Augmented Sixth Chords

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brainpolice
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Has anyone else dabbled with these awesome sounds? It's usually towards the end of any chromaticism study.
An augmented sixth chord contains the interval of an augmented 6th. The four types of Augmented Sixth chords (Italian, German, Enharmonic German and French) are all altered chords. They usually function as preparations to the dominant (the V chord), and can be used to replace IV or II as well. Each Augmented Sixth Chord contains the tonic note, a raised 4th scale degree and a lowered 6th scale degree (both surrounding and leaning towards the 5th scale degree, the dominant note). In both major and minor keys an accidental is required for the raised 4th scale degree; And in Major keys another accidental is required for the lowered 6th scale degree.
The Scale Degrees of the Augmented Sixth Chords are:
Italian: #4, b6, 1
German: #4, b6, 1, b3
French: #4, b6, 1, 2
Enharmonic German: #4, b6, 1, #2 (Enharmonic German is the same thing as the German except you use a #2 instead of a b3).
These chords can be used in any inversion. In the Italian chord, the tonic is doubled.

How to resolve them? These chords want to go to either the V, V7, or I64. They function much like secondary dominants. In the Italian Chord: The #4 goes up to the 5th scale degree, the b6 goes down to the 5th scale degree, the first scale degree goes down to the 7th scale degree (or raised 7th in minor keys), and the doubled first scale degree goes up to the 2nd scale degree. The result is: Viola, the V chord. The French chord adds a 2nd scale degree to the mix (instead of the extra tonic), which stays where it is. Voila, the V chord. The German chord adds a b3 scale degree to the mix (instead of the extra tonic), which resolves downwards to the 2nd scale degree. Viola, the V chord. When resolving the German chord to V, Parallel 5ths are the result. The only way to get around this is to change it to a French (b3 goes to 2) or Italian Chord (b3 goes to 1) before the resolution.
When resolving the Italian chord to a I64, The #4 goes up to the 5th scale degree, the b6 goes down to the 5th scale degree, One of The Tonics stays put and the other tonic skips up to the 3rd scale degree. When resolving the French chord to a I64, The #4 goes up to the 5th scale degree, the b6 goes down to the 5th scale degree, The Tonic Stays put, and the 2nd scale degree steps up to the 3rd scale degree. When resolving the German chord to a I64, The #4 goes up to the 5th scale degree, the b6 goes down to the 5th scale degree, the b3 goes up to the 3rd scale degree in major or stays put in minor, and the Tonic Stays put. When augmented sixth chords resolve to V7, the raised 4th scale degree often resolves downward (rather then the expected upward) by a halfstep, to form the 7th of the V7.

Augmented 6th chords may be used as a Dominant, replacing V. When this is done it is best viewed simply as V7 with a b5 (V7b5). Augmented 6th chords may also be used as a prepartion to a secondary dominant, leading to secondary dominants (this is the coolest part for me)! You could use an Italian Augmented 6th of V/V, a German Augmented 6th of V/II, a French Augmented 6th of V/III, etc. It resolves to a secondary dominant in the same way it normally resolves. This can create some amazing tension and movement.
A noteable thing about these chords is that they create the sound of altered dominants. The Italian Chord can be thought of as a dominant7b5 (without the root). The French Chord can be thought of as dominant7b5.
The German chord can be thought of as a dominant7b5b9 (without the root) (wow is that an awesome dark sound or what?).

Play around with these. They are awesome sounds. :)
Last edited by brainpolice on Sat Feb 05, 2005 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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burnt out
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AGHH!!!
Image

I can never understand these things.They are called augmented sixth chords because they all contain an augmented 6th.And then you state that they all have b6's.And then you use that figured bass notation.What is that a first inversion I maj chord? Ah nuts.This stuff drives me crazy.

Can you simplify this for me? I'll never get it or be able to keep it all straight if someone doesn't put this in simple layman's terms.

What kind of chord do you play,and WHERE in relation to the V chord do you play it/them? And as for each type of Aug6 chord? Where are the chords played and how are they spelled in english and what inversion are they in (if they are for that type)? No wait,just tell me what step they are on and how they are spelled (I can figure out their inversions myself).

