I once heard a song that had two diminished chords in it, which probably has something to do with Modal Interchange, it's just I've never encountered it before. When I heard this song it sounded really good, so how can I use it on my own?


The concept of modal interchange (or "modal borrowing" or "mode mixture") is that you "borrow" a chord quality that is diatonic in the parallel key. If you're in, say, C major, you can borrow chords that are diatonic to C minor (and vice versa).

So to find opportunities to borrow diminished triads, let's first find where those diminished triads are. In major, it only exists as vii°. And in minor, it exists both as vii° and as ii°.

Since both major and minor have the same vii° chord, you can't really borrow one into the other. But there is one remaining diminished triad: ii° in minor. Thus, from a standpoint of modal interchange, the only other way to introduce a diminished triad is by using ii° in a major key.

The same logic applies for the seventh chords. In major, the seventh chord on scale-degree 7 is half diminished; in minor, it's half diminished when built on scale-degree 2 and fully diminished when built on scale-degree 7.

There are other ways to introduce diminished harmonies, especially with secondary leading-tone chords (vii°/x). But in terms of strict modal interchange, this is the only way.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.