Borrowed Chords

Borrowed chords employ chords from the parallel key. For example, if you're in C major, the parallel minor key is C minor. This is not to be confused with the term relative minor. Relative keys refer to keys that share the same sharps and flats. For example, C major and A minor are relative keys, not parallel keys.

Borrowed chords can add excitement to any chord progression. Unlike some of the other chords described in this chapter, borrowed chords don't merely enhance a chord — they are not harmonic extensions or alterations like sevenths or sharp fives. Instead, borrowed chords bend the ear in another direction entirely, taking the listener in an unanticipated harmonic direction.

Flat VI and flat VII chords are wonderful examples of borrowed chords. FIGURE 6-15 shows you an approach to C major (I chord) using both the flat VI and the flat VII. In this example, diatonic VI and VII chords from C minor are used. You will see this progression used again in FIGURE 15-7, Pop Etude: “For Kicks.”

FIGURE 6-18: Borrowed Chords

Among others, the Beatles used borrowed chords effectively. Songs such as “If I Fell” and “In My Life” used minor iv borrowed chords throughout. In FIGURE 6-16, two minor iv borrowed chord progressions are written out for you. Again, the minor iv comes from the parallel key not the relative key. In this instance, the two keys used are C major and C minor.

FIGURE 6-19: Minor iv Borrowed Chord

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