I came across with this video

The chords are E - G♯ - C♯m - B

My question is: why is G♯ a major chord in this progression? I thought that since the root of the scale is E (major) the third chord (which is G♯) should be minor, unless the scale of this progression is not E major. Am I right?

Thank you! I would like you to explain me this. I'm just trying to understand how certain chords are used while playing a certain scale.

  • The third degree in a scale is called the Mediant. May want to edit that in. – Neil Meyer Aug 2 '15 at 7:20
  • Thank you. I didn't know that. Is it wrong that I wrote "the third degree"? I am not a native English speaker. Thanks again. – chris Aug 4 '15 at 0:01
  • 1
    No. There's no reason whatsoever to write it in; "the third degree" is perfectly acceptable. @NeilMeyer isn't wrong, but there's no reason to feel obligated to edit in "Mediant". A good word to know, but by no means mandatory. – user45266 Jun 4 '19 at 1:25

You are correct, the piece is in E major. If you use roman numerals to represent the chords, the progression can be written as: I - III - vi - V

The reason that the III chord is major, when it should normally be minor is that it is in fact acting as the "dominant" (V chord) of the following C♯m (vi). It's almost as if you were temporarily shifting into the key of C♯ minor. This is a common technique, known as a secondary dominant. It can be indicated in roman numerals as: I - V/vi - vi - V

See also:


While the G# could be considered V of vi, or C#min, the progression doesn't actually go to the vi, it actually goes to A, which is IV (ok, so the A is vi of the vi, whatever). So the progression is actually: I - III - IV - V. Or E - G# - A - B.

This is something we have all probably heard a million times, almost as common as I - IV - V. The III doesn't really function as V of vi, it is just a passing chord, much like a diminished chord in jazz.

  • On the bridge the G# chord goes to Cmin. The accepted answer is correct. Also, just a note to a new user, it's best not to denigrate other users/answers in your posts. I've edited this one to accommodate. – Aaron Oct 29 '20 at 4:08

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