Augmented vs Diminished chords – differences and hearing the difference

Just thought Id throw up a quick note -about this topic.

Had a friend say they were having trouble hearing the difference between augmented and diminished chords when listening to music – and possibly working out to include or not in writing songs – and wondering if I have any tips.

I wrote something down for him and thought maybe this might be of interest to others who may not have had detailed theory training etc. So I have tried to make it simple and provided some explanation of the difference and what to ‘listen for’.

The other reason for including  – as well as mentoring and speaking on arrangement and song development, I am often asked to be a judge of songwriting competitions (done Tamworth Songwriting Contest and ASA a few times, couple of regional ones etc). In my comments I often ask – ” while still being in genre context – what makes your music stand out from the pack?” If you are doing a country song with the same 4-6 chords that everyone does (and usually just the famous 4 – 1, 4, 5, 6m – with maybe a 2m or 3m thrown in)- whats different ? why would anyone buy and listen to yours over the established artist) – Creating some difference helps the song get interest, listen through the whole song etc etc etc – one way is to may add an inversion or a variation on a chord.  And thinking of augmented or diminished chords in that context may add some further value and thought to your song writing.

PS remember I’m being pretty basic here and please read in that context.

In any setting, to augment something is to make it larger, and to diminish something is to make it smaller. A triad, as you know, is built of two stacked thirds, and most triads on the white keys (diatonic C major) will consist of both a minor third and a major third.

A diminished triad, then, is a regular triad made smaller into two stacked minor thirds. The only one that appears on the white keys starts on B. Note that the top note, when the intervals are written as 3rds, appears on the staff like a 5th but sounds like a tritone; this interval is known as a diminished 5th, which is where the chord gets its name.

An augmented chord, conversely, comes when the triad is augmented out to two stacked major thirds. Note that the second note appears (on the staff) a fifth away from the root but sounds like a minor 6th; this interval is known as an augmented 5th, which is where the chord gets its name.

Note that the term “diminished chord” is ambiguous, as it could refer to either a diminished triad (three notes, like B D and F) or a diminished 7th chord, which stacks another minor third (in this example, A flat). Note that the interval between the bottom note and the top note, when the chord is written as three stacked thirds, appears as a 7th but sounds like a major 6th. This interval is known as a “diminished 7th” as it is a normal (minor) seventh, made smaller.

Difference in sound: 
The diminished chord of any type sounds unresolved and the diminished 7th, especially, can sound very dramatic. The augmented triad sounds a bit alien as it does not appear in the diatonic scale, and can give a very eerie or dream-like impression

An augmented chord (triad) has a # (or raised) 5th degree.. so its like playing Major thirds on top of each other..
Caug = C E G#

A diminished chord (triad) has a b (or lowered 3rd) and a b(or lowered 5th).. so its like playing minor thirds on top of each other
Cdim = C Eb Gb
On 7th chords.. they are either half diminished or fully diminished.. and this is indicated by the o sign (fully dim) or the o with a / through it.. (1/2 dim)
C half diminished = C Eb Gb Bb
C fully diminished = C Eb Gb Bbb (A)


So listen for those differences – maybe even try playing with the chords on keys or guitar to hear., consider if incorporating sometimes into your songwriting (if not already) would add some extra flavour or colour etc. – – or not.

Cheers  till next time.



7 Secrets of Street Performers Who Rake in a Ton of Money

Saw this article in a blog by Christopher DeArcangelis – and thought it would be worth re posting.
Some of the points made are obvious but worth including to be sure – especially for those contemplating busking for the first time.

Why busk?  Here are my initial 4 reasons:

  1. Chance to earn money at times normally cant get gigs
    – maybe even dead time which you are trying to work out how to profitable fill
  2. Can be a very profitable source of income
    – I know people in major cities making $400+ a night, $1500+ a week (for 3-4 days) regularly through street performing (and then have their gigs etc on top of that)  ……… But even if you are only averaging $30 an hour – that’s equivalent to $50,000 a year income
  3. A good chance to practice
    Practice your performance skills – if you can grab the attention, get a child dancing or a foot tapping of someone who intended passing by ….you can probably hold an audience
    Practice new songs, a new arrangement, etc and gauge reactions
    Practice your stamina/durability – even though you can repeat songs often (as the crowd changes) – being able to play at busy times for long periods without a break won’t hurt you
  4. Puts you outside, allows interaction with a range of people  – and can actually be a lot of fun

Busking is something you can do without notice (in most places once you have a license), decide to do for a little or long time, often or occasionally, or just to help top up your other earnings when needed. (and before anyone asks  – yes I speak from past experience)

So on to the article by Chris- — – — –   ____________________________________________________________

Busking, or street performance, is a tradition that dates back to antiquity and is socially accepted in many different cities and locations around the world.

