Have you ever heard of an applied chord in music theory? If not, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll delve into what exactly an applied chord is and how it’s used in music.

What Is a Chord?

Before we dive into applied chords, let’s first understand what a chord is. A chord is a group of three or more notes played simultaneously. It’s the foundation of harmony in music and can be heard in all genres from classical to pop.

What Is an Applied Chord?

An applied chord, also known as a secondary chord or borrowed chord, is a chord that doesn’t naturally belong to the key it’s being used in. Instead, it’s borrowed from another key and temporarily used to add color and tension to a piece of music.

Types of Applied Chords

There are two types of applied chords: secondary dominants and modal interchange chords.

Secondary Dominants

A secondary dominant is when a dominant chord from another key is used to lead into the next chord. For example, if we’re in the key of C major and we want to lead into an F major chord, we could use a G dominant 7th chord (the V7 of C) to add tension and make the resolution to F major stronger.

In both examples above, the G7 acts as the secondary dominant because it’s leading into the following chord.

Modal Interchange Chords

Modal interchange chords are when a chord from another mode (major or minor) is borrowed to add color or tension to a piece of music. For example, if we’re in the key of C major but want to add a darker sound, we could borrow the iv chord from C minor (which would normally be a minor chord) and use it in place of the IV chord in C major.

In both examples above, the second chord (Am and Ab) is the modal interchange chord.

Why Use an Applied Chord?

Applied chords are used to add color and tension to a piece of music. They can also make a resolution stronger by leading into the next chord. It’s a way for composers and songwriters to create more interesting and complex harmonies.

Examples of Applied Chords in Popular Music

Applied chords can be heard in all genres of music. Here are some examples in popular music:

In conclusion, applied chords are an important tool for composers and songwriters to create more interesting and complex harmonies in their music. By borrowing chords from other keys or modes, they can add color and tension while also making resolutions stronger. Now that you understand what an applied chord is, listen closely for them next time you’re listening to your favorite songs!