I was watching this video of I've got no strings.

I was wondering if I'm correct in thinking that the song's verse is in G major but then modulates to its relative minor, E minor during the "Hi-ho the me-ri-o That's the only way to go" that happens in 0:15 of that video.

It sounds sadder more serious all of a sudden and that's why I think there's a modulation even though it still uses the same notes. One could say the Em chord is just the 6th diatonic chord of G major, but I'm thinking it's a modulation to E minor because the character of the song changes. Is it in fact a modulation to E minor and how could you tell?

2 Answers 2


Within the harmony there's a D#. So it doesn't use exactly the same notes diatonically as in G major. So, yes, it could be deemed a modulation, although it's for such a short time, then using V/V back to I (G). Certainly not a key change!

'Sad' is a subjective term; could be 'pensive', or 'less jocular'.

  • right, I meant pensive. Things become "more serious". The D# could be from a relative E harmonic minor. Then you're saying it goes to a D major which is a secondary dominant, then back to G major. So it goes G major -> E harmonic Minor -> D major (V/V) --> G major. Could it be that the song was just in G major the whole time or no.
    – user34288
    Oct 27, 2018 at 12:04
  • Not exactly. V/V of G is A, going to D. The D# is from Em. I'd say the song is in G, end of.
    – Tim
    Oct 27, 2018 at 18:10

The song's in G major. The middle 8 goes B7, Em, (twice) A7, D, A7, D7. Then back home to G.

You could call it a temporary tonicization of Em, then of D. Or just describe it as that common device, a jump to somewhere remote then a 'cycle of 5ths' journey home. You could decide that repeating the B7, Em chords justified calling them a perfect cadence in Em, hence a modulation. (Would you be tempted to call the next bit a modulation the D? No, neither would I. I wonder why not?)

There's no right answer. You've recognised what's happening. There are several valid ways to describe it.

(And maybe you've been around music theory long enough now to say 'it sounds like it's gone into a minor key' instead of using vague non-musical terms like 'sad' and 'serious'?)

  • No way I like thinking about it on how it impacts me emotionally. And I'm not the only one that thinks this way, please see the following table: howmusicreallyworks.com/Pages_Chapter_6/6_17.html#6.17.2
    – user34288
    Oct 27, 2018 at 16:25
  • Fine. But when the topic is 'modulation or not?'...
    – Laurence
    Oct 27, 2018 at 16:42
  • especially in modulation. that's what made me ask the question in the first place. If it was just a "regular chord" it wouldn't have struck me emotionally, and it did. this whole question was rooted in emotion.
    – user34288
    Oct 27, 2018 at 16:44
  • I wonder if there's a particular type of chord that makes you feel sad? Maybe there's a name for it? That would be of interest to someone active on a Music Theory group I expect!
    – Laurence
    Oct 27, 2018 at 16:56
  • eh? I've asked types of questions about emotions before and they've all been downvoted.
    – user34288
    Oct 27, 2018 at 16:59

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