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Music Theory:
Modal Interchange



Q: My question has to do with a concept I have recently come across called Modal Interchange. I think it has to do with a major scale and a minor scales notes or they're chords. I just have not been able to find anything online explaining this in a way that I can clearly understand. There is some part of this principle that has to do with borrowing chord tones from modes, but I just don't get this. Can you please help!
- Donnie, Milwaukee, WI.

A: Thanks for writing in! Modal interchange has to do with keys running off of parallel roots. For example; Lets say we were in the key of G Major. And, after playing the root chord of G ma7, I borrowed a chord out of G Minor and played that borrowed chord next. For our discussion lets use G Minors 6th step chord of EbMa7. This process is the idea of modal Interchange. You can do this as I just did, going from a major key borrowing from Minor, or vice versa.

Major & Minor keys that share a common tonic, (but not the same key signature), are termed PARALLEL KEYS.

The two basic qualities in western music are Major & Minor. The diatonic major & minor scales, and the resulting harmonies, are sometimes refered to as Modes. In other words, a piece of music can be written in the Major Mode, or in the Minor Mode.

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The analysis we do for modal interchange has a lot resting upon what we will refer to as a progressions Main Analytical Line of Thought. What this means is establishing the primary tonality from which the progression originates. If the progression has a Major tonality origin, then we will be analyzing from that perspective. And, the opposite holds true if the progression is from the minor tonality origin.

major modal interchange harmony

minor modal interchange harmony

in a major progression it is quite common to use some chords from parallel minor, and vice versa. This mixing or interchange, of the two sets of harmonies is called Modal Interchange.