Many buskers who take their jobs seriously work out a highly rehearsed and choreographed routine, not unlike professional stage musicians. That’s because busking as a musician is more than a great way to practice your ability to perform for a crowd – it can also be a great way to make money. Buskers who truly entertain their crowds and choose their locations wisely can go home with some serious money in their pockets.

Making money busking isn’t as easy as just showing up with your acoustic guitar, however. If you really want to make busking a worthwhile experience for you and your audience, try these seven tips.

  1. Choose your instrument wisely
    The classic stereotype of a busker is someone who grabs an acoustic guitar and finds a street corner and starts belting it out. That isn’t a bad way to get started, but the acoustic guitar is hardly the best instrument for busking. Louder instruments make a better impact in crowded places, especially drumming and electronic instruments. Take time to get your performance routine down so that you look effortless while you’re playing your instrument. Remember, it’s important to put on a show. Taking care of your instrument is also crucial, as is purchasing any upgrades you might need to sound loud and proud.
  1. Always dress the part
    After you’re noticed for your music, your appearance will be the next thing you’re judged on. When it comes to street performance, you want to keep people entertained – and part of that means dressing well. You shouldn’t look like you live in a cardboard box, but you also shouldn’t look like you just stepped out of your penthouse suite. Find a look that keeps you comfortable for several hours while engaging people without offending them. Basically, look cool.
  1. Make sure you’re being heard
    The din of the crowd can easily drown out the loudest singing and acoustic instruments, so when in doubt, it’s important to be loud. Being loud not only allows people to hear you, but it makes you come off as a confident performer – as someone who is demanding to be heard. This makes a strong impression on people who might want to donate some money to your cause. It also helps shake people out of their personal stupor or deep conversations as they walk down the street.
  1. Play songs that your target audience is familiar with
    If you really want to make money as a street performer, the most important rule is to play to your crowd. The people who will be walking by you are the people you will be performing to, so you need to play music that will make them want to give you money. For most areas, this will be upbeat and familiar songs. This doesn’t have to mean corny classics, but try to stick to songs that your average music fan will recognize. Deep cuts by popular performers are also popular and fun to play. True fans who recognize those tracks will be impressed!
  1. Make money collection as easy as possible
    This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at how many street performers make it difficult for people to offer up gratuity. Poor placement or a small-size collection box will make it difficult for people to see if you’re even asking for money. Make sure that your collection box is large and has prominent signage for your patrons to easily see it.
  1. Learn a deep repertoire so you can play to any crowd
    Depending on where and when you play, you’ll be playing to different crowds. Street-smart performers who want to maximize the amount of money they make seek out crowds that match their repertoire. This can mean playing in certain neighborhoods or after certain sporting events. It also helps to be able to take requests. Depending on where you play, you’ll want to have a certain repertoire or shtick prepared to for this. Recognizing what works will come with experience. It won’t take long before you see what people react to.
  1. Choose your location wisely
    Finding the perfect location to busk is an art unto itself. You’ll find that the best locations combine these certain factors together:
    The least amount of noise from bars or other musicians
    – High traffic
    – Large enough area to perform
    – Unoccupied by other performers

_____________________________________________________________And from me – to go along with point 7 – – chose your times of day to ensure the most passing traffic (people on foot  – not cars LOL) and therefore the most likelihood of $$

Now everyone’s experience, type of act etc  is different I know – so this is just a good general article for you to consider, use, adapt or discard as you feel appropriate…… However, having busked in the past and knowing the habits of people who make the money mentioned above – I would agree with most, if not all, of the points made.

Till next time