In this video at 6:21, the instructor says that

In measure 62 of Liszt Les Preludes (image below), the intonation is difficult if you think of as a "G sharp major."

Instead, it will be easier if you think of it as "A flat major."


  1. Why would one even think the measure 62 as a "G sharp major?"

For example, this article says Why is there no G# major key? .

  1. Why would it be difficult if thinking of as a "G sharp major." Why will it be easier if thinking of it as "A flat major?"

enter image description here

"G sharp major": https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gis-dur.PNG

enter image description here

  • There is no key called G sharp Major.
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 4, 2022 at 7:07
  • 1
    @1: Why wouldn’t one do so? It is the most obvious choice with the notes given. And yes, there totally is a key we can call G# major. Of course one can enharmonically identify this key with Ab major assuming a 12 pitch chromatic tonal base. @2: People are more used to play stuff with little accidentals, so they will feel more comfortable if they think C than if they think B#.
    – Lazy
    Sep 4, 2022 at 7:28

1 Answer 1


One would think of this measure as G♯ major because the notes literally spell the root, third, and fifth of a G♯-major chord: G♯, B♯, and D♯.

Furthermore, this is ultimately what the music has done. Les preludes begins in C, then it moves up a major third to E major. Then, this music in E major moves up another major third to G♯ major, albeit briefly.

The article you cite is a bit poorly titled. There definitely is a key of G♯ major, but seeing the key signature of G♯ major is relatively rare. So rare, in fact, that we don't even agree on how these "theoretical" key signatures should look; see Where do the double accidentals go in "theoretical" key signatures? But the logic of these keys existing is very real.

As for it being easier to think of as A♭ major, that's just a practical issue: it's easier to think in a key that only has four accidentals than one that has eight sharps spread out across only seven notes. Pitches like B♯ (the third of G♯) are pretty rare compared to something like C (the third of A♭), a pitch that string players have played thousands upon thousands of times in their lives.

  • Nit-picking, I know, but those 4 flats aren't accidentals. Sharps or flats in the key signature ought to have a special name, but I guess they're just - the key signature!
    – Tim
    Sep 4, 2022 at 6:52
  • @Tim Yes, and I've always loved that question of yours here! But what else should I say? "A-flat has four ??? compared to G-sharp's eight."
    – Richard
    Sep 4, 2022 at 19:01
  • I suppose, in the absence of a better term - 'Ab has a key sig. of 4b'. But I'm sure we agree they're certainly not accidentals! Love to find/make a better term, wouldn't you?
    – Tim
    Sep 4, 2022 at 19:37

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