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Lesson 105: Modal Interchange

Modal Interchange

It is very common to borrow chords from other scales/ modes than the primary one. If the original key is C major, you can borrow a chord from a parallel scale/ mode - any mode that contains the note c:

  • D from C Lydian ( 1)
  • Bm7 from C Lydian ( 1)
  • F#m7b5 from C Lydian ( 1)
  • Bbmaj7 from C Mixolydian ( 1)
  • Cm7 from C minor ( 2)
  • Ebmaj7 from C minor ( 2)
  • Abmaj7 from C minor ( 2)
  • Gbmaj7#11 from C Locrian ( 2)
  • E from A harmonic or melodic minor ( 2)
  • a special group of chords are the subdominant minor chords ( 2)

Subdominant Minor Chords

Check out lesson 102 for a more extensive workout on subdominant minor chords.

Chords with the subdominant minor sound in a major key are very common and important in jazz. In C major, the subdominant is F, which makes F minor the primary subdominant minor chord. But, there's a lot more to this subject than that. In fact, in C major, all of the following chords have the subdominant minor sound:

  • Fm, Fm7, Fm6, Fmmaj7 from different F minor scales
  • Bb7 from different F minor scales
  • Fm/G = Gsusb9 from C minor or from different F minor scales
  • Abmaj7 from C minor
  • Dm7b5 from C minor
  • Dbmaj7#11 from C Phrygian
  • Ab7 from C Locrian #2 = Eb melodic minor

Modal Interchange - A Summary

You can also borrow chords into a minor key. If the original key is C minor, you can borrow a chord from a parallel scale/ mode - any mode that contains the note c:

  • you can mix the different minor modes natural, Dorian, harmonic and melodic minor ( 4)
  • Dbmaj7#11 from C Phrygian ( 4)
  • Gbmaj7#11 from C Locrian ( 4)
  • D7 from G harmonic minor ( 4)
  • Ab7 from C Locrian #2 = Eb melodic minor ( 4)
  • Cmaj7 from C Ionian ( 3)
  • Am7 from C Ionian ( 3)
So, you can interchange chords:
  1. from a major mode into a major mode
  2. from a minor mode into a major mode
  3. from a major mode into a minor mode
  4. from a minor mode into a minor mode
I have marked every example above with the appropriate number 1- 4. This whole concept is called modal interchange and it is very nice - it introduces new colors/ sounds without giving a feeling of leaving the primary key.

Example 1: Beatrice by Sam Rivers

Check out the chords of Beatrice:

The key is F major. The modal interchange chords are:

  • Gbmaj7#11 from F Phrygian ( a subdominant minor chord)
  • Ebmaj7#11 from F Mixolydian
  • Bbm from F natural minor ( a subdominant minor chord)
  • Fm from F minor

Example 2: My Composition Fall, Break

I wrote a whole lesson on how my composition Fall, Break came to be. You can read lesson 121 here.

Check out the chords of my composition Fall, Break. You can look at the lead sheet here and listen to it here.

Am		| 		| Fmaj7		|		|
C/Ab		|		| Ebmaj7	|		|
Cmaj7		| Bb6/9		| Am7		| E/G#		|
C/G		| F/A		| C/Ab		|		|

The key is C major or A minor. The modal interchange chords are:

  • C/Ab from F melodic minor
  • Ebmaj7 from C minor
  • Bb6/9 from C Mixolydian
  • E/G# from A harmonic or melodic minor

2014 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.