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I am working through the Augmented Sixth Chords chapter of Piston's Harmony (5th Edition). The last figured bass exercise, 1g ends with the following cadence. I've worked out what the figured bass represents note-wise, but I'm struggling to identify the name of the chord with the question mark under it in the image below:

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What is the name of the chord with the question mark under it?

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F#m7b5. ii7b5 in Roman. Sometimes labelled as Am6, which is less functionally informative, but shows its relationship to iv, the subdominant minor, a very common 'chromatic' chord in a major key.

Try to accept chromatic chords on their own terms. 'Borrowing' really isn't a neccessary concept. Yes, a chord may be diatonic in some other key, but we're in THIS key at the moment!

  • "Yes, a chord may be diatonic in some other key, but we're in THIS key at the moment!" Exactly, which is why we're borrowing it from that other key! – Richard Jan 2 at 17:13
  • Just let it be chromatic in the key you're in. Much simpler. – Laurence Payne Jan 2 at 17:18
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    My only issue is that, if a student is learning common-practice harmony, they might start putting in any random chord and just saying it's "chromatic in the key we're in." The fact is that chromatic harmony in the common-practice period has set rules and limitations, and I fear that ignoring a concept like borrowing might lead to some wild uses of chromaticism that don't fit this style at all. – Richard Jan 2 at 17:21
  • I'm reminded of another comment from @Richard that this is a mode change not a key change. So maybe the point is to say borrowing invokes a mode change concept. Of course the typical key change/tonicizing chromaticism would be secondary functions. – Michael Curtis Jan 2 at 17:33
  • 'Borrowing' isn't a Common Practice concept anyway. (Is it a Berklee thing?) But yes, what with borrowing, planing, substitution, chromatic mediants etc. there can't be many chords we can't dignify with a label! We need to look at what it DOES - where the notes and intervals of the chord move and resolve. A unitary - named chord as an entity - view isn't all that useful. – Laurence Payne Jan 2 at 20:30
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It's a ii half diminished 7th (ii7). This looks like it's borrowed from the tonic minor (E minor), which is likely why it's confusing you.

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It is an F♯m7♭5 chord. It is a "borrowed chord", derived from the parallel minor. In roman numerals, we write it as ii7.

A borrowed chord is a chord borrowed from the parallel key (minor or major scale with the same tonic). Borrowed chords are typically used as "color chords", providing harmonic variety through contrasting scale forms, which are major scales and the natural minor scales. In major keys, we can use the parallel key method, thus, "borrowing" from the parallel natural minor mode.

Here are some other examples of borrowed chords in E major:

  • Em (E: i)
  • F♯dim (E: ii°)
  • G (E: ♮III)
  • Am (E: iv)
  • Bm (E: v)
  • C (E: ♮VI)
  • D (E: ♮VII)

You can notice they are diatonic to E natural minor.


We can also borrow chords from the parallel major in minor keys, as well.

In E minor, we get the following:

  • E (e: I)
  • F♯m (e: ii)
  • G♯m (e: ♯iii)
  • A (e: IV)
  • B (e: V)
  • C♯m (e: ♯vi)
  • D♯dim (e: ♯vii°)

These chords are also diatonic to E major.

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