Thanks in advance,2 days ago i learned about borrowed chords (parallel key) So i tried to apply the method here..Correct me if I'm wrong

Example (C major scale) but i choose to play D major and F minor instead of playing D minor and F major which is the home chords of C major

So I tried this method with C# minor scale i played C# minor chord then A minor 1st inversion instead of A Major then i tried add E minor as the third chord then finally end it with D# minor everything sounds good to my ear but the thing is there is no E minor in both C# Major or C# Minor scale in C# Major there is an E# minor what is E# sharp minor? is that same as E major? so how can i count this E minor chord as (parallel) borrowed chords? Waiting for response.

  • 1
    You’ve asked the same question twice and neither version of it is clear. Are you asking if it’s ok to use chords that are not part of the key? The answer is yes. Are you asking if those are called “borrowed chords”? The answer is “it depends but you can think of them as borrowed from some key somewhere”. Not every combination of chords has a specific name - some have no name and some have many names. Jun 13, 2022 at 15:31
  • Yes I'm asking that is it okay to use a chord that is not a part of the specific key... Sorry for the confusion and thank you so much fr the response Jun 13, 2022 at 15:40

3 Answers 3


Borrowing means using chords from the same root, using the scale notes' letters. So while the root notes of chords from C major go C D E F G A B, using the letter names, the chords from parallel C minor are C D E♭ F G A♭ B♭.

So, you need to know the chords that are family in C major and those in the family of C minor, not simply think ah, C major has Dm, so C minor has D major. The D chord from C major is Dm, but the D chord from Cm is D°.

When you're in key C♯ minor, the 3rd note is E ♮. In C♯ major the 3rd is E♯ - enharmonic to F on a lot of instruments. Have a play with that info., it'll probably set you on the right road !

Where you came adrift in key C♯, is that the 3rd of C♯ minor is E♮, while the 3rd of C&sharp major is E♯ (aka F) so the parallel chords will be Em and E♯ major respectively.

EDIT: A better explanation is:

C~Cm, D~D°, E~E♭, F~Fm, G~Gm, A~A♭, B~B♭, where ~ means parallel, substitute either way.

  • Enharmonic i get it... Thank you for response so i realized that C# minor have A major chord but C # major have A# minor not A minor... So if i use A# minor in C# minor it's called borrowed? But if i use A minor chord im C# minor scale.. Its consider as? Jun 13, 2022 at 11:23

I can see you sort of duplicated an earlier question, but you asked it a bit differently here, so I'll give an additional answer.

Example (C major scale) but i choose to play D major and F minor instead of playing D minor and F major which is the home chords of C major

Let me just give a common way to understand borrowed chords.

C major diatonic traids are...

C Dm Em  F  G Am Bdim
I ii iii IV V vi viio

The Roman numerals give the scale degrees which are the chord roots, upper case letters mean major triad, lower case is minor triads, and the circle on viio means diminished.

The triads for the parallel minor key of C minor are...

Cm Ddim Eb  Fm G Ab Bb
i  iio  III iv V VI VII

The typical way to borrow chords is to replace a minor chord with its equivalent in the parallel major. (It is not typical to be in a minor key and borrow from major.) Take for example a simple progression like C G C F C which is all chords from C major key. You could borrow Fm from the parallel key C minor and get this progression C G C Fm C. That gives the progression a bit of minor mode color, gives it a "moody" feeling.

Now, in your example you mention playing a D chord while in the key C major. That would not be a typical borrowed chord, but you can get it another way as a secondary dominant. I'll leave it to you to look up the basic definition of dominant chord and secondary dominant, but in practice it could work like this: an example, diatonic progression of C F Dm G C could change the Dm to D or even D7, either of which is the dominant to the G chord, and the progression would be C F D7 G C.

Often you see secondary dominants for chords like ii or vi which in C major are Dm and Am. A progression like C Am Dm G could use a secondary dominant to become C A7 Dm G. Sometimes you can have chains of secondary dominants like this C E7 A7 Dm G.

Borrowed chords and secondary dominants are two very common ways to bring chromatic chords into the basic diatonic chord vocabulary.

  • What a brief explanation... Glad for your effort sir... Jun 14, 2022 at 3:41

With questions like this, we have to decide whether to answer the question literally, as if it could be taken literally and as if it was written by a professional (who wouldn't actually even need to ask) ... or to try to alleviate the general confusion that might be behind the text written in the "question" field. I choose the latter approach.

