Here Are Borrowed Chords Gospel Musicians Cannot Do Without

You arrived at this page because you’re interested in learning about borrowed chords gospel musicians cannot do without.

If you’re a fan of traditional gospel music, you must have heard tons of these borrowed chords. In the key of C major:

…a regular example is the F minor triad:

…which a lot of gospel players use to substitute the F major triad:

…especially in hymns and traditional gospel songs. In this lesson, we’ll be covering some of the borrowed chords that are commonly heard in gospel music.

But before we go into all of that, let’s review the concept of borrowed chords.

“What Are Borrowed Chords?”

There are two key types – the major and the minor key. Altogether, there are 24 keys – 12 major keys and 12 minor keys.

There is so much emphasis on the major key and that’s because a vast majority of the songs we sing in church, hear over the radio, etc., are on the major key.

There’s the key of C major:

…and there’s the key of C minor:

…and both keys are referred to as parallel keys.

A parallel key relationship exists between two keys that have the same letter name – like C major and C minor, D major and D minor, etc.

A Short Note On Borrowed Chords

The same way we have chords in the major key, there are chords in the minor key as well. The C major triad:

…is the chord of the first degree in the key of C major:

…while the C minor triad:

…is the chord of the first degree in the key of C minor:

The concept of borrowed chords has to do with borrowing chords from a parallel key. For example, if the prevalent key is C major:

…and the chord of the first degree is the C major triad:

…it’s possible to borrow the chord of the first degree in the minor key (which is C minor triad):

…and apply it in the major key.

So, the C minor triad:

…in the key of C major:

…is a borrowed chord, because it was adapted from the parallel minor key – the key of C minor.

In a nutshell, borrowed chords are chords that are adapted from a parallel key.

“Before We Go Any Further, Here Are The Scale Degree Triads In The Minor Key…”

Chord 1:

…the C minor triad.

Chord 2:

…the D diminished triad.

Chord 3:

…the Eb major triad.

Chord 4:

…the F minor triad.

Chord 5:

…the G minor triad.

Chord 6:

…the Ab major triad.

Chord 7:

…the Bb major triad.

Borrowed Chords Gospel Musicians Cannot Do Without

We’ll be taking a look at some borrowed triads, seventh and extended chords that are commonly heard in gospel music.

Attention: All examples are in the key of C major.

Borrowed Triads

Borrowed triads are triads that are adapted from the parallel minor key. Although there are seven scale-degree triads in the key of C minor:

…only five of them are usually borrowed in gospel music.

“Check Them Out…”

Chord 2:

…the D diminished triad.

Chord 4:

…the F minor triad.

Chord 5:

…the G minor triad.

Chord 6:

…the Ab major triad.

Chord 7:

…the Bb major triad.

“The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power – A Classic Example Of The Application Of Borrowed Chords…”

It will ne (F minor triad):

…e:

…ver (D diminished):

…loose:

…its:

…power:

The F minor and D diminished triads that were used in the progression are borrowed chords.

“Total Praise – A Classic Example Of The Application Of Borrowed Chords…”

A:

…a (D diminished triad):

…a:

…men (F minor):

…a:

…a (F minor):

…a (G minor):

…a (F minor):

…men:

The D diminished, F minor triads that were used in the progression are borrowed chords from the key of C minor.

Borrowed Seventh Chords

Although there are 7 seventh chords in the parallel minor key, only a few seventh chords are usually borrowed.

“Check Them Out…”

Chord 2:

…the D half-diminished seventh chord.

Chord 5:

…the G minor seventh chord.

Chord 6:

…the Ab major seventh chord.

“Praise Is What I Do – A Classic Example Of The Application Of Borrowed Chords…”

Praise is what I do (Ab major seventh):

…ooo-oo (G minor seventh):

…is what I do:

Borrowed Ninth Chords

Ninth chords are extended and sophisticated chords that are commonly played by intermediate and advanced players.

There are two ninth chords in the parallel minor key that most top players borrow.

“You’ll Do Well To Check Them Out…”

Chord 4:

…the F minor ninth chord.

Chord 7:

…the Bb dominant ninth chord.

“Amazing Grace – A Classic Example Of The Application Of Borrowed Chords…”

Saved a wretch like me (F minor ninth chord):

…passing chord (Bb dominant ninth chord):

Final Words

Borrowed chords are of the greatest possible importance in gospel music and every serious keyboardist must learn and master them.

This is how far we can go for today. Go ahead and master the art of borrowing chords in other keys – it’s a good thing to do.

See you in another lesson!

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Chuku Onyemachi

Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. I started teaching musicians in my neighbourhood in April 2005. Today, I'm humbled to work as a music consultant with HearandPlay Music Group for musicians in Africa and beyond.