Writing Progressions with Borrowed Chords: Songwriting Lesson

Modal Interchange, Borrowed Chords, and Modal Mixture all refer to the same concept of using parallel modes - modes that all start on the same tonic. In this video we explore writing chord progressions in C Major, then borrowing the chords from C Minor. We also explore other options, such as borrowing from Lydian or Phrygian, and borrowing from other keys when NOT in major. This topic goes as deep as your knowledge of the modes.


 Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors.  However, I do hope you find it helpful.   

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Hey, I'm Jake lizzio. And in this video. What I want to do is explore the idea of borrowed chords. What are they and how can we make music with them now? This can be a very confusing topic, but it can also be a very simple topic. So in this video, we'll start easy will keep things pretty basic and then gradually will introduce more and more of the advanced concepts.

These Concepts will kind of depend on your knowledge of all the modes that I've taught previously on this channel. So if you ever get lost you can just check the description and I've linked to a video that should fill you in on the missing details to Briefly summarize. Why we want to learn our borrowed gourds. Well, when you're writing in a major key, it can feel kind of limiting. There's only seven chords in a major key if you want to stay in that key. So if you want to start bringing in chords outside of the key, there's a few different options. We've already talked about secondary dominance on this channel, but my favorite option is borrowed chords, you find a cord from a parallel mode and then you bring it into your progression and then you have an easy way to play over that too. So let's go into that process of borrowing cords from a parallel mode. I'm going to start by building the c major scale and the chords of the c major scale and What will be composing and we'll be in C major, but I also want to be aware of the chords of C minor. So here's my C minor scale and the chords of C minor. Let's come up with a very basic chord progression in C major. How about one six four five? So we've got see Majors my one my six is a minor my for is f and my five is Jeep.

This is a chord progression that's been played a billion times before it's a good old classic holies doo-wop Love Song progression.

The one six four five.

I want to use this. This as my Baseline chord progression, but what I want to do is I want to introduce a borrowed cord and let's look at that C minor scale. Let's try borrowing the six. Alright, the sixth chord of C minor is going to be an A flat major right there.

Alright. So a flat major is my borrowed 6 chord. I'm going to bring that cord into my new progression.

So let's just replace one of our chords with a flat. I mean there's a million ways we could use this chord. What I want to do is just just throw it in there. Let's just replace it. Right. So here's C major.

Here's my Minor instead of f let's borrow that a flat and then we can go back to tweet. So what I've got to C major a minor B flat major and then G and I think that sounds far more interesting far more unique than my initial court.

So when I hear something like that, I think man that would be really easy to turn into like a modern oldie song, you know kind of that dream space rock kind of stuff. So let's just take the same idea add a bass. Tar add some organ at a singer. I had my friend Joe come in here and help us out and here's what we got.

I still want to kiss now. Like I said, there's no hard or fast rule on exactly how and where you are supposed to borrow these chords. So let's just slap that borrowed chord in at the end of our progression instead. So I'll keep the see keep the a minor. I'll keep the F, but I'll replace.

G with the a flat and now I've got this court see major and then the surprise a flat pretty weird sounding what to do with it. Well, what if you played him as power cords instead c power-chord a power chord F power cord and a Jeep our G sharp power chord A flat power cord.

Well, then you've got kind of like a punk rock song. All you gotta do is add some whiny vocals on top and boom. There you go.

It wasn't true.

My favorite example of this being used as in Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World that songs in the key of C.

Right and we go through quite a few of the diatonic chords in the key of C major. Here's the two and then the one here's the five of six and then here's the six and then we borrow and what a wonderful but borrowing in that six and then coming down to the five suspended for record.

And then coming back to the top really lovely use of that chord now. I can borrow any of these chords. I don't have to keep just borrowing the six. Let's try borrowing that seventh chord, which is going to be B flat major, right? So I'll be in C major and here's a see here's my five chord g here's my for for Deaf. What if I just jump to that borrowed cord right there now you get this nice progression CG F and then the E-flat now with that B flat comes up. It did come. C minor scale, right? So one of the good bets that you could use over like to sing over that or to play over that would be used the C minor scale. You can absolutely go into that scale but this flat 7 chord also occurs in C mixolydian.

So which one are you really borrowing from? Are you borrowing from C? Mixolydian? You're borrowing from C minor that cord could be either of them. All right. This is where it gets a little fuzzy when you borrow a chord like B-flat. It doesn't have to be for minor or mixolydian. You could play C mixolydian over that B flat major. Major and you're still going to get a sound just a different sound than playing the C minor scale.

So long story short when you do borrow a cord from a parallel scale like minor it would be a good idea to shift you're playing into that parallel key, right when that B flat comes up. I'm going to pretend like I'm in the key of C minor or since it's also in mixolydian. I'm going to pretend like I'm in C mixolydian, but there are no other keys that have this flat 7 chord in there. So those are the only two scales. I'm going to be thinking about the most common borrowed chord is the for if In the key of C major and if I go to my fourth chord, which is f if I borrow the fourth chord it becomes F minor and I can resolve that back to see I did a whole video on that highly recommend it because we go through several different examples of that borrowed for record showing up. Let's try borrowing the to right. I'm in C major the 2 chord of C minor is a d half diminished by play Daddy half diminished. It will resolve pretty nicely back to C major. So using that concept I decided to write a very very small little finger style section in the EOD that just went where the key of D. And basically what we'll do is start on the four chord and then the 5 chord and then we'll go from the wand will walk down to the 6 and then we'll bring in the borrowed two and then resolve it finally back to the so here's what it sounds like is a fingerstyle arrangement.

