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It's actually can be looked at modally as a chords from the Phrygian/Phrygian Dominant scales. The Phrygian scale due to its lowered third is viewed as a minor scale and thus contributes to the "sadness" you hear especially since the A would be the 3rd of the Phygian scale giving the progression a slightly more minor sound even using just major chords. ...


I believe the sad impression is most of all due to the chromatic descent B - A♯ - A embedded in these chords. It has a kind of disillusioning effect: you start out on a nice major third of the G chord. But then you drop down to F♯, whose A♯ third is enharmonic equivalent to the G chord's minor third. Normally this wouldn't be perceived as ...

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