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Section 19.1 Mode Mixture

Mode mixture typically consists of borrowing chords from the parallel minor during a passage in a major key. “Borrowed chords” refers to borrowing chords from minor and is synonymous with mode mixture. In the examples that follow, notice the lowered chromaticisms—♭\(\hat{6}\) is most common but ♭\(\hat{3}\) and ♭\(\hat{7}\) also occur in borrowed chords.

Figure 19.1.1 Lennon–McCartney, “Blackbird” (1968)

Notice the emotional effect of switching to the minor mode.

A famous example that progresses from the major \(\left.\text{I}\right.\) chord immediately to the minor \(\left.\text{i}\right.\) chord is Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Figure 19.1.2 Richard Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op.30 (1896)

Later during the opening of Also Sprach Zarathustra, another borrowed chord occurs.

Figure 19.1.3 Richard Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op.30 (1896)

The next three examples have the pattern \(\hat{1}\) –♭\(\hat{7}\) –\(\hat{6}\) –♭\(\hat{6}\) in the bass line.

Figure 19.1.4 Linda Perry, “Beautiful” (2002)
Figure 19.1.5 Hoyt Axton, “Joy to the World” (1970)

This same bass line can be found (in the same harmonic rhythm) in “Part of Your World.”

Figure 19.1.6 Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, The Little Mermaid, “Part of Your World” (1989)

In the next example by Radiohead, the \(\left.\text{iv}\right.\) chord (borrowed from minor) is preceded by the major \(\left.\text{IV}\right.\) chord.

Figure 19.1.7 Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Philip Selway, Albert Hammond, and Mike Hazlewood, “Creep” (1992)

Mode mixture is also found in the music of the band Nirvana.

Figure 19.1.8 Kurt Cobain, “Lithium” (1992)

In the example above for “Lithium,” the Roman numerals are analyzed as triads instead of “5” chords because the third of the chord is either implied or occurs in the voice part (not shown).

In the next example from the third movement Brahms's Third Symphony, the \(\left.\text{I}\right.\) chord alternates twice with a borrowed chord. The movement began in C minor, so there are three flats in the key signature, but this section is in C major.

Figure 19.1.9 Brahms, Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90, III. Poco Allegretto (1883)

A similar alternation between the \(\left.\text{I}\right.\) chord and a borrowed chord (♭\(\left.\text{VII}^{7}\right.\)) happens in “Inchworm,” from the movie Hans Christian Andersen. Notice the special quality of the borrowed ♭\(\hat{6}\) in the upper melody.

Figure 19.1.10 Frank Loesser, Hans Christian Andersen, “Inchworm” (1952)

A famous example of mode mixture occurs in the “Waltz of the Flowers” from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.

Figure 19.1.11 Tchaikovsky, Nutcracker, “Waltz of the Flowers” (1892)

A similar melody occurs in “One Day I'll Fly Away,” which, though it has a different harmonization, still uses mode mixture.

Figure 19.1.12 Joe Sample and Will Jennings, “One Day I'll Fly Away” (1980)