• Top 4 Chords Gospel Musicians Always Borrow From The Parallel Minor Key

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    The goal of this lesson is to show you top 4 chords gospel musicians always borrow.

    But before I do so, I’ll want us to invest the next few moments in learning or refreshing our minds on the concept of borrowed chords.

    The Concept Of Borrowed Chords

    Although borrowing doesn’t seem to be a good thing for a variety of reasons that we may not discuss in this lesson, in music theory, there is absolutely nothing wrong with borrowing.

    There are seven unique scale tone chords in every major key and one may think that they are sufficient for all harmonic purposes but that is not always the case.

    Beyond the need for scale tone chords are the need for chromatic chords and these chromatic chords can be related or foreign to the prevalent key. In the case of borrowed chords, they are chromatic chords that are related to the prevalent key.

    Borrowed chords are derived from the parallel minor key and there’s no better way to proceed than to define the parallel minor key.

    A Short Note On The Parallel Minor Key

    There are 12 minor keys in tonal music and any minor key that shares the same tonic (aka – “first tone”) with any given major key is described as the parallel minor key.

    The major and minor keys below have C as their tonic:

    C major:

    C minor:

    …consequently, the key of C minor is the parallel minor key to the key of C major.

    Scale-Tone Chords From The Parallel Minor Key

    There are seven unique scale tone chords in the parallel minor key and we’ll be using the key of C minor as a reference to determine these scale tone chords.

    “Check Them Out…”

    The 1-chord:

    The 2-chord:

    The 3-chord:

    The 4-chord:

    The 5-chord:

    The 6-chord:

    The 7-chord:

    Out of these seven scale tone chords in the parallel minor key are top four chords that gospel musicians always borrow and I’ll show you these chords in the next segment.

    Top 4 Chords Gospel Musicians Always Borrow

    In gospel music harmony, you’ll certainly come across these four chord examples in the key of C major:

    The D diminished triad:

    The F minor triad:

    The G minor triad:

    The Bb major triad:

    …and they are all borrowed from the parallel minor key (the key of C minor):

    Chord #1 — “The 2-Chord”

    The 2-chord in the parallel minor key (which is the key of C minor):

    …is the D diminished triad:

    Gospel musicians borrow this diminished triad a whole lot and you can hear it applied in 2-5-1 chord progressions in the major key.

    “Check Out This 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using A Borrowed 2-chord…”

    The 2-chord (borrowed):

    The 5-chord:

    The 1-chord:

    In vocal harmony, the 2-chord is used as well. For example, here’s how a gospel choir may harmonize the first five tones of the C major scale:






    Did you notice that D and F are harmonized using the D diminished triad that’s borrowed from the parallel minor key?

    Chord #2 — “The 4-Chord”

    The 4-chord in the major key (C major) is the F major triad:

    …and it differs (in quality) from the 4-chord in the minor key — the F minor triad:

    You can’t exhaust the number of gospel songs with the borrowed 4-chord and this is because gospel musicians build a lot of gospel progressions, worship transitions, etc., around the 1-chord and the borrowed 4-chord.

    The 4-chord is not exclusively for gospel musicians; R & B musicians borrow the 4-chord as well.

    “Check This Out…”

    I know this sounds familiar and “churchy”:

    I used to think that I could not go:


    It does, right?

    Chord #3 — “The 5-Chord”

    The 5-chord in the parallel minor key (C minor) is the G minor triad:
    Church musicians also love this chord and usually play it alongside the borrowed 4-chord.

    “Here’s An Example…”

    Remember the “Bless Me Indeed” song:

    I pray for:


    Can you see how the 5-chord is followed up by the 4-chord?

    Chord #4 — “The 7-Chord”

    The last chord on the list is the 7-chord in the minor key and that’s the Bb dominant seventh chord:

    …and it’s usually played right before the 1-chord in the major key.

    In the “Everything”  song, the ending section has a borrowed 7-chord from the parallel minor key.

    “Check It Out…”

    Oh morning star:

    …you truly are:

    Can you see that borrowed 7-chord in the “you truly are” segment of the song?

    Final Words

    We’re basically getting started with triads in this lesson.

    In a subsequent lesson, I’ll go further into showing you seventh and ninth chord examples that can be borrowed from the parallel minor key and how they are applied in gospel songs.

    All the best!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

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



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