How to Play the Augmented Scale on Guitar
Not one of the most commonly used symmetrical scales, but a fun and interesting scale to experiment with nonetheless, the Augmented Scale can make for a cool addition to your jazz guitar scale vocabulary when used in the right improvisational context.
In this lesson, you’ll learn how to build Augmented Scales, how to play them in various positions on the guitar, how to add them to your soloing ideas, and study three fun Augmented jazz guitar licks.
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What is the Augmented Scale
Augmented Scales are built by playing two Augmented Triads a m3rd apart. Or, you could think of this scale as a tonic Augmented Triad with approach notes below each note in that triad, either way of thinking is fine.
Here is how those notes would lay out for a C Augmented Scale:
Or as an interval pattern this would be:
Because this scale has a major 3rd and major 7 it is used to solo over maj7th chords.
As well, since this scale has a #5 interval, you can use the Augmented Scale to bring out a maj7#5 sound in your soloing lines when applying this scale to a chord progression.
Augmented Scale One Octave Shapes
Now that you know how to build Augmented Scales, you’re ready to apply this scale to the fretboard.
To begin, here are one-octave Augmented scale shapes that you can learn in the given key, C, as well as take to all 12 keys in your practice routine.
Learning one-octave scale shapes will allow you to apply the Augmented Scale to quick moving chord changes, where larger, two-octave shapes are too bulky to move accurately through the changes.
Here are four Augmented Scale shapes beginning with your index finger.
Moving on, here are four Augmented Scale shapes starting with your middle finger on the first note of each scale, with the exception of the last shape, which starts on your index finger.
Lastly, here are four Augmented Scale shapes that begin with your pinky finger.
Once you have any/all of these Augmented scale shapes under your fingers, put on a backing track and try adding these scales to your soloing lines and phrases.
You can begin with a static maj7th chord backing, then move on to ii-V-I tracks, and finally other jazz standard chord progressions.
Augmented Scale Two Octave Shapes
You will now move on to learning two-octave Augmented Scale shapes, which are useful when soloing over slower tunes, as well as tunes where you have a slower harmonic rhythm and can expand your lines across the fretboard.
Once you have these two-octave Augmented Scale shapes under your fingers, try adding them to your soloing practice over backing tracks, as well as mixing them together with the one-octave shapes in order to get the full picture of how to play the this across the fretboard.
3 Augmented Scale Licks
One of the best ways to learn a new scale is to study common vocabulary that uses that scale in its construction.
In this final section of the lesson, you will learn three common Augmented Scale licks that you can learn, analyse, and apply to your improvised jazz guitar solos.
The first line is played over a two-bar Gmaj7 chord, a common application of the Augmented Scale.
Click to hear augmented scales 1
Next you will apply the G Augmented Scale to the Imaj7 chord, in a ii-V-I progression in the key of G.
Click to hear augmented scales 2
Lastly, here is the G Augmented Scale applied to both chords during the first four bars of the jazz standard “On Green Dolphin Street.”
Click to hear augmented scales 3
Once you have learned these three Augmented Scale licks, try writing out 3 to 5 of your own lines as you study Augmented application further in the woodshed.
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