• Who Else Wants To Learn What Borrowed Chords Are?

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Scales

    Today, let’s talk about borrowed chords.

    They are chords literally borrowed from what we call the “parallel” minor or major key.

    Let’s not mix up “parallel” with “relative.”

    If we were in the key of C, as we’ve learned in other lessons, A, the 6th degree of C, is the relative minor of C. Likewise, C is the relative major of A. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

    Parallel keys have the same tonic note… or home base. That means, the starting note of their scales are the same.

    So the parallel minor of C major is — you guessed it — C minor!

    The parallel minor of A major is — yup, A minor!

    So parallel keys have the same first note and understanding this allows you to start using borrowed chords almost immediately.

    Borrowed Chords Explained

    To really understand borrowed chords, let’s compare the diatonic chords of C major to C minor:

    C major or C major 7

    D minor or D minor 7

    E minor or E minor 7

    F major or F major 7

    G major or G7

    A minor or A minor 7

    B diminished or B half-diminished 7

    Vs. C minor:

    C minor or C minor 7

    D diminished or D half-diminished7

    Eb major or Eb major 7

    F minor or F minor 7

    G minor or G minor 7

    Ab major or Ab major 7

    Bb major or Bb7

    Borrowed Chords – Continued

    So when you employ borrowed chords, you simply take chords from the parallel minor and play them in your major key. Or vise versa… if the song was in C minor, you could take chords from C major.

    Some common borrowed chords in C major:

    1) On the 2nd tone of the scale, instead of playing your normal D minor (or 2-minor), you could play D half-diminished 7. Sounds great leading to a 5-chord.

    2) Instead of going to the 5-chord to end a song or half-cadence, you can go to Bb major (the “b7”). Sounds great and you hear it in a lot of contemporary music.

    3) If you want to change the mood of your song, change your 4-chord — which is normally F major — to an F minor.

    4) Use Ab major (the b6) to come down to your 5-chord (Gdom7)

    5) Even though this chord isn’t technically in C natural minor (it’s in C harmonic minor), use Bdim7 (B+D+F+Ab) on the 7th degree. It’s a great leading tone back home to any C chord.

    6) Use Eb major (b3 tone) in certain spots… like to lead to the 4-chord… or to lead to the b6 (Ab), which can come down to the 5-chord (G), which leads back home to C. See how these things are chained together?

    Well, that’s all I have for today. It’s Saturday at about 6am so everyone’s sleep. I thought I’d add another content lesson but don’t get used to Saturdays… this is an anomaly! :-)

    These borrowed chords should give you a lot to work on.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 12 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Larry Langston

    This is good information. How do I get this to a friend from my computer?


    2 Davis

    Now I can see clearly. This is great! If this continues and I continue working on the speed of my fingure, oooh!

    Thanks sir!


    3 val

    interesting information.Thanks for sharing.


    4 John

    Hi Jermaine,
    This is certainly a genius at work. You have opened the flood-lights along my musical journey, and now I can see clearly where I am going.
    Thanks brother, God’s richest blessing on you and yours as you continue to share your talents with so many people all over the world.


    5 Baham

    i dont understand how can c be the revelitive minor of c


    6 Jermaine Griggs

    C minor is the parallel minor of c major.

    A is the relative minor of C. My first part says not to get them confused.


    7 Sal

    It’s the parallel minor, which means that it has the same root note, but the 3rd, 6th, and 7th are flat.

    Relative minor is the minor key that has all the same notes as a major key. the root is 3 half steps lower, like C -> A


    8 randall

    thank you for such an ear pleasing and spiritually benefitting journey


    9 akurios

    i’m glad u’re back with the news letters jermaine. they’re reall y helpful to me.


    10 Ken Sutherland

    Hello there, If you want to know about Jessica Smith, please let me know since I am a consultant about that niche. And also your web page is absolutely amazing. Thank you for managing this sort of wonderful blog site.


    11 james

    thanks alot.
    ##in kenya##


    12 Chris

    This is awesome information, and I can’t believe I didn’t know it before. I always knew that Ab appears out of nowhere sometimes in a key of C, but I never knew WHY. So simple! So logical! Thank you!

    That being said, it would be extremely helpful if you explained this:

    1. using the Roman numerals instead of the actual chords, so we can see the actual swapping principle. Like in a table.

    2. kept the chords basic triads for explanation purposes. Explain later about fancying up with 7’s.

    So I could probably work through all this myself and I probably will learn more that way. But I don’t necessarily trust my answers.

    Love your site!


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