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I'm practicing the piano for You've got a friend in me from Toy Story and there is a common chord progression within it:

A flat, E flat, G, C minor

If this was in the key of C major it would be F major, C major, E major, A minor which would be a IV -> I -> III -> iv chord progression.

It sounds very harmonious to me, but the major three chord is messing with me.

  1. Why does this sound harmonious even though it's not super standard?

  2. Do any other songs use this chord progression?

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  • For what it's worth, I would describe the way that that chord progression sounds a little differently. To me, that G sounds like a bit of a lurch, one that's sour but bright. It's a pleasant mixture of consonance and dissonance. Obviously, all of this is subjective, so I can't claim that my description is better or more correct than your description. Jan 7, 2023 at 23:54

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III is the dominant of the relative minor. Pretty well super-standard actually! Just one step beyond bland diatonicism.

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  • So what you're saying is that it's like IV -> I in Eb major and then V -> i in C minor? Almost like the key modulates every 2 chords. Jan 7, 2023 at 15:38
  • Hardly a modulation. Just passing through. And the relative minor is such a super-close relation. Fluidity between it and the major is commonplace.
    – Laurence
    Jan 7, 2023 at 15:57
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The V of Am is E. E doesn't 'belong' to the key of C major directly, as the chord made from diatonic notes, as you're aware, would be Em. However, it's very, very common to use secondary dominants, and here, E is the sec.dom of Am.

Sec.doms. don't even have to preceded their tonics, although here it does. Other sec.doms. (in key C) are A7 (V/iii) and B7 (V/iii). Even C7 is a sec. dom. (V/IV) and D7 (V/V) would be found readily in key C.

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