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Thread: Parallel scales borrowed chords

  1. #1
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    Parallel scales borrowed chords

    Please take a look at the first example of this video.
    What is the "rule" or "technique" that is subjacent to the substitution of the FMaj by an Fm chord?.
    I understand what he says about writting music using your ears and your heart and do not use exclusively the theory "rules". But I'm sure there's some harmonic technique (or whatever you want to call it) governing this.
    Or am I wrong?

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    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Please take a look at the first example of this video.
    What is the "rule" or "technique" that is subjacent to the substitution of the FMaj by an Fm chord?.
    It's just what he says: it's "borrowed from the parallel minor". IOW, it comes from the C minor scale ("parallel" means same keynote).
    This is also known as "modal interchange", or "mode mixture".

    Essentially, whatever key you are in, you can use any chord from any other scale with the same keynote. In theory any mode can borrow from any other, but most of the time this comes down to major keys taking chords from the parallel minor (aeolian mode).
    (The minor key already borrows its V chord from the parallel major; we're used to that.)
    The quality of the key chord stays the same (ie major in this case), otherwise the quality of the whole key changes. That can happen too, but we wouldn't then speak of "borrowing" but of a complete change of tonality.

    It's extremely common - even conventional - in rock to borrow from the parallel minor. Normally this involves the 3 major chords (eg, Eb, Ab and/or Bb used in the key of C major), which add a useful degree of "heaviness" to the major key, but the minor iv adds a nice air of mystery. The Beatles and Radiohead may not have much else in common, but they both liked to use minor iv chords in major keys.

    The most conventional use of it is following the major IV and returning to I. You'll have heard the following chord progression (or something like it) many times:
    C - Cmaj7 - C7 - F - Fm - C (etc).
    That gives a chromatic line through the chords (C-B-Bb-A-Ab-G), but you sometimes get the minor iv used on its own, alternating with the tonic (C-Fm-C). This is how Radiohead like to use it (check out "My Iron Lung", which is G-Cm-G), but you can hear the same idea in the bridge of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" from 1926.
    Last edited by JonR; 04-03-2012 at 12:26 AM.

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Please take a look at the first example of this video.
    What is the "rule" or "technique" that is subjacent to the substitution of the FMaj by an Fm chord?.
    I understand what he says about writting music using your ears and your heart and do not use exclusively the theory "rules". But I'm sure there's some harmonic technique (or whatever you want to call it) governing this.
    Or am I wrong?
    First I think you worry to much about things that do not fit within the standard box. I's dotted and T's crossed everything else is suspect. Relax, if it sounds good it's good.

    I think you are asking - why would you want to bring in the Fm to fill the F major's place? Why break the rules? Why go borrow from the minor scale?

    Major is happy minor is sad could be one example. Jon spoke of the minor adding a bit of mystery. It's your song and if you felt the need for a little sadness or mystery at this point in the song help yourself to a parallel minor chord. Would be nice to see the lyrics being used with the Fm chord.

    Minor brings a whole different feel and does follows the rule, if it sounds good it's good. Rules are guidelines nothing says we have to stay within the accepted rules. If it sounds good it's OK to go outside,

    I'm reminded of the bell curve - who draws the two lines - anything below this line is unaccepted and anything above this line is also unaccepted just the stuff in the middle is accepted. Who makes that decision about where the lines are drawn and how much leeway is allowed? Yes certain rules have been set up for what is too far below the curve and what is too far above the curve. Just as...........

    ........ The parallel minor has been borrowed enough to where it has become accepted much the same as the dominant chord is just taken for granted that it must become a dominant seventh.

    Jon's point about the V major being inserted into minor progressions is also accepted with out any more thought.

    Yes we need the basic rules at first, but, after we have those, then we can start adding the exceptions to the rules that have become accepted.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 04-03-2012 at 01:09 AM.

  4. #4
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    Use your ears, not rules.

    Rules are just training wheels for your ears until you no longer need them.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

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    Is modal interchange the same as modulation?

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    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Is modal interchange the same as modulation?
    No.
    Modulation - irritatingly, but typically - has nothing to do with modes (at least not in its modern sense). It just means changing from one key (major or minor) to another: on a different tonic or keynote, and with a different scale. (In the course of a piece of music, that is. Rewriting a piece in a different key is "transposition".)
    Modal interchange is about keeping the same keynote and changing the scale built on it.

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    Modulation - irritatingly, but typically - has nothing to do with modes (at least not in its modern sense).
    Right, like so many other things in music theory, the name can be misleading.

    Modal interchange is about keeping the same keynote and changing the scale built on it.
    Ok, now you hit the point. In my view, keeping the same keynote pressuposes that when you replace one chord by another from the parallel scale (in the same degree) the chord function in the progression remains unchanged. I'm not sure if this is correct.

    I've been searching (and found) lots of different sites and books and any of them could answer this question. They all just mention the substitution with a few examples and nothing more.

