Also known as mode mixture, a borrowed chord describes a chord that’s taken from a parallel key.
…But what’s a parallel key? Major and minor scales that share the same tonic are called parallel keys. For example, C major and C minor are parallel keys. Each consists of a handful of chords that are built using pitches that belong to the key — C major consists of the triads C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, and B diminished, while C minor consists of the triads C minor, D diminished, Eb major, F minor, G minor, Ab major, and Bb major.
If we were to use a F minor chord while in the key of C major, the F minor would be considered a borrowed chord because it was borrowed from the parallel key, C minor. Borrowed chords are a great way to add a logical but unexpected harmonic flair to your music, and they actually show up in pop songs more often than you might think (borrowing the iv chord in major keys is particularly popular — take a listen to the last chord in the chorus of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” for an example).
Now that you have an understanding of this compositional technique, put it into practice with this week’s Songwriting Club prompt: write a song that makes use of at least one borrowed chord.
Here’s what I came up with:
If you’re feeling proud of your tune or you’re looking for some feedback, upload it to the Splice community, SoundCloud, YouTube, Bandcamp, etc., and toss the link in the comments below. Before you share, just make sure you’re following these guidelines:
- Make sure your track aligns with the prompt – it should be something that you’ve specifically written in response to this blog post.
- No promotional posts – no links to contests, social media pages, etc.
- Comment on at least one other person’s song before you go – even if it seems small to you, your praise or critique can make a transformative impact on someone else’s craft.
- Give a quick summary of your goals for your song – asking for feedback on specific aspects (ex. the lyrics, chord progression, etc.) is also recommended!
Although it’s not a requirement, if you used a sound you found on Splice Sounds, let us know! If you want to use Splice Sounds in your song but don’t have an account, get your first month free with the code songwriting.
Check back in for your next prompt on October 18th, or enter your email address below to receive future Songwriting Club prompts straight in your inbox the day they come out:
October 4, 2019