I need to know what step to build them on,how the different ones are spelled, and what inversion you mean by I64? I can figure out which way the individual voices resolve.
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The forumulas he listed are based on intervals from the tonic, but the chords have an aug 6 interval (between the b6 and #4 scale degrees). Say you're in C or C minor, the German aug6 chord would be Ab(#6), or Ab C Eb F#. 1 3 5 #6 as an absolute forumula, or the b6 1 b3 #4 in C-scale terms. You can probably see/hear how that's enharmonic with Ab7 (F#=Gb) but because of the function (having 2 tones 1/2 step away from the 5th scale degree) it's written so neither is an altered 5th degree, #4 and b6 instead.

Brainpolice, it looks like you might have put b2 instead of b6 in spots after the chord forumula- that should be b6 resolving down to 5, correct?
brainpolice
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"Brainpolice, it looks like you might have put b2 instead of b6 in spots after the chord forumula- that should be b6 resolving down to 5, correct?"
Yes. It was stupid typo, i really meant b6, i'll go fix them now. For the b6 resolving down, I got that one covered, didn't mess up there. :)
Yea I was thinking about giving examples with notes.
In C major or C minor, the Italian chord would be: F#, Ab, C (double C). To resolve to the V chord F# goes to G. Ab goes to G. One of C's Goes to B, and the other C goes to D.
In C major or C minor, the German chord would be: F#, Ab, C, Eb.
To resolve to the V chord F# goes to G. Ab goes to G. C goes to B. And Eb goes to D (which creates the parralell 5ths mentioned, so to get out of it, turn it into a french by taking the Eb down to D before the resolution, or an italian by taking the Eb down to C before the resolution).
In C major or C minor, the French chord would be: F#, Ab, C, D.
To resolve to the V chord F# goes to G. Ab goes to G. C goes to B, and D stays put. This is the most user friendly one to me, as it really is just a dominant7b5, and you keep the common tone.
How about an example of an augmented sixth leading to a 2ndary dominant. In the key of C major: Eb, F, A, B would be a French Augmented Sixth of V/vi. It would resolve to an E major or E dominant chord. Which is V of vi. Eb goes up to E, F goes down to E, A goes down to G#, and B stays put. Viola, V/vi.
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Bakerman wrote:The forumulas he listed are based on intervals from the tonic, but the chords have an aug 6 interval (between the b6 and #4 scale degrees). Say you're in C or C minor, the German aug6 chord would be Ab(#6), or Ab C Eb F#. 1 3 5 #6 as an absolute forumula, or the b6 1 b3 #4 in C-scale terms. You can probably see/hear how that's enharmonic with Ab7 (F#=Gb) but because of the function (having 2 tones 1/2 step away from the 5th scale degree) it's written so neither is an altered 5th degree, #4 and b6 instead.

Brainpolice, it looks like you might have put b2 instead of b6 in spots after the chord forumula- that should be b6 resolving down to 5, correct?
Thanks man that sorta helps.The technical jargon and nomenclature on these always Fux me up.(hehe "Fux"...trying to keep this a musical discussion). :roll:
Say you're in C or C minor, the German aug6 chord would be Ab(#6)
^See that? I got German in English? :D

Now how about the French and Italian in "English"?


Goddamnit there better not be a Chinese one! :shock:
brainpolice
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"^See that? I got German in English?

Now how about the French and Italian in "English"?


Goddamnit there better not be a Chinese one! "

Read the post above yours. I spelled them and spelled their resolutions. :)

"and what inversion you mean by I64?"
I64 is a 2nd inversion I chord, 5th in the bass. So say you were in C major, and wanted a French chord to resolve to I64. The French chord is: F# Ab C D. To resolve it to I64, F# goes up to G, Ab goes down to G, C stays put, and D goes up to E. Or take the German Chord going to I64 in C major, the only difference is the German chord has an Eb instead of D, and the Eb goes up to E natural when resolving to I64.
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I'm confused. :shock:
brainpolice wrote:

Italian: #4, b6, 1
German: #4, b6, 1, b3
French: #4, b6, 1, 2
Enharmonic German: #4, b6, 1, #2
Bakerman wrote:

Say you're in C or C minor, the German aug6 chord would be Ab(#6)

These two seem to be in conflict.One seems to be saying that the chords approach the V chord from a halfstep below and the other seems to suggest that the approach is from a halfstep above.


Can somebody please,in the key of C,just list all four by their letter name and type so that I can see what the root note is supposed to be?

like this: Ab(#6)....