    I tried to understand this by comparing both, the CMaj and C Natural minor scales:
    Modal Interchange.JPG
    During my search, I concluded from several examples that only the only chords that could be replaced by chords from the parallel scale were the I, IIm, IV and V (because all the examples were hust dealing with these 4 chords).
    So, by looking at the table above, I concluded that this was because they were the only chords that have the same root. All the others, in the minor scale the root is flattened by a half-step.

    By other hand, and considering the diatonic chord substitution, if we look to the fundamental chord structure (triads), the I, IIm, IV and V all have two tones in common (which doesn't happen with the other chords).

    So, I found these two as possible reasons to explain why these chords are interchangeable.

    But after that I've found other examples with chords other than those.
    So, this "theory" of mine, although plausible, doesn't explain everything unless we replace the IIIm, for example, by a first inversion of the bIII. But would be replacing a Em7 chord by a G based chord (in this case something like Gmb6). As I said before, I don't know if changing from an E based into a G based chord will change the function in the progression.

    These are my doubts for now.

  8. #8
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    JonR
    "Modal interchange is about keeping the same keynote and changing the scale built on it. "
    similar to pitch axis?

  9. #9
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Right, like so many other things in music theory, the name can be misleading.



    Ok, now you hit the point. In my view, keeping the same keynote pressuposes that when you replace one chord by another from the parallel scale (in the same degree) the chord function in the progression remains unchanged. I'm not sure if this is correct.

    I've been searching (and found) lots of different sites and books and any of them could answer this question. They all just mention the substitution with a few examples and nothing more.

    I tried to understand this by comparing both, the CMaj and C Natural minor scales:
    Modal Interchange.JPG
    During my search, I concluded from several examples that only the only chords that could be replaced by chords from the parallel scale were the I, IIm, IV and V (because all the examples were just dealing with these 4 chords).
    So, by looking at the table above, I concluded that this was because they were the only chords that have the same root. All the others, in the minor scale the root is flattened by a half-step.

    By other hand, and considering the diatonic chord substitution, if we look to the fundamental chord structure (triads), the I, IIm, IV and V all have two tones in common (which doesn't happen with the other chords).

    So, I found these two as possible reasons to explain why these chords are interchangeable.

    But after that I've found other examples with chords other than those.
    So, this "theory" of mine, although plausible, doesn't explain everything unless we replace the IIIm, for example, by a first inversion of the bIII. But would be replacing a Em7 chord by a G based chord (in this case something like Gmb6). As I said before, I don't know if changing from an E based into a G based chord will change the function in the progression.

    These are my doubts for now.
    I am going to play Devil's advicate......
    This is what Virginia Tech's music dictionary has to say on the subject.

    "Parallel chords
    (PAIR-ruh-lel kords)

    A sequence of chords consisting of intervals that do not change as the chord moves. For example, a major chord of C, E, and G (with the intervals of a major third between the C and E and a minor third between the E and G) would be parallel to a following chord of F, A, and C (again a major chord with the intervals of a major third between the F and A and a minor third between the A and C), which, in turn, would be parallel to another major chord consisting of G, B, D, etc. This is also referred to as parallel motion.

    See also parallel motion.
    - which said about the same thing.

    The example is using the I IV & V chords. I take that to mean that the I IV & V are candidates for being used as parallel chords. In the case of I-IV-V or i-iv-v (major or minor progression those chords end up being candidates for change to parallel chords - period. In the case of the chords in a major progression the I IV V chords are major and all the others are minor "flavor" chords. I do not see the need to change a vi, ii or iii, especially the ii and vi as they have specific tasks already.

    So I take it to mean the the I IV V or i iv v chords can be substituted with parallel chords. Works for me as I never get into this anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    Parallel chords

    A sequence of chords consisting of intervals that do not change as the chord moves.
    This definition of parallel (referring to sequences like C-F-G in which the chord tones are moving "in parallel") is different than the "parallel" being talked about here (scales like the parallel minor, and how its chords can be worked into an otherwise major key progression).
    Last edited by walternewton; 04-05-2012 at 01:46 AM.

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by metaljustice83 View Post
    JonR
    "Modal interchange is about keeping the same keynote and changing the scale built on it. "
    similar to pitch axis?
    Yes.

    (I do short answers as well as long ones.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    During my search, I concluded from several examples that only the only chords that could be replaced by chords from the parallel scale were the I, IIm, IV and V (because all the examples were hust dealing with these 4 chords).
    So, by looking at the table above, I concluded that this was because they were the only chords that have the same root.
    As Jon said, you'll find chords like Eb, Ab, Bb (in the key of C) being described as borrowed from parallel scales - the term refers to chords built from scales sharing the keynote of the major scale, which does not mean all the chord root notes will necessarily be the same (think about it - if all the chord root notes were the same, that means the scale would be the same, and all its chords would be the same!)
    Last edited by walternewton; 04-05-2012 at 03:43 AM.

