Borrowed chord

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A I chord, C major, followed by a VII chord, B major, borrowed from the parallel minor, C minor. Shown first in C major then minor.

A borrowed chord (also called mode mixture and[1] modal interchange) is a chord borrowed from the parallel key (minor or major scale with the same tonic). Borrowed chords are typically used as "color chords", providing harmonic variety through contrasting scale forms, which are major scales and the three forms of minor scales.[2] Similarly, chords may be borrowed from the parallel modes, the various modes beginning on the same tonic as a scale, for example Dorian with D major.[1]

In the key of C Major, the regular diatonic chords are built as triads (or seventh chords) on the roots of each of the seven notes of the C Major scale (the notes, C, D, E, F, G, A, and B). The chords (triads in this example) built on these scale degrees (i.e., notes) would be C Major, d minor, e minor, F Major, G7, a minor and b diminished. In the key of c minor, the regular diatonic chords would be c minor, d half-diminished, Eb Major, f minor, g minor (or G7, as the leading tone is often sharpened), Ab Major, Bb Major. Thus, a song in C Major could "borrow" chords from c minor. For example, a simple song chord progression in C Major, such as I-IV-V (C Major-F Major-G Major) could have chords from the tonic minor added in. Thus a new chord progression could add bVI (Ab Major) and bVII (Bb Major), thus giving us I-bVI-IV-bVII-V or C Major-Ab Major-F Major-Bb Major-G Major.

Six chords borrowed from the parallel minor key are commonly found in the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras (shown here in C major):

Borrowed chords 1b.gif

Diminished supertonic triad (iio) D–F–A
Half-diminished supertonic seventh (iiø7) D–F–A–C
"Flat three" (III) E–G–B
Minor subdominant (iv) F–A–C
"Flat six" (VI) A–C–E
Fully diminished leading-tone seventh (viio7) B–D–F–A

The following three chords are also found in Romantic era, albeit rarely:

Borrowed chords 2.gif

Minor subdominant seventh (iv7) F–A–C–E
Subdominant flat seventh (IV7) F–A–C–E
Dominant flat ninth (V9) G–B–D–F–A

The Subdominant flat seventh, which contains an A, is borrowed from the parallel ascending melodic minor scale.

If the root of the borrowed chord is not in the original key, then the chord is named by the accidental. For instance, in a major key, a chord built on the parallel minor's sixth degree is a "flat six chord" written VI.

I–VII–VI–VII in C About this sound Play .

Chord progressions may be constructed with borrowed chords, including two progressions common in rock music, I–VII–VI–VII, common everywhere, and I–VI–IV, used a lot by bands including Genesis, Yes and Nirvana.[1] VII is from Mixolydian and VI is found in both Aeolian and Phrygian.[1] The VII-I cadence with VII substituting for V is common, as well as II–I, III–I, and VI–I.[3] In popular music, the major triad on the lowered third scale degree (III), the major triad on the lowered sixth scale degree (VI) and the major triad on the lowered seventh scale degree, or "flat seven" (VII) are common. In C major, these chords are E, A, and B respectively.

A common borrowed chord from a parallel major key is the Picardy third.

"Backdoor progression ii–V" in C: ii–VII7–I About this sound Play . VII7 is borrowed from the parallel minor rather than Mixolydian as VII may be.

In major the typical chords borrowed from minor are iv, VI, VII, and in jazz, the iio.[4] The VII is also known as the subtonic. The lowered-sixth occurs in many of the chords borrowed from minor and is a, "distinctive characteristic," of borrowed chords.[2] Borrowed chords have typical inversions or common positions, for example iio6 and iiø6
, and progress in the same manner as the diatonic chords they replace except for VI, which progresses to V(7).[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Romeo, Sheila (1999). Complete Rock Keyboard Method: Mastering Rock Keyboard, p.42. ISBN 0-88284-982-4.
  2. ^ a b c Benward & Saker (2009). Music in Theory and Practice, Vol II, p.71. ISBN 978-0-07-310188-0.
  3. ^ Romeo (1999), p.43.
  4. ^ Schonbrun, Marc (2006). The Everything Music Theory Book, p.138. ISBN 1-59337-652-9.

External links[edit]