That's the ony way I'm gonna be able to make any sense of this.

I've copied all of the posts and saved them so I can print them out and study them but it's sorta confusing.

augmented sixth chords really fuck my shit up
brainpolice
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"One seems to be saying that the chords approach the V chord from a halfstep below and the other seems to suggest that the approach is from a halfstep above."

It's both. That's the whole point. You approach the 5th scale degree with a #4 below it and a b6 above it.

"Can somebody please,in the key of C,just list all four by their letter name and type so that I can see what the root note is supposed to be?"

I already did:
"In C major or C minor, the Italian chord would be: F#, Ab, C (double C). To resolve to the V chord F# goes to G. Ab goes to G. One of C's Goes to B, and the other C goes to D.
In C major or C minor, the German chord would be: F#, Ab, C, Eb.
To resolve to the V chord F# goes to G. Ab goes to G. C goes to B. And Eb goes to D (which creates the parralell 5ths mentioned, so to get out of it, turn it into a french by taking the Eb down to D before the resolution, or an italian by taking the Eb down to C before the resolution).
In C major or C minor, the French chord would be: F#, Ab, C, D.
To resolve to the V chord F# goes to G. Ab goes to G. C goes to B, and D stays put. This is the most user friendly one to me, as it really is just a dominant7b5, and you keep the common tone."

If you think of the French chord as a dominant7b5, then the French Chord in C major (F# Ab C D) would have D as the root note if you think of it as a dominant7b5. If you think of the German chord as a dominant7b5b9 without the root, well the root isn't there, but if it was it'd be D as well. It really doesn't matter "what the root note is" though, it's ambiguous. It's supposed to be an interesting tension that resolves a certain way.
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brain,
brainpolice wrote:

the German chord would be: F#, Ab, C, Eb.
Bakerman wrote:

Say you're in C or C minor, the German aug6 chord would be Ab(#6)
Why aren't you both saying the same thing here? :shock:


Oh wait you are showing inversions.I get it now. :P


Wait... I "think" I get it.
brainpolice wrote:

These chords can be used in any inversion. In the Italian chord, the tonic is doubled.
So....WTF are they when they're NOT inverted? :roll:


German = Ab(#6) in ANY iversion...
Enharmonic German = ??? in ANY inversion
French = ??? in ANY inversion
Italian =??? in ANY inversion


^Why the fruck don't people just list them that way?

That would be a helluva lot less confusing and also appreciated if somebody could do that for me now.

I want to kill whoever invented the methods and nomenclature for explaining these things.
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Dont think of it as if there is a tonic. You're surrounding the 5th scale degree with a #4 and a b6 scale degree, which resolve to the 5th scale degree. I've told you what notes they consist of. It's a symetrical "chord" so any note could be viewed as the root, but that's not the point. The point is to surround the 5th with a #4 and b6.
You keep leaving out the rest of what he wrote:
"the German aug6 chord would be Ab(#6), or Ab C Eb F#. 1 3 5 #6 as an absolute forumula"
Which is exactly what you've been told all along. I think what he means by Ab(#6) is a figured bass term, meaning that the b6 is in the bass and the augmented 6 is above it, hence (#6).
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Ab6 = 1 3 5 6

Ab(#6) = 1 3 5 #6........which is essentially... Ab7 = 1 3 5 b7


:wink:
Last edited by burnt out on Sun Feb 06, 2005 11:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
brainpolice
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'Ab(#6) = 1 3 5 6........which is essentially... Ab7 = 1 3 5 b7 "
That's not what he meant. I explained already. Whats the problem?
It's not an Ab7. Does it resolve like one? No. 7th goes UP? Root goes down? Makes no sense, because it isn't functioning as an Ab7. It's functioning as a lower and upper leading tone to the 5th scale degree.
The #6 doesnt mean a #6 from Ab. It means a #6 between the b6 scale degree and the #4 scale degree above it. Spell the German chord again: Ab C Eb F#. What's the interval between Ab and F#? OMG! #6! Augmented 6th, hence the name of the chord. The #4 scale degree wants to go up to the 5th scale degree, the b6 scale degree wants to go down to the 5th scale degree, and 1st scale degree wants to go to the 7th scale degree, and the b3 scale degree wants to go to the 2nd scale degree. But i already explained this over and over.
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I meant Ab(#6) = 1 3 5 #6 which is the same as 1 3 5 b7 which would be Ab7
Bakerman wrote:

