30a. Modal Interchange–Examples

The following is a list of some chord progressions in pop songs using parallel minor.


Sweet HomeAlabama—Lynyrd Skynyrd  D—C—G.  etc

The C major chord is out of key. Since the diatonic chord in D is c# diminished, the C major is referred to a “bVII”, since C is the flatted seventh of D (C# is the seventh), and it is a major chord. C major is also the V chord in the key of F major, which is the relative major of d minor, the parallel minor of D major. Thus it is a diatonic chord in parallel minor. The bVII is probably the most popular of all out of key chords.


SuffragetteCity—David Bowie     A—F—G  etc

The F major is out of key, a bVI. Very common in rock music.


Purple Haze—Jimi Hendrix E—G—A

The G is out of key, a major III. Also common in rock.


As Tears Go By—The Rolling Stones G—A—C—D

The A is out of key, a major II. Very popular. Also is the V of V, also called a secondary dominant. See “secondary dominants” for more on this.


Cinnamon Girl–  Neil Young  D am C G D (verse)

The am is out of key, a minor V. Not unusual!


No Surprises—Radiohead  F—Bbm etc

A minor iv, in this case Bbm, is often used.


Light My Fire—The Doors

Abm—Fm  etc

The Abm is out of key, a minor i. A bit unusual in a major key, but does happen.Much more unusual is the the 2 chords together, a  i-vi progression.

Many examples exist in each of the parallel minor chords. Often, there is an out of key progression of two or more chords that lead back to a diatonic progression, most commonly through what are known as secondary dominants. Again, this is by no means a complete list of possibilities, but examples of the most common out of key chords in a progression.

©2012 Jim Greenfield