Since it starts and ends in G, I'd assume G major:

G - Cmaj7 - F#m7 - G#m7 - Em7 - Cmaj7 - D/F# - G or
I - IV - (vii#5)- (bii) - vi - IV - V - I or
1 - 4 - 7#5m7? - b2m7? - 6 - 4 - 5 - 1.

OK so, the F#m7 doesn't seem all too strange. It would be like seeing a Bm or D in the key of C. Maybe Lydian or Dorian or like in the beginning of "Yesterday" for instance. But that 4th chord the G#m7(flat 2 thingy) is confusing me pretty bad.

Is this whole thing modal or a key change to E(without using the E major) or what? It's not out of the "borrowed" chords (from the 3 to left group on circle of 5ths) from parallel minor key. It is from the 3 to the right group on the circle (where you'd find secondary dominants) except its minor 7. I doubt that can be called secondary dominant.

Do the minors or minor 7ths from that group have a name? How might this be analyzed? Btw the song is "Only Elliot" by Tommy Emmanuel.

  • That 'b2 thingy' sounds like a secondary dominant to me. G#m7 is an inversion of B6. B is dominant of Em.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 8:46
  • On a video I found the second chord sounds like a Cmaj7. :) Though he was using a capo, lifting the whole thing from G to A. It's a nice little tune, reminds me of Pat Metheny's "James". Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 14:45
  • @Tim Right, I was well aware of how an X6 is enharmonic(same notes) with the X/roots relative minor's 7th. Like C6 & Am7 for instance. I guess I just NEVER considered accepting a minor 7th as secondary dominant. In this case a 5/6 of 6(excuse the notation). Thats interesting Thanks.
    – Joe B
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 16:27
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica - it is Cmaj7. Love to know why it wasn't played open in G, but the capo needed to be on fret 2.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 16:31
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica Right, I think we've both seen the same version, it is technically in A, a guitarists mistake(damn capos) ! & Yes it is quite clearly a Cmaj7(at least most of the time), & I could swear there's even an E(D capoed) note(add 2) once or twice which is more like a G6/C. Though I've been known to hear "things" lol. Yes, nice & little :-)
    – Joe B
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 16:42

5 Answers 5


The G#m7 sounds like Tommy Emmanuel just wanted spice it up with something a little bit "outside" and not so obviously V dominant, and G#m7 was readily available after the F#m7. In a more stereotypical, but perhaps boring and predictable form it would be G - C - F#m7 - B7 - Em7 - Am7 - D - G. If you want to get rid of the last remaining out-of-scale color note, make the third chord F#m7-5.

IMO this is a good example of color notes and chords that Laurence Payne talks about. You can make up a very complicated analysis theory for it, if you want, but the G#m7 is just adding color. It does tilt the harmony in its own unique particular way, and no other chord would give the song exactly that unique taste. But constructing complicated key change or interchange or borrowing theories doesn't feel justified, because the change is so short and the melody doesn't take advantage of the harmonic possibilities in any way. B7 would have been too predictable and blatantly melancholic, but the G#m7 gives it something interesting and ear-catching, while keeping the same simple melody. I'd say, the F#m7 and particularly the G#m7 are the "money chords" in this song.

If the chords went to something like C#m7 instead of Em7, then it might be a more profound harmonic change, forcing some changes even to the melody line.

For the colour given by the F#m7 chord, I would have given the exact same two labels, "like in Yesterday" and "Dorian". Maybe you can say that being able to give commonly understood names to things is one aspect of "understanding". :) IMO, understanding means the ability to handle and deal with things, and for example, being able to refer to and locate the things in some way. Many people know what "The Hendrix chord" is, and that's enough of a name for many purposes. If you need a name for the G#m7's role, why not call it the Only Elliot chord?

  • Yup, the $ chord for sure. Its just that I don't think I've ever encountered that particular sequence anywhere ever, especially in such a simple & normal(not jazzy?) sounding song. @Tim thinks of it as a secondary dominant inversion, to paraphrase, like a "5/6 of 6"(excuse the notation) which I can dig, But I do prefer this b2m7 thingy as the "Only Elliot Chord" !
    – Joe B
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 17:06

Nice chords! I see them as: G - Cmaj7 - A6 - B6 - Em7 - Cmaj7 - D/F# - G The A6 takes it towards G lydian, then the B6 briefly takes it further out into lydian augmented space - before returning to "normal" from Em7.

  • I disagree on the G lydian, I think it's at most E dorian, if that. :) If the bass stayed at G, so A/G, I'd say it's a tiny bit lydianish. It's such a brief moment, it's not modal at all really. Thinking about it more, I'd say I hear the C# and D# notes in the F#m7 and G#m7 chords the same way as I hear the E melodic minor scale, when played as a "phrase" in ascending order. Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 13:25
  • After hearing the actual song (I only played the chords slowly on my keyboard), I think I agree with the analysis you wrote above. G#m7 sounds like a quickly passing borrowed chord to add color. Funny that you hear E melodic minor, because that is a mode of G lydian augmented which I heard when I was messing around. :-) Others mentioned "Yesterday" which also has a flavour of melodic minor. There is definately something interesting going on with these chords. Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 19:06

Since the focus of the question seems to be about the G#m7 chord, I would point out that it forms a chromatic mediant relation to the Em7 chord that follows after. Roots G# and E are a third apart and the chord qualities are the same.

