Chord Progressions: Borrowed Chords

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One way to expand the harmonic possibilities of a chord progression beyond diatonic triads is to “borrow” chords from a parallel scale (a scale that has the same key center). The Borrowed Chords substitute (serve a similar harmonic function as) the chord in the original key.

If, for example, you are playing in the key of C Major, you might “borrow” the equivalent chords from the key of C Minor and vice versa.

Here are the diatonic chords in C major:

piano-ology-chord-progressions-borrowed-chords-c-major-triads

and the diatonic chords in C natural minor:

piano-ology-chord-progressions-borrowed-chords-c-natural-minor-scale-triads

The “borrowable” chords always come in pairs that share the same number…

piano-ology-chord-progressions-borrowed-chords-major-minor-pairs

While it is theoretically possible to borrow any chord from any parallel key, only a small number are in common usage. Don’t sweat the details right now. For the moment, it is enough to understand the notion of borrowing.

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