, or Ephryg. natural 6th
  • Fmaj7#5/F, or Fmaj7#5
  • Fmaj7#5/G or G lydian Dom or G7#11
  • Fmaj7#5/A, or A mixo.b6
  • Fmaj7#5/B, or Bhalf dim. natural 9
  • Fmaj7#5/C#, or C#altered (dom 7 w/b9,#9, b13, )
The augmented scale can be used to good effect on one chord vamp type of things, as well. I've noticed Michael Brecker seems to do this a lot. He'll sometimes play fast arpeggios of the major and minor triads in some symmetrical pattern, for instance.

Giant Steps and the bridge to Have You Met Miss Jones consist solely of major key centers that are major thirds apart. Remember that the augmented scale contains 3 major triads major thirds apart...... Or, the cheaters way of playing Giant Steps.

One other thing: Interesting harmonies can be derived by creating polychords from the 3 major and 3 minor triads (or even by combining the notes in the scale randomly).

Here's an example from the C augmented scale (could also be called the E or Ab augmented scales):

Play an E minor triad on the top 3 open strings below that, play an Ab triad on the other 3 strings. Play Ab on the 6th string, C on the 5th string, and Eb on the 4th string. Also, try inverting the Ab triad up the neck, staying on the bottom 3 strings so that the E minor triad continues to be playable on the top 3 strings. Particularly cool is the Ab triad an octave above the original one, as you get all half steps between the notes on the bottom and top 3 strings.

As usual, I accept no responsibility for the consequences of trying any of this stuff at someone's wedding. Then again, I've occasionally been amazed at what I can get away with on solo guitar gigs when no one's listening. No riots as of yet.


Eight String FAQ / Advice to aspiring musicians / Augmented Scale
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