A Structural Examination of Tonality, Vocabulary, Texture,
Sonorities, and Time Organization in Western Art Music



Chapter 32. Borrowed Chords

Chapter 33. Neapolitan Triad
Chapter 34. Augmented 6th Chords


From the beginning, minor scales have borrowed scale degrees from major scales: leading tone (^7) is appropriated to provide a strong motion to tonic, and ^6 is raised (borrowed from the major) to provide a smoother motion to the leading tone (avoiding an A2). This is a commonly accepted process.

Even ^3 can be borrowed from major, in the Picardy third. The end result is that all the pitches of major keys are available in minor. This chapter is about the reverse process.


It is a small step to allow scale degrees to be borrowed from the minor, which can be formed into BORROWED CHORDS. These borrowed scale degrees change the quality of the triads and tetrads.

The change in quality of these sonorities must be shown by the Roman numerals. In addition, their special derivation will be indicated with an asterisk (*) added to the left of the Roman numeral. The asterisk is a type of footnote which states "this harmony is created by the process of borrowing scale degrees from the parallel minor key". Every diatonic sonority in a major can be altered through this process.

Notice that the borrowed mediant, the borrowed submediant, and the subtonic all have an accidental placed before the Roman numeral. In each of these cases, the root is one of the borrowed scale degrees and is a different pitch from the diatonic roots. This change of root requires an additional label.

Learn more about borrowed chords


The function of borrowed chords is the same as the diatonic counterparts. A minor tonic (borrowed) does the same

Two borrowed chords, however, do not work in the manner indicated by their Roman numerals. The minor dominant and the subtonic do not serve the dominant function, just as presented in Chapter 19. The presence (or absence) of a leading tone makes a huge difference:


Chromatic pitches always have a strong inclination to resolve in the direction of their change: sharps and naturalized flats generally need to resolve up by step (as with tonicizations) to a chord tone, flats and naturalized sharps generally need to resolve down by step to a chord tone. Therefore, lowered ^3 tends to resolve to ^2 (although on occasion it might move to ^4), lowered ^6 to ^5 (although on occasion it might move to lowered ^7), and lowered ^7 to ^6. Sometimes this motion is delayed, but ultimately it will resolve, always to chord tones.


The possibility of having two versions of scale degrees offers the possibility of voice exchanges in a chromatic context.

These relationships are also called FALSE RELATIONS (or CROSS RELATIONS) and although they are rare, they can be used as a prolonging device.


As harmonic vocabulary begins to expand with chromatic procedures such as borrowing, it is important to develop a strategy for providing a Roman numeral analysis. The following steps are suggested:

  1. Stack the sonority into thirds
  2. Identify the quality
  3. Identify the scale degrees (particularly the chromatic ones)
  4. Using steps 2. and 3., begin categorizing the possibilities
  5. Examine the context (where does it come from, where does it go)
  6. Provide the most likely label
Apply these steps to the example in the box below:

  1. The sonority is F# - A - C - E
  2. The quality is dm7
  3. The scale degrees are Re - Fa - Le - Do
  4. The root of ^2 indicates supertonic, the lowered ^6 indicates a borrowed chord
  5. It comes from a tonic prolongation and moves into a cadence
  6. It is a borrowed supertonic 7, in first inversion

Do the same thing again with the following example:

  1. The sonority is B - D - F - Ab
  2. The quality is dd7
  3. The scale degrees are Di - Mi - Sol - Te
  4. The root of raised ^1 indicates a leading tone motion to ^2, the dd7 also indicates a leading tone 7
  5. The chord comes from a tonic substitute and moves to supertonic
  6. It is a leading tone 7 tonicizing the supertonic, in second inversion


This chromatic chart was first presented in Chapter 22 and will continue for the next few chapters as chromatic vocabulary is expanded. Only chromatic scales degrees are included, and they can occur in any voice.

It is organized by general categories (tonicizations and borrowed chords) that show all the chromatic scale degrees, and by sub-categories that show only the scale degrees for that particular item.



Provide a Roman numeral and Schenkerian analysis for the following pieces in Music for Analysis:

  1. Verdi: La Traviata, Act I, no. 4 [#119]
  2. Mozart: Sonata for Violin and Piano, K.306 [#121]
  3. Haydn: Sonatina in C Major, Hob. XVI: 7 [#122, CD track #12]
  4. Brahms: Symphony No. 5, op.90, II [#125]


Add a soprano, alto, and tenor to this figured bass, and a Roman numeral and structural analysis. When that is done, do two more things:

  1. Put the bass, tenor, and alto parts in the bass clef, in close position
  2. Add multiple embellishments to the soprano part, using quarter notes only

To prepare this writing assignment properly, use the notation guidelines appendix, located at Basic Principles of Music Notation, Semester III.

Links to chapters in this unit:
Chapter 33. Neapolitan Triad
Chapter 34. Augmented 6th Chords

Link to previous unit: LARGER PERSPECTIVES

Link to next unit: CHROMATIC PROCEDURES III: Advanced Vocabulary

Copyright 2008-2009 by Phillip Magnuson.

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