The Flat III Chord

Another common chord borrowed from the parallel minor key is the ♭III chord (“flat three chord”).

Example ♭III Chord Progression

In the key of C major, the ♭III chord would be E♭. Remember, the borrowed chord comes from the parallel minor key of C minor (C D E♭ F G A♭ B♭). The chord built on the third of C minor (E♭) is an E♭ major triad, or E♭maj7 chord.

You often see progressions like:
I – IV – ♭III – I (C – F – E♭ – C), or
I – ♭III – IV – V (C – E♭ – F – G).

How the ♭III Works

The ♭III major triad contains two notes outside of the major key. An E♭ major chord (E♭ G B♭) played in the key of C will have an E♭ and a B♭ from outside of the key of C. In the key of C, E♭ and a B♭ would be a flat 3rd and flat 7th. These notes are known as “blue” notes. So, the ♭III chord often evokes a bluesy sound. As a result, you will hear this sound in lots of blues-influenced styles like soul, R&B, rock, and funk.

A Popular Intro Chord

You may notice the ♭III chord appears in the introductions to many songs. It creates tension and interest right from the start. A great example is Hold On, I'm Comin' by Sam & Dave. You will find several more examples in the suggested songs for this lesson.

Lots of Major Chords

An interesting thing about the chords borrowed from the parallel minor key is that they are frequently the major chords from the minor key. So, in a major key, which only has three major chords—I, IV and V (you better know that by now!), the borrowed chords give a composer more major chords to work with. The ♭III major chord is a perfect example.

Exercises and Songs

You will find a few flat III bass exercises as well as a number of song examples applying the ♭III chord. Play, listen and learn.

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