I figured hey, what the heck? Let's try turning this into a string quartet. I don't know the first thing about arranging for a string quartet, but I figured let's just go for it. As long as it sounds good. I'll be happy with it. So here's my arrangement of that same idea.

Now I encourage you to experiment with the other chords. You can also borrow the Three core that is going to be an E flat major that's going to give you that very God chord feel very epic weird change if you come straight off the sea like that but I also want to talk about borrowing from other modes. We don't have to borrow from just minor we could borrow from the parallel lydian scale we could borrow from the parallel Dorian all sorts of parallel modes of C. So if you think about all the different chords that are available to us, we're in the key of C major, but look at the chords available to you and C Dorian. Are all chords you can borrow look at the chords of see fridge, you know, all those cords you can borrow and so on and so on and so on and so on so that is in my opinion why it is such a good thing to be practicing your modes and really practicing your modes in isolation. Right really treating phrygian like its own key treating mixolydian like its own key. If you learn to do that, then it becomes a very trivial task to just borrow those chords because you're familiar with the structure of phrygian, you know, that phrygian has a minor one chord and a flat two major chord, so if I wanted to borrow, So from phrygian in the key of C major I can just borrow that flat two major. That would be a d flat major and I'm borrowing from frigid for that little tiny bit of time there. I would be in see phrygian.

It's a pretty disruptive cord, right, but you can actually get away with it and it's a fairly common chord to use in the classical world. This is known as the Neapolitan chord if you play at inverted Neapolitan sixth so playing that d flat and then just putting an F on the base instead would give me a Neapolitan 6 chord in the key of C. Let's take that. Borrowed phrygian cord and let's combine it with some of the stuff we were doing earlier. I'll be in the key of C. And then I'm going to go to my four chord and I'll go back to my 1 C FC.

Here's the see here's the borrow to from phrygian and then to 5, I'll go from my for again to my one and then I'm going to borrow the seven from minor back to four years the bar and six from minor 5 so that chord progression I put together and it reminded me of of like a fish song like a like a hippie jam band rock song. So I had my friend Mike Mowgli help me out with the vocals on that one and we got together this piece.

Another notable borrowed chord, that's not from minor is the 2 chord from lydian if I'm in the key of C major and if I think of the parallel lydian scale, that would be c lydian will see lydian has a D major, right? And I really like bringing in that Court every once in a while the Allah give you is from Total Eclipse of the Heart.

That song is in the key of a flat and it's just that classic one six four five progression. We already heard before but eventually they go from the 4 to the 5 to the minor 6 and then they borrow that too to give it a little bit of brightness. It's a really nice got a rejoicing unexpected brightness that comes out of that major to and then they do it again back to the tonic to the five the six and then borrowing the to from Lydia and the lydian scale would work. Absolutely perfect there that the a flat lydian scale would be the the appropriate choice for this.

The last thing I want to talk about is borrowing from other modes when you're already in minor so not starting in major, right? Let's pretend like I'm in the key of A minor.

Here's my one my six chord and a minor is f my three chord and a minor is C.

But if I Bring in a D major that cord really doesn't fit in to the key of A minor, but I can think of it as being borrowed from a Dorian right? Because in the a Dorian key, I have an A Minor and a D major.

So that's kind of what I think of House of the Rising Sun House of the Rising Sun is an A Minor A see a D major and then write to an F major.

So to me that is like we're either in a minor and then we're borrowing from a Dorian or were in a Dorian and borrowing from A minor but I really feel like it's strong a minor tonality that Dorian comes in there just temporarily for we start sinking back in the minor key introducing the dominant.

So I decided to write with this in like the Techno EDM style. I just took an A minor chord and then I went to an F major chord and then I went straight to the D but I put F sharp on the base and then I went up to the G major which would be the seventh chord and a minor so a minor F major D over F sharp to G.

And I thought it was a pretty energetic regression. And so I used it for this little build up into electronic Cynthia nonsense.

So when a cork pops up and it's not in the key one of the first things I ask myself is is that a borrowed cord because if it is a borrowed cord if I can figure out where it came from it gives me a very easy way to solo over that cord or to sing over that chord.

That's not the only way to treat these chords, right? If I'm in the key of C major and an A flat pops up. I'm not forced.

To play C minor over this right you could treat it different ways. But I think thinking of the parallel mode is a very simple way to figure out hey what scale should I play on top of this?

Also? Keep in mind. I already did a video on modal mixer, but it really focused on the lead side of things. So if you like this concept, but are more concerned about you know, what would you do over the top of it? I suggest you check out my video on mixing major and minor and modal mixture. That's what this is all about.

Modal mixture borrowed chords modal interchange. It all means the same things. It all means. We're in a key and we're exploring two other parallel.

He's not relative keys. So other keys that start on C. So I hope you like this video and I hope you learned something. If you did like this video you can thank my patreon supporters for making it possible. If you really liked this video, you can consider joining them at my patreon page. But if you can't do that, that's totally cool. Just like comment and share this video with your friends. That's good enough for me. Thanks for watching.


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