Many songs will make use of a single borrowed chord. Identifying a single borrowed chord in a sea of diatonic chords is fairly easy.
Multiple Borrowed Chords
In the last lesson we saw a couple of common progressions which used two borrowed chords. Those progressions are quite common and not too difficult to recognize.
Some songs, however, make heavy use of multiple borrowed chords. These songs can be more challenging to hear, analyze and understand.
When the chords of a song weave in and out of parallel major and minor keys, it can create a rich harmonic background. Composer’s will have certain goals in mind: They may want to choose simple diatonic sounds that don’t distract the listener, they may want to create complex harmonic journeys, or anything in-between. Extensive use of borrowed chords is one way songwriters add more depth and interest to chord progressions.
Know Your Major and Minor Keys
Recognizing the diatonic chords and the borrowed chords in written music and chord charts comes down to how well you know your keys and the notes and chords within them. Before you can easily recognize chords outside of a key, you need to know the chords inside of a key.
In future lessons we will work heavily on memorizing keys and the circle of fifths.
Exercises and Suggested Songs
Be sure to try out the exercises for this lesson which apply multiple borrowed chords. The suggested songs are an interesting group of songs for listening and/or playing. You can really hear a difference in these songs which use many borrowed chords versus songs with simple diatonic progressions like a I-V-vi-IV.
Extending Diatonic Block Summary
We have covered many heavy topics in this lesson block. Congratulations for getting through it.
While it may seem like a lot of advanced material, it is necessary for you to at least be introduced to it. It's okay if you don't remember all of the fine details of every borrowed chord at this point. But, you need to be aware that everything is not diatonic.
When you study songs in the wild, you will constantly run into these harmonies and exceptions to the diatonic “rules.” Just when you think you are understanding things, you will run into an unusual chord. Don't let it confuse you or lead you to doubt your progress.