The Augmented Scale

This lesson will shortly describe the augmented scale, how it is constructed and some of the arpeggios it contains. I’ll also give a few basic exercises and some melodic ideas that I might use when I use the scale in an improvisation.

The Scale, construction and contained chords

The augmented is a 6 note symmetrical scale. It is constructed from two augmented triads a half step apart. In example 1 the C and B augmented triads are shown and I’ve added two ways to play the scale. In this example the scale would consist of C Eb E G Ab B C.

Augmented Scale - ex 1

Since both of the chords are symmetrical every major 3rd the scale is also symmetrical in that way.  This means that every chord that we find with a C root will also be there with an E and an Ab Root. The same is of course the case for the B, Eb and G notes.

So to find some material to use in lines when improvising. In the video I explain it as altering the C and B aug triads, but writing down the scales and look after possible chords for C and B will do the trick too.

Augmented Scale - ex 2

As you can see the scale contains C, Cm, Cmaj7, CmMaj7, CMaj7#5 and B augmented chords, besides the C augmented triad.

Basic melodic ideas and exercises

Now that we have some sturctures that are contained in the scale we can start putting those together to get a bit familiar with the sound and how the scale is placed on the fretboard.

The first example is chaining the C, E and Ab major triads together. This is probably the most famous augmented scale lick which I’ve heard used by Michael Brecker, Oliver Nelson and James Spaulding among others.

Augmented Scale - ex 3

This next lick uses the Maj7#5 in a similar way moving down one set of strings. Both of these cascading arpeggios have a nice effect on top of a chord where the changing colors of the arpeggios maybe not exactly fit the chord but the fact that the melody is the same just transposed makes it stronger.

Augmented Scale - ex 4

The last exercise is more an exercise in gaining an overview of the triads. The idea is to play one triad and then start the next one a halfstep above the 5th of the one you just played. This is a good way to find and connect the triads on the fretboard, and a great exercise for that in it’s own right.

Augmented Scale - ex 5

Applying the scale to chord

Since the scale doesn’t contain any dom7th or m7th chords it can only be directly fitted onto Maj7, Maj7#5 and mMaj7 chords. I would use the C augmented scale (the one I am using in all examples of this lesson) on a Maj7 or Maj7#5, but I’d approach a mMaj7 in a different way.

The approach that I mostly use is to regard this scale as fitting an C augmented triad, and then use this scale when a C aug triad is part of the chord being played. That could be these chords:

AmMaj7: A C E G#

C7alt: C E G# Bb Eb

F#m7b5(9): F# A C E G#

D7(9#11): D F# A C E G#

So the idea is that the scale fits a part of the chord but the chord is not necessarily diatonic to the scale.

To me (and that is of course also a question of taste) I find the scale and it’s sound more useful when applied to a more modal or at least a longer period of one chord sound, so on a jazz standard that would probably be 2 or 4 bars of a chord.

A less symmetrical melodic approach

As I mention in my lesson onDiminished Scale on Dom7th Chords I am not too fond of symmetrical melodies, and prefer more unpredictable things, so I chose to also include some lines that shows how you can go about making lines like this.

By now you might have noticed that I mostly make use of the major triad when improvising with the scale, probably because that is fairly easy and also because the major triad is the strongest melodic structure to use. You will also notice that it works just as well in inversions in these examples.

Augmented Scale - ex 6

The first example is using all three major triads C , Ab and then E. The C is in the 2nd inversion and the two others in root position. As opposed to the moving cascade I am trying to keep it in one place in this line.

The next line is first a scale fragment followed by a major triad and ending on the minor third of that triad. Even though I am not really assigning chords to the lines I would still like to add that this line is quite effective if the last not is a surprising extension on the chord under it. In the video I turn it into an AmMaj7(#11) line like that.

Augmented Scale - ex 7

The last line actually starts out as a symmetirical cascade idea of the Ab, E and C triads. Played as two string triads, it then moves into a second inversion Ab triad at the end to somehow melodically return home. I included this example because I find the two string triad idea very practical and (to me) more open to go in and out of the symmetrical melodies.

Augmented Scale - ex 8

I hope you can use the scale and the examples I gave here to make some new lines over chords.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here:

Augmented Scale

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.