In the song "If You Have To Ask" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers there is this instrumental funk interlude with a bunch of seventh and ninth chords and I want to understand this progression more by analysing it.

So the song is mainly in G natural minor, and the chords in the interlude are: G9 Gb9 F9 C7 Ebmaj9 Bb7 D7#9.

I've already figured out that it has the form of I I(b) VII IV VI III V (If we'd stick to the G minor key) and the guitarist keeps switching between G mixolydian, G natural minor and something that seems like G major with an augmented sixth.

I've figured out that G9 and F9 are in G mixolydian, C7 seems minorish, Bb7 is in G phrygianand D7#9 seems like G major with an augmented sixth

Am I going the right way? And if so, can someone help me connect the dots? Is this a common funk progression and could someone hint how these chords/modes are related?

  • 5
    Take a step back. There's a lot of errors in your info and assumptions that are wrong with the biggest being the "key" of the song is not G minor, but D minor and a lot of these chords like the Gb9 don't necessarily function, but are used in passing from one chord to another .
    – Dom
    Apr 12, 2016 at 22:56
  • @Dom I know that Gb is a passing chord, but what makes you think it's D minor? G9 F9 and C7 mostly fit C major (G mixolydian). Ebmaj9 fits G minor. Only Bb7 and C7 as well would fit D minor as far as I see. Besides that D7#9 seems like a pretty clear dominant chord with the F# leading to the G and the E# leading to the F in the G9 chord
    – koeno100
    Apr 13, 2016 at 13:21
  • 1
    The rest of the song just uses different variants of D minor and sheet music for it shows the key signature as D minor. The interlude is only one small section of of the song. This section may not be specifically in D minor or any one key, but the song itself is very well described by D minor.
    – Dom
    Apr 13, 2016 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


I love this song. Dom is correct that the key is D harmonic minor (major 7.) The instrumental interlude is sort of dancing around within the main chord...

Numbering the notes within the octave, and looