Would the iii be a substitute for I under such circumstances or does iii make another deceptive resolution kind of like when V progresses to vi? iii also has ^3 and ^5 which belong to tonic harmony but since it doesnt have ^1 I cant say it sounds the same as when V goes to vi.

  • You could try to listen and use your ears to hear if it resolves. If it doesn't sound right, would you let theory dictate that it should resolve although it doesn't to our ears? How it sounds is the final verdict not a music theory textbook.
    – r lo
    Jun 24 at 20:00
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    actually a music theory textbook is the final verdict, then by all means use your ears, but only after you have done it the way the text says.. first we must learn the rules before we break free with our own ideas
    – armani
    Jun 25 at 11:06
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    You couldn't be more wrong. Using your ears you hear all the rules and broken rules in composition. You go ahead and rely on the textbook as final verdict and make boring predictable music.
    – r lo
    Jun 25 at 14:28
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    The textbooks were written by people who have dedicated their lives to music theory, I think Ill take their word for it... at least as an introduction
    – armani
    Jun 25 at 15:40

6 Answers 6


There are rules. Some people even follow them.

In C, a G7 resolving to e would likely have an F resolving to E, but the B doesn't resolve to C, so the tritone resolution feels merely half-satisfying. If you instead have a three-note G chord resolving to e, the only note that needs to change is that D moves to E. This would feel much less like a resolution.

Entire eras are defined by how they fail to resolve the V chord. V -> iii would not be an earth-shattering addition to the canon.

  • 'Entire eras are defined by how they fail to resolve the V chord' - can you give some examples please?
    – Nigel
    Jun 24 at 20:01
  • @Nigel Forgive the hyperbole. The Tristan Chord comes to mind but only as metonymy.
    – user121330
    Jun 24 at 20:12

iii Could never (or rarely) be a substitute for I, because iii loses the tonic and changes it for the leading tone, which makes the chord minor and less stable, while I is major and stable. (Talking about major tonality)

In the other hand, iii could be a substitute for vi, because they both are minor and share one important tonal degree (iii's third (dominant) and vi's third (tonic) which makes them sound similar. They give the same feeling of 'unfinished' that is used in interrupted cadences.

(Remember that even though iii and vi sound similar, interrupted cadences finish in vi (V-vi) This happens because the leading tone of V leads to the vi's third (tonic).This also happens in V-I resolution. This way, vi sounds more like 'I' that iii does.

  • 1
    The fact that iii is minor has no bearing. vi is also minor but substitutes for I just fine.
    – ibonyun
    Jun 24 at 15:45
  • The fact that iii has the leading tone instead of the tonic is a very good point and, at least in theory, implies iii cannot effectively substitute for I. Not like vi can, anyway.
    – ibonyun
    Jun 24 at 15:46
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    iii would not be a good substitute for vi because they are a 5th apart and so there is a natural sense of motion from iii to vi. Substitution chords are generally a 3rd from the chord they're replacing. The only exception I can think of off the top of my head is a tritone substitution.
    – ibonyun
    Jun 24 at 15:52
  • but what if iii is in first inversion? Would iii be a reasonable option?
    – Sanwych
    Jun 24 at 15:56
  • As a sub for I? I don't think that makes it better. iii shares as many notes with V as it does with I. Putting it in 1st inversion means putting ^5 in the bass which will emphasize its dominant qualities. And the only time you'd see a I64 (that is I with ^5 in the bass) is when it decorates a dominant chord and does not act like a tonic chord.
    – ibonyun
    Jun 24 at 16:25

In a ii-V7-I-vi or I-vi-ii-V turnaround iii often substitutes the tonic:


the answer my friend is blowing in the wind

I used to accompany: IV-V-iii-vi

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    But is iii really substituting for I, or is it extending V? I think I read a source once on Music Stack Exchange that referred to I and vi as well as V and iii being able to be substituted for each other.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jun 24 at 19:22
  • @Dekkadeci I agree that it extending V. In this case it is emphasizing the deceptive resolution into the vi, acting as v/vi
    – Nigel
    Jun 24 at 20:00

V to iii (if not V7 to iii) is quite parallel to I-to-vi, after all.

No, it's not that I "resolves" to vi, nor does V to iii. But that motion-by-thirds (with motion by fifths following) "sounds pretty good". :)

  • yes but I to vi is also functional and progresses in a good functional way, does V to iii?
    – armani
    Jun 25 at 11:08
  • @armani, well, it is literally the same thing, in the dominant key, anyway, ... I think "good" depends on context. There are several jazz classics/standards where the movement is by thirds. I do not know of "classical" music that does this. Jun 25 at 17:48

For a "resolution" you need to have a semitone between one note in one chord and another note in the other chord. Between V and iii there is not a semitone.


V can lead to iii in a continuing sequence (@Albrecht Hügli's example of 'Blowing in the Wind' is a good one). I wouldn't say it 'resolves', as in making any kind of a cadence.

V goes nicely to III though, in an 'inside-out' sort of way.

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