I think that is better description than calling G#m7 an inverted B6. If the B6 is presumably the dominant of Em then the G# add to a B chord presents a bit of a problem. Would that be a borrowed tone? Borrowing is usually borrowing from minor into major. And borrowing an added tone seems weak. Borrowing usually changes a chords root or third. But aside from the theory it just sounds like a chromatic mediant relationship. From there you can see a number of non-functional progressions in the middle of the line enclosed with tonally stable progression at the start/end G C and D G.


Chromatic mediants are basically two chords - usually triads - of the same type (major or minor) where the roots are a third apart.

The original use of term was about key changes. But you can use it to describe chord relationships too.

Notice that diatonic chords with roots apart by a third are of differing types. Ex. I iii, ii IV, iii V, etc. One of the special things about chromatic mediants is the two chords are of the same type.

Also, chromatic mediants in some cases can also be analyzed as borrowed chords or secondary dominants. C major and Ab major could be described as chromatic mediants or a borrowed chord like I bVI. Ex. C major and A major triads could be chromatic mediants like I VI or the A could be a secondary dominant like I V/ii.

Whatever description is used the chords should progress in a way that makes sense with the description. Borrowed chord usual function the same as their corresponding diatonic chords. Secondary dominants should actually function as dominants relative to a secondary tonic. When the harmony is non-functional chromatic mediant seems a convenient term, because it implies the harmony is neither borrowed or secondary.

  • A borrowed tone ? idk, I'm trying to gather as many angles as possible. I agree the the G# note is problematic as a 2ndary dominant. I'm not familiar with the term "chromatic mediant". The wiki article I just checked isn't to clear to me at all. But it seems more about a 3rd(either min or maj) relationship to the tonic & not to any or in this case the next chord Em7. Or is it ? Any better resource you know of off hand ? Or can you please explain it a little better, I admit my theory is mediocre at best. Thanks
    – Joe B
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 23:01
  • @JoeB I added an edit to my answer with added detail. I think descriptions re. a tonic are about mediant key relationships, but you can apply the concept to any pair of chords. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 15:36
  • Maybe look up Giant Steps by John Coltrane, or "Coltrane Change", jazz theory may not call those chromatic mediants, but that is what they are. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 15:45
  • Rock uses them too. "Chromatic-Minor" is an interesting theory... music.stackexchange.com/questions/82742/… or books.google.ca/books?id=NZQVpFzLQAUC&pg=PA90 ...again in that theory they aren't called chromatic mediants, but the relationships can occur. Same sound, different label. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 15:46

The progression starts in G major (first two chords) then goes "somewhere else" in the middle (next 2-3 chords), and ends in G major (last 3-4 chords).

Therefore I don't think it will be very controversial to say that the as a whole the piece is in G major.

But I also suspect that you'll find a lot of different ways of analyzing and interpreting that "somewhere else" bit in the middle.

For example, personally, I sort of hear those F#m7 and G#m7 as in the key of E major, but I can just as well hear them as passing chords without a clear tonal center.

If I had to compose a melody or improvise on them, I would lean very heavily on the chord tones themselves rather than relying on any parent scale -- i.e. I would not even consider whether that F#7 is the root of a minor scale (i.e. F# minor scale) or the second degree of E major (i.e. F# Dorian) or the sixth degree of A major (i.e. F# Aeolian) or anything like that. I would instead just use the chord notes themselves (F# A C# E) and how those four voices connect with the voices of the next chord.

But I'm also just as sure that many other people will hear it differently, explain it differently, and use it differently should they compose, improvise, or arrange it. That can be a matter of taste, musical background, and so on.


I hear the same Gregorian70

I (ii-V): vi IV = G (F#m B) em

the chords in the TAB are not quite correct:

enter image description here

but here is the tutorial by Emmanuel himself:

It reminds me of Yesterday (and I pretend that’s what it’s meant to be.)

  • Yesterday and Pat Metheny's James. :) Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 13:27
  • and many others ... ;) Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 13:29
  • It was just mostly that 4th chord the G#m7(ignore capo) that was tripping me up. Seeing it as a B6 inversion(which it is) is interesting imo, like I said as per @Tim, in which case its just a "funny" Secondary dominant, a 5/6 of 6 (again excuse notation). I've never heard of that sort of thing as the bass/root note typically suggests the class of chord. But I guess I can run with that for now. & btw, just for the record, that is NOT Tommy himself in that vid. It is a very good tut though. Sorry, I can't always tell who posted what, It is a wonderful foram/platform though. Thanks everyone.
    – Joe B
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 16:53
  • Yes, the video is made by Akira Satoyoshi. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 16:31

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