MUS 211 Study Guide G (Chapter 7)

Borrowed Chords

Return to Home Page

Return to MUS 211 Menu

Borrowed Chords

  1. Borrowed chords are those that are in a diatonic key, but require accidentals not in the key signature when used in a parallel key.

  1. Using chords from a minor key in its parallel major key is far more common than the reverse.

  1. The melodic requirements of the raised 6 and 7 in minor creates chords that are diatonic in major, leaving no other chords from a major key to use in a minor key except the tonic, the Picardy third.
  1. As pivots in a modulation, borrowed chords can lead to many keys unavailable when using a pivot that is diatonic in both keys.
  1. The following chords from minor are used as borrowed chords in major:
i iio ii7 bIII iv v bVI bVII viio7
(V/bVI) (V/N) (V/bIII)
  • Note that only two seventh chords are shown; any others are useful in harmonic sequences, but are not common otherwise.
  • The symbols in parentheses indicate chords that can be used as secondary dominants.
  1. The following five borrowed chords appear most often:
Diatonic chords in a major key:
ii ii7 IV vi vii7
Same chords borrowed from parallel minor:
iio ii7 iv bVI viio7
Most common position:
iio6 ii6-5 iv bVI viio6-5
Other possibilities:
  ii7 iv6   viio4-3
  ii4-3     viio4-2

(Note:  Due to difficulties creating "correct" inversion symbols on the web,
the above shortcuts were used:  6-5 = first inversion, 4-3 = second
inversion, 4-2 = third inversion seventh chord.)

  1. A musical passage is sometimes said to be in a mixed mode when it includes harmonic structures from both the major and minor modes.

  • Borrowing from minor in major is most common.

  1. The bVI, like the diatonic vi, is commonly used in the progression bVI-iv-V, and in the deceptive cadence V-bVI.

  1. All borrowed chords progress in the same manner as the diatonic chords they replace, except for bVI, which ordinarily progresses to V or V7.
  1. Altered tones are seldom doubled.
  1. General Guide for Partwriting:


Double: Voice leading (to V or V7):
iio6 Bass note (not part of tritone) Bass moves up--take upper three voices in contrary motion to bass.
ii6-5 Includes all factors Bass moves up--take upper three voices in contrary motion to bass when moving to V; keep common tone when moving to V7.
iv Root Bass moves up--take upper three voices in contrary motion to bass when moving to V or V7.
bVI 3rd factor (tonic) Bass moves down--take at least two upper voices up; leave doubled 3rd by contrary motion.
viio7 Includes all factors Bass moves up--take upper voices down.
  1. As identified in Number 5, three of the borrowed chords can be effective as secondary dominant chords.  In addition, the borrowed chord itself may be tonicized.
  1. Use of chords from the parallel minor can effectively expedite a modulation from a major key to any remotely related key.  In most cases, the new key is closely related to the key of the borrowed chord.

The Neapolitan Chord

  1. The Neapolitan Sixth Chord (N6) is a major triad built on the lowered second scale degree (bII6). When found in root position, the symbols N and bII identify this chord.  We will use N6 or N for identification.
  • Though most often used in first inversion, hence the suffix "6th," it is occasionally found with its root in the bass.
  • This chord functions identically to its counterpart, ii or iio.
  • It is also useful as a pivot, leading to a remotely related key.  It may act as a function in either the old key or the new key at the pivot point.
  1. The N6 chord most often proceeds to V or V7.
  • Often, to delay the dominant chord, other "predominant" chords (chords that normally progress to V or V7) are placed between the N6 and the V or V7 chords.
  • The most common insertions are:  tonic six-four or viio7/V, or both.

The Secondary Dominant of the Neapolitan Chord

  1. bVI in a major or minor key serve as the secondary dominant function to the Neapolitan chord, symbolized: V/N.
  1. Using the principle of the common progression, I-viio6-I6, a secondary leading tone chord can similarly precede N, e.g., viio6/N.

The Neapolitan Chord in Sequence

  1. The Neapolitan chord may substitute for the diatonic supertonic triad in any harmonic sequence. Applications:
  • Doubled note: Double the bass note (3rd of the chord) whenever possible.
  • Motion to V:  When moving from N6 to V, you can usually move the upper voices down to the nearest chord tones, in contrary motion to the bass.
  • Motion to V7:  In the progression N6-V7, you can move two voices down and keep the common tone.
  • Chromatic voiceleading:  Avoid chromatic voiceleading (e.g., Db to D) in any voice when leaving the N6.
  • Caution:  When N6 proceeds to the tonic six-four, watch out for parallel fifths.  Instead, turn them upside down, creating parallel fourths.

The Augmented Triad

  1. Of the four triads built in thirds (M,m,A,d), the augmented triad is the least used in music composition.  Often the triad appears in a context that suggests a nonharmonic analysis rather than an analysis as a harmonic tone.
  1. The augmented triads usually encountered are: major:  I+, IV+, V+; minor:  III+.
  1. The raised fifth moves up, usually by half step.
  1. Any resolution in which the fifth ascends is possible.  The usual resolutions are:
  • With I+ and V+, the roots may descend by fifth, such as I+ - IV, or V+ - I.
  • In all three augmented triads, the root in the bass may be held over, becoming the third of the next chord, such as IV+ - ii6, or it may descend by third as in IV+ - ii.
  • First inversions of I+ and V+ are common, as in V+6 - I.
  • Second inversions are rare.
  • In minor:  The III+ is diatonic, considering #7 to be a diatonic scale degree. III+, either with root or third in the bass, generally moves to VI.
  1. When the fifth of what appears to be an augmented triad does not ascend, some other tone of the sonority is the nonharmonic tone.

General Guidelines Concerning Borrowed Chords, Neapolitan Sixth Chords and Augmented Triads

  1. Do not double altered tones.
  1. Resolve lowered (b) tones downward whenever possible.
  1. Resolve raised (#) tones upward whenever possible.
  1. The altered root of a triad, when found in the bass voice, may be doubled.

Return to Home Page

Return to MUS 211 Menu