Subdominant Minor Chords: Borrowing Chords from Minor Keys

Review of Major and Minor Harmony

We’ve covered how chords are constructed within a major key. We’ve also used the same process to learn about how chords are constructed in a minor key, including some alterations to the notes that are sometimes used to create new harmonies (harmonic minorA natural minor scale whose seventh degree has been raised, originally for the specific purpose of allowing the construction of a Vmaj chord in the minor key. Hence the name.). We also labeled the chords based on their functionFunction is the role a note, or a whole chord, plays in a key, particularly with respect to their tendency to move towards or away from other notes and chords in that key.; or which degree(scale) Refers to a numbered note of the scale. For instance, E is the third degree of C. The term is too general to indicate specifically what note; E♭ is the third degree of C minor. of the scale they were built on and what kind of chord quality they have. Now that we’ve done this, we can begin to see how chords are borrowed from one situation and placed in another.

Starting Chord Progression

Consider the following example:

Let’s label the chords with their function from major harmony.

Imaj7 VI-7 II-7 V7 Imaj7 II-7 IVmaj7 Imaj7
Cmaj7 A-7 D-7 G7 Cmaj7 D-7 Fmaj7 Cmaj7

Let’s make one small but dramatic change by turning Fmaj7 into F-7:

Now, let’s label the chords again.

Imaj7 VI-7 II-7 V7 Imaj7 II-7 IV-7 Imaj7
Cmaj7 A-7 D-7 G7 Cmaj7 D-7 F-7 Cmaj7

All of the labels remain the same except for one. We have no label for F-7 in the key of C. Unless we borrow the label from the parallel minor key, C minor. Our example is inside of the universe of C major. For a brief moment, a portal to a parallel C minor universe opens, and from that emerges the F-7 chord. The chord can be classified as being from this new universe because the two new notes needed to create it are A♭ and E♭, both found in C minor.

Key Tasks

  1. List the chords that can be borrowed from C natural minor for use in C major.
  2. List the chords that can be borrowed from C harmonic minor.
  3. List the chords that can be borrowed from C melodic minor.
  4. List the chords that can be borrowed from C major and used in C minor.

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