Quote from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borrowed_chord

Borrowed chords are distinguished from modulation by being brief enough that the tonic is not lost or displaced,

Are you able to figure out where you feel the tonic to be? Can you verify and test your feelings - "now I sense the tonic to be here, and I can prove that to myself by playing or singing such-and-such notes?" Do you know what to play in order to establish a tonic in your mind? If not, those are essential pieces of musical skill and know-how, and you should get them in order as a first priority, if you want to learn to handle, or talk about handling harmony.

If you cannot sense where your subjective tonic i.e. harmonic center of balance is, and whether playing a series of notes or chords moves your feeling of tonic or not, then you need to develop that skill first. Otherwise you have no idea what the text is talking about when it says "tonic" - and tonic is an essential concept when talking about borrowed chords.

Sensing the tonic is about skills and practice, not about knowledge and calculations. What counts is how you feel when you hear the music. Not what you're able to place in some math formula on paper.

I tried listening to your chord progression: C#m - Am/C - Em - D#m. Assuming that I let the first C#m chord to establish a tonic in my mind, then I could plausibly think of the second chord Am/C as having been "borrowed". It mixes up the feeling of notes around the tonic, but without confusing my sense of tonic. Or actually, it makes me expect that this tune might end up going to E major at some point, but that's ok, because I consider relative major and minor keys as two sides of a bi-polar "key". I don't consider a shift of balance between C# minor and E major as a modulation, not in the kind of music I play anyway.

But then the Em chord ... here it makes me lose track of C# minor or E major being a home chord. So I say it's not a borrowed chord for me, and I don't have to justify that statement with any sort of "what notes are there in some scale" math. My ear just can't modal-mix a minor triad on a major tonic, and keep a sense of the original major tonic. The other way around it does work and is regularly done in minor keys - in C# minor it's customary to modal-mix in a C# major chord e.g. when going to an F#m chord. And the C# would be called a "secondary dominant".

And the final chord D#m, it's so far out, whatever remaining sense of tonic there was after the Am - Em combination, is completely out the window now. If you had placed the D#m directly after a C#m tonic, then I might consider it as a bit of modal mixture, bringing a C# Dorian feeling, if I had been assuming some other modal feeling. But all in all, the way you put the pieces together, the only brief moment of borrowing feeling was the Am chord.

However, if I only take the first two chords, I could continue the progression towards a final E major like so:

C#m - Am/C - E/B - Am - E/G# - Am6/F# - E.

Now it's quite nicely in E major, but every other chord (in italics) mixes in things from E minor. And there's a descending bass line which makes it a bit nicer. And the chords in italics could be said to have been borrowed. The important thing is not to lose your sense tonic. Or, what do I know, maybe you don't feel the E as a tonic there?

  • I personally don't count chromatic mediants as borrowed chords, even if they don't displace the tonic. For example, I don't count the Bbm chord in the chord progression Gm -> Ab -> Gm -> Bbm -> Gm -> Ab -> Gm as a borrowed chord (this chord progression is from the regular boss theme of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, "VS. Dangerous Beast").
    – Dekkadeci
    Jun 14, 2022 at 23:48
  • The chords i mention C # minor A minor to E minor works because my composition is for a short film (Horror Genre) my main melody which i tried with some Kontakt's violin patch the melody contains some notes which perfectly match for the chords... Because i come up with melodies first then i try to harmonize it Jun 15, 2022 at 15:41
  • @CreativeMind27 I didn't say your chords didn't work, just that they don't give me the feeling of borrowed chords. Why does it matter anyway, if your chords can be called borrowed? You compose your tune using whatever method you can come up with, and you don't have to give fancy theory labels to any of it. This site is the only place in the world where I have ever had any use for the term "borrowed chords". I can juggle and balance my notes around without using fancy words, or any words at all for that matter. Youtube videos give the wrong idea that fine theory terms are needed. They're not. Jun 15, 2022 at 16:38
  • Yes me too i watched many videos where they keep saying stay in key but the thing is we can't stay in key all the time that's what i learned here Jun 15, 2022 at 18:15
  • Let say i compose for a scene where i need to fill the mood which is something like in between state of mind in a slow pace... So I planned to use strings here i can go with C major F minor G# major G major for me it works for the mood i needed there Jun 15, 2022 at 18:26

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