Borrowed Chords

When it comes to guitar playing, one of the most exciting aspects is exploring various harmonic possibilities and adding unique flavours to your music. One technique that can instantly spice up your chord progressions and add a touch of intrigue is the use of borrowed chords. Borrowed chords, also known as modal interchange or modal mixture, involve borrowing chords from different keys or modes to create unexpected and captivating sounds.

Where do we borrow chords from?

Traditionally, in a given key, you would rely on the diatonic chords derived from that key’s major scale or minor scale. These chords provide a solid foundation and are the most commonly used harmonies. However, borrowed chords introduce a subtle twist by incorporating chords that are not inherently part of the original key.

Borrowed chords are typically borrowed from parallel keys, which share the same tonic but differ in terms of mode. For example, if you’re in the key of C major, you might borrow chords from the parallel key of C minor to infuse a touch of melancholy or complexity into your composition. Similarly, if you’re in a minor key, borrowing chords from the parallel major can inject a sense of brightness or tension.

What effect do borrowed chords have?

The borrowed chords often create a temporary tonal shift within a piece of music, momentarily transporting the listener to a different harmonic landscape. This harmonic alteration can be used to evoke specific emotions, add tension and release, or simply create a unique sonic palette that captures the listener’s attention.


To incorporate borrowed chords into your guitar playing, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the harmonic relationships between different keys and modes. This understanding will allow you to identify which borrowed chords will harmonically align with your current key and musical intentions.

You’ll need to learn how to Harmonise the Major Scale and Harmonise the Minor Scale.

Experimenting with borrowed chords on the guitar opens up a world of creative possibilities. By venturing beyond the confines of a single key, you can create captivating progressions that surprise and engage your listeners. Whether you’re looking to add a touch of sophistication, introduce tension, or explore new harmonic colors, borrowed chords provide a valuable tool in your guitar playing arsenal.

Here you can explore real life examples in a range of songs and learn how to incorporate them seamlessly into your guitar playing. This will help open your ears to new possibilities so that you can begin to identify these by ear and incorporate them into your playing and compositions.

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