  13. #13
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Ok, now you hit the point. In my view, keeping the same keynote pressuposes that when you replace one chord by another from the parallel scale (in the same degree) the chord function in the progression remains unchanged. I'm not sure if this is correct.
    Me neither. It could be.

    Of course they would have a different effect. I guess it depends how you define function...
    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    I've been searching (and found) lots of different sites and books and any of them could answer this question. They all just mention the substitution with a few examples and nothing more.

    I tried to understand this by comparing both, the CMaj and C Natural minor scales:
    Modal Interchange.JPG
    During my search, I concluded from several examples that only the only chords that could be replaced by chords from the parallel scale were the I, IIm, IV and V (because all the examples were hust dealing with these 4 chords).
    So, by looking at the table above, I concluded that this was because they were the only chords that have the same root. All the others, in the minor scale the root is flattened by a half-step.

    By other hand, and considering the diatonic chord substitution, if we look to the fundamental chord structure (triads), the I, IIm, IV and V all have two tones in common (which doesn't happen with the other chords).

    So, I found these two as possible reasons to explain why these chords are interchangeable.

    But after that I've found other examples with chords other than those.
    So, this "theory" of mine, although plausible, doesn't explain everything unless we replace the IIIm, for example, by a first inversion of the bIII. But would be replacing a Em7 chord by a G based chord (in this case something like Gmb6). As I said before, I don't know if changing from an E based into a G based chord will change the function in the progression.

    These are my doubts for now.
    All good thoughts. Except chord inversion doesn't make an appreciable difference to function.
    An inverted Eb chord is still Eb, G bass or not.

    Replacing iii, vi and vii with bIII, bVI and bVII certainly puts the cat among the pigeons! And it's not done with any consideration of chord function in the usual sense.
    Does the fact that bVII is often used in jazz to move to I make it the same function as viidim?
    Do the common elements between Eb, Ab and C make Eb and Ab able to stand for C in the way Em and Am sometimes can?
    In key of C minor, Ab has a subdominant (or pre-dominant) function. Am doesn't work that way in C major. In that sense, Ab has more in common with F or Fm and with Dm7 (or Dm7b5).

    Personally I think you should worry less about the theoretical "explanations" for such chords, and just enjoy the effects they have. (Of course the kind of theories you're guessing about can help you select certain courses of action over others; which may or may not be a good thing. As ever, the best use of theory is when your ears won't give you a clear answer; and only then.)
    I understand about your quest for understanding, but theory always comes from practice as a way of explaining (or at least describing) the sounds. IOW, if you find a good sound you can't explain, theory may help you see connections with things you do understand. But a good sound is a good sound - that's all that really matters.

    IOW, theory never explains "why" something sounds good (it's not like scientific theory). The "why" is to do with physics and psychology. Music theory won't tell you why music is the way it is, any more than English grammar will tell you why we put words in the order we do.
    Last edited by JonR; 04-05-2012 at 02:15 AM.

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    Me neither. It could be.

    Of course they would have a different effect. I guess it depends how you define function...
    I found this thread. It answers the question.

    What is the common practice when using Modal Interchange (between CMaj and Cmin scales, for example)? To replace any chord when desired? Or are there any particular chord replacements that are not harmonically considered as good?

    think about it - if all the chord root notes were the same, that means the scale would be the same, and all its chords would be the same
    I see, that's why I thought only some of the chords could be replaced (in this case the only ones with the same root).
    Last edited by rbarata; 04-05-2012 at 11:40 AM.

  15. #15
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    I found this thread. It answers the question.

    What is the common practice when using Modal Interchange (between CMaj and Cmin scales, for example)? To replace any chord when desired? Or are there any particular chord replacements that are not harmonically considered as good?
    Well, if it's not too obvious a statement, they're chosen by ear, whatever suits the context.
    IOW "any chord when desired" covers it, but of course what's "desired" will change from song to song.

    As for common practice, in rock generally, the bVII chord is ubiquitous, while the bIII and bVI are less common (they would be too "heavy" for many situations). And the minor iv is reserved for special moments. (Bands that know it know how to use it. I suspect bands that don't use it are mostly unaware of it as an option, or just think it sounds "odd" or "wrong". Of course, as far as their music is concerned, they're quite right.... if you think it sounds wrong, it is.)

    It would also be fairly unusual to combine a lot of borrowed chords with a lot of normal diatonic chords (because of the big contrast between the two sounds, which kind of fight); but even so, it does happen - ie, when such a contrast is desired.
    (I'm thinking of the verse to Layla, which is in E major, using all the main 6 diatonic chords - E, A, B, F#m, C#m, G#m - but inserting a borrowed C-D at one point, to resolve to the first E; to kind of "toughen it up", as it were. And of course the chorus is in D natural minor, with a diatonic bVI and bVII.)

    Basically, the more one uses these chords, the more one gets used to how they sound, and (given some familiarity with pop and rock genres!) the more one knows instinctively when one needs to use them.
    Last edited by JonR; 04-05-2012 at 12:26 PM.

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