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So I was looking at the chords of a simple song in G major scale. The only 3 chords it's using are G, C and F, all major. i don't understand from where you get the Fmaj? if it was F#min, that makes sense to me. Is this as a result of mixing G and F scales together?

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    In addition to the two great answers, note that you were probably expecting F# diminished, not F# minor: F# A C is a diminished triad, whereas F# A C# would be the minor triad, and there is no C# in G major. – Richard May 27 '17 at 0:06
  • See diatonic modes and specifically the Mixolydian mode. Just like how minor and major scales are built up of half steps and whole steps in a specific pattern, there are many other scales that use different patterns of steps. G Mixolydian contains the notes for G, C, and F major. You can think of the Mixolydian scale as a major scale but instead of a major 7th you lower it to a minor 7th. There are multiple ways to think about the theoretical basis of modes and this is a useful one. – user35889 May 27 '17 at 9:38
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    I had the exact same question except I worded it differently to cover any key that uses a flatted 7th scale degree as a major chord as a substitute for the regular scale degree as a diminished chord. I was thinking of just such a song in the key of G with an F major in it when I posed this question which has some great answers that also answer your question (music.stackexchange.com/q/29817/16897) – Rockin Cowboy May 27 '17 at 22:30
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The song has a tonal base of G major. This is not the same as 'using only the G major scale'. As you have discovered! No need for any special justification. Just know that the bVII chord (In the key of G, that's F major) is frequently used to add a bit of colour.

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“Key of G” means only in the simplest sense that all your notes come from the G Ionian scale. The F note is borrowed from the nearby Mixolydian mode. This is very common in blues, pop and many folk styles.

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Often this sort of thing is explained with parallel keys. Songs in G major can use the notes, therefore the chords, from G minor. In Gm (natural) there are F A and C, producing the F chord. So it's sort of in the family. That apart, in the key of C, the three prominent chords just happen to be C, F and G. The difference here is that most songs in G will have the F# note (usually accompanied by a D chord, sometimes Bm or F#o). Using an F note in the melody sometimes has G7 under it, but the F chord fits sonically, if not in the basic theory.

If you want to look at it from a different perspective, think modally. G Mixolydian contains the same notes as C major, so the F chord could be construed to come from that.

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    Or just think from the position that being 'in G major' doesn't restrict you to the notes of G major scale. It saves inventing a lot of complicated 'reasons' for non-diatonic chords. – Laurence Payne May 27 '17 at 23:01
  • @LaurencePayne but that makes it seem too arbitrary. Most non-diatonic chords would sound much more “out”, for the reason of not being easily constructible from first principles (without a 12-edo grid). Whereas the ♭Ⅶ is really right next door on the circle of fifths. – leftaroundabout May 27 '17 at 23:37
  • And includes two diatonic notes. Which may be more relevant, if we're not always basing our music on ii, V, I patterns. – Laurence Payne May 29 '17 at 0:23
  • "Including two diatonic notes" is, of course, a consequence of being "close in the circle of fifths". My preference is to think modally: an F major chord in G major is a bit of mixolydian flavor. Why invoke G minor or C major? At least for me, an F major chord in G major doesn't suggest or imply G minor or C major- but maybe I've just played too much mixolydian.... – Scott Wallace May 29 '17 at 22:18
  • @ScottWallace - in fact, thinking about it, it might be the ultimate theory - consider everything modally, all modes are usable, therefore any note out of the twelve, or any combinations thereof, are acceptable to use. Need a reason - think modally! Still concerned? Think chromatically... – Tim May 30 '17 at 7:11
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This is simply called borrowing. In this example, it is most likely borrowing from the key of C major (C, F and G are very commonly used chords in this key) as C is the 4th of G.

One could also consider the use of F major as a way to bring in the dominant 7th of G - dominant 7th of G is F whereas the major 7th is F#.

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