Parallel Keys | Everything You Need to Know

Notes are blended in different ways to form chords and scales in music. Next, the scales play music in a particular key.

Parallel keys in music are the keys having a different mode and the same tonic. For instance, C major has a parallel key called C minor. In this article, we will know more about parallel keys and their role in music. So, without any further ado, let’s dig in.

What Are Parallel Keys?

Any two keys can be called parallel keys if they have the same note. However, they can differ in quality – one of the keys is major and the other one minor.

A perfect example would be a D major and a D minor scale. These two can be called parallel keys.

The scales would be the same in every key – C, D, F, and G. What would vary is the scale degrees, which go from I, II, IV, to V.

In both keys, you will notice that A, B, and E are different. Their natural forms come out in the major key, while the Ab, Bb, and Eb forms can be seen in the minor key. If you consider its scale degrees, it would have to be VI, VII, and III.

Therefore, if you like to shift between the parallel keys, you either have to sharpen (move from the minor to the major) or flatten (move from the major to the minor) the VI, VII, and III degrees.

Let us see an example of the parallel key order. A D minor scale would have this order D – E – F – G – A – Bb – C – D. Following this, the D major key will shift from Bb → B, the C → C#, and the F → F#.

Examples of Parallel Keys in Famous Songs

You have probably heard songs where the parallel keys are used but probably, did not catch it.

It’s, however, not that common at all. Some famous songs implemented the shift between parallel keys.

Have you heard the song “Funkytown”? The Lipps Inc beings in C major but shifts to C minor when the chorus plays at 1:07 minutes.

Similarly, the popular band Beatles transitioned between the D major and D minor parallel keys in their “Norwegian Wood” melody.

Mechanics of the Parallel Keys

There are basically two chords we will be dealing with in this section.

Pivot Chords

When you switch between the keys, pivot chords are the most efficient way to do so. This chord prepares or facilitates the shift to a new parallel key. Imagine coming home using a signpost, which tells your home can either be happy (major tonic) or unhappy (minor tonic).

Just keep in mind that V(5) is the dominant pivot chord.

Borrowed Chords

As its name suggests, this method involves borrowing. You need to borrow chords from a parallel key so that you slide into a key naturally.

For instance, if you began in a C major and wanted to shift to the parallel key, you could employ a chord for that change. The selected chord can be from C minor like the Cmaj.

Final Thoughts

That’s a wrap-up for now. We hope this article answers your queries about the parallel keys and their use in music.