Say you're in C or C minor, the German aug6 chord would be Ab(#6), or Ab C Eb F#. 1 3 5 #6 as an absolute forumula, or the b6 1 b3 #4 in C-scale terms.
okay that's fine I see how to spell it from either an Ab or C root.

brainpolice wrote:

The #6 doesnt mean a #6 from Ab. It means a #6 between the b6 scale degree and the #4 scale degree above it. Spell the German chord again: Ab C Eb F#. What's the interval between Ab and F#? OMG! #6! Augmented 6th, hence the name of the chord.
Okay that makes no sense at all.You basically just said:
The #6 doesnt mean a #6 from Ab.

Spell the German chord again: Ab C Eb F#. What's the interval between Ab and F#? OMG! #6! Augmented 6th, hence the name of the chord.
You said that you DON'T mean #6 from Ab and then you spell out the German chord Ab C Eb F# and say "What's the interval between Ab and F#? OMG! #6! Augmented 6th, hence the name of the chord. "

You just counted the #6 from Ab after you said not to.


then you said:
The #4 scale degree wants to go up to the 5th scale degree, the b6 scale degree wants to go down to the 5th scale degree, and 1st scale degree wants to go to the 7th scale degree, and the b3 scale degree wants to go to the 2nd scale degree. But i already explained this over and over.

I can't for the life of me follow all this shit when we're talking in terms of intervals from two different roots (I can't keep that straight I keep getting them crossed) plus PLUS we're dealing with four different chords wich are a fascist trifecta from hell (France,Italy and Germany) PLUS they are supposed to be voiced in some special way or in some inversion PLUS the I chord is supposed to be in 2nd inversion in one of the cases!!!! And then the #6 that the chords get their name from is supposed to occur betwen the b6 and #4 from the root of the I chord? This is insane!

^How the fuck does anybody follow this shit?

please keep a sense of humor I AM,lol :lol: (can't you tell?) :D


But I do get that F# moves "up" to G and Ab moves "down" to G. :lol:


I declare war on Europe! 8)
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Okay I'm starting to get it.Atleast enough to make more sense out of what you typed.
Italian: #4, b6, 1 (F# Ab C)
German: #4, b6, 1, b3 (F# Ab C Eb)
French: #4, b6, 1, 2 (F# Ab C D)
Enharmonic German: #4, b6, 1, #2 (F# Ab C D#)
(Enharmonic German is the same thing as the German except you use a #2 instead of a b3). These chords can be used in any inversion. In the Italian chord, the tonic is doubled.

How to resolve them? These chords want to go to either the V, V7, or I64.
How about voicings? Are there any special rules there? Do I pretty much just want to keep either the F# or Ab in the bass?

And I get that the I chord would be C/G.
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Brain, I asked awhile back if you had encountered these yet. I guess you just did. You have your Ital,French,German, etc, English translation: They are all just versions of the Lydian dominant type sound , spelled (or miss spelled) various ways for the sake of voice leading and part writing. This is the point where music theory analysis bites itself in the ass and becomes pointless.

Ita=Ab7(no 5th) >G7>C or C minor
German=Ab7>G7> C or Cm
French Ab7(b5) or(#4, it is lydian dom. remember)>G7>C or Cm
Enharmonic German, whatever, it is still Ab7.

The 7th is spelled wrong for the sake of voice leading, and there you have your unnessasarily complex "Augmented 6th chords" analysis. Silly.

But, back to our same old Phrygian arguement, this sub-dominant goes to V obviously. The leading tone makes it strong. In music w/ phrygian as tonic, these types of chords are used as THE dominant, and come to REST on the G7. The harmonic rhythm allows this to happen, so you don't need to go to C. But the Ab7-G is a strong V7 type functioning progression, and is used in music that accepts phyrgian dominant as tonic (like flamenco). It is not hanging on V, and the other chords all help to lead into this cadence. Making any sense yet now that you have encountered these Augmented 6 voice leadings and progressions? Here is a flamenco chord progression in G phrygian:

Bb7-Fm7-(F# German6,F#,Ab,C,Eb)-G7. G is final, C has nothing to do w/ it.

Isn't music theory fun guys?

Ricardo
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