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"The Minor Five Chord (v)" as used by James Taylor and Paramore

Hey everybody, welcome to the Spotter Spots Blog.

   Today I wanted to talk about the ‘minor v’ chord--mainly as it appears in Major Keys.

   Alright, This “minor v chord” is kind of a rare beast. Only 3% of hit songs in major keys use this chord.

   Even in minor keys, it’s not your average Joe! Only 31% of songs in minor use this chord, making it the second least used chord among the minor diatonics themselves, or 6th place out of 7, overall.

   Going back to Major keys—that 3% figure has the minor five chord type coming in at 15th place among all chord-triad ingredients!

   Cool right? Check out the Spotter Stats blog on chord usage if you want to know more factoids like that.

   OK, second, this particular chord—used in major keys—is what some people call a “borrowed chord”, because you ‘borrow’ it from the key’s minor diatonic chords. And you can see how that works, if you look at its scale degrees here: so, a minor five chord uses the 5th, 7th, and 2nd notes of the scale—except the 7th got flatted: just like it is in the natural minor scale.

   And there you have it: borrow the flatted 7th note of the scale from minor…and voila , minor “borrowed chord.”

   Alright, if you want to know more about ‘Borrowed’ chords, just google the term or watch a spotter smarts video about them.

   OK, now the good stuff, let’s check out how some popular music artists use the minor five (v) in two popular tunes:

   First up is “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor. Sounds like this:


   Let’s hear it again in a more modern example. The band Paramore uses the minor five in their hit: “The Only Exception,” like this:


   So yeah, I hope those examples give you a good idea of how our featured blog chord sounds!

   You should listen to the actual songs themselves too, but before you go, as a contrast, I’d like to demonstrate what these songs would sound like if they used their regular diatonic V chords instead of the borrowed ones.

   Just wait this is going to be funky.

   So for Paramore, it’s totally different; it’s like:

   “I like lots of exceptions cause it’s a big party and I’m not emotionally scarred at all,” you know, doesn’t really work the same--not melancholy enough; not minor enough.

   It’s like: most people associate minor chord triads with a sadder, more pangy sound in music—or, maybe like, a more sneaky and sultry sound, if you’re not into the whole ‘sadness’ thing.

  OK, if we do this same de-panginfying thing to the James Taylor changes it’s like:

  “Just yesterday morning, they let me know that you stayed, and I was pretty glad that you stuck around.”

   See what I mean, very different results, just by tweaking one scale note.

   One more tidbit that’s worth a mention about this song is that James Taylor does end up using the regular Major V chord later, in the chorus, like this:


   In my opinion, because he uses major and minor Five Chords, it enhances both, to make them even more ‘Fivey’, in their own Major and Minor five chord type ways!

   It’s like light blue, can look a lot bluer, next to dark blue, that’s all I’m saying.

  OK, my last two cents, is I want to mention how the Minor Five chord also gives us shades of what the cool kids call ‘Mixolydian.’ Remember how the minor five chord adds a b7 scale degree to the music? Well, that’s the same as how you make a Mixolydian Scale: you take a Major Scale, and you flat the 7th scale degree!

   Pretty cool, Mixolydian!

   So yeah, in closing I want to invite you to stay on the lookout for this rare chord type, and if you spot it, let us know. Or, make your own blog about it. Maybe you can even use this rare chord type in your own music!

   OK, thanks for watching, and see you next time at music blogs.