There are four basic chord groups in music – major, minor, diminished and augmented. Obviously, major and minor chords are very common. This is because they have a consonant sound (pleasing to the ear). Diminished and augmented chords on the other hand are dissonant (clashing) and hence are used less frequently. They are usually employed as passing chords to create tension before resolving to a more stable chord. Never-the-less, the unsettling nature of these chords can sound great when utilised in heavy metal, where eerie and harsh sounds are often desired. I’ve discussed diminished in the past, so for this column, I’m going to focus on augmented arpeggios.


Here we have the four basic chord types notated as triad arpeggios (broken chords) on one string in C. We begin with major (1-3-5). To make this minor, we lower the third (1-b3-5). The diminished has a minor third but with a lowered fifth degree as well (1-b3-b5). Kind of like the opposite of diminished, augmented is a major chord but with a raised fifth (1-3-#5). Notice how each note is four frets (a major third) apart. Due to this symmetry, all three notes could be considered the root note.  

Hear Exercise 1


While there are an assortment of different ways to play augmented arpeggios, I’m going to focus on how to sweep pick them. Exercise 2 features two practical shapes for this. The first is an E augmented arpeggio (it could also be considered G# or C). Start with your second finger on the sixth string, hammer-on from first to third finger on the A string, and then use your middle finger on the D string. For strings three and two use you index finger across both and roll from one string to the next. From there, pull-off the top note with your pinky and then repeat the process in reverse as you descend. The second fingering starts on the fifth string with a G# (an inversion of the previous E augmented). For this one, start with a hammer-on to your fourth finger and do the bar/roll with your middle finger.  For both shapes, the right hand should sweep pick with one continuous downstroke, do the pull-off, and then continue back down with an upstroke.

Hear Exercise 2


The great thing about augmented arpeggios is that since all the notes are equidistant, you can take any fingering you know and move it up and down the neck by simply keeping everything four frets apart. This concept is utilised in Exercise 3 where a C augmented arpeggio is moved up the neck via slides at the top and bottom of each shape. This lick sweeps across all six strings and also uses a right hand tap on the high E (24th fret). It’s pretty tricky!

Hear Exercise 3


Putting all this into practice, Exercise 4 uses sweep picking to play Emin, Bmaj, Gaug and F#dim arpeggios in the key of E Harmonic minor. The diatonic chords of harmonic minor are Im-IIdim-IIIaug-IVm-V-VI-VIIdim. So this forms a Im-V-IIIaug-IIdim chord progression – perfect for using the augmented arpeggio shapes we’ve learnt. Notice in the rhythm guitar that I’ve reduced everything to root-fifth power chords by omitting the third degree. While the Emin and Bmaj become regular power chords, for the diminished, the fifth is lowered a step and for the augmented the fifth is raised a step. This is a useful way to simplify these chords and use them in a heavy metal context with distortion.

Hear Exercise 4

Try using some augmented arpeggios to spice up your solos. I think you’ll find that the creepy and alien sound they create is pretty cool. Till next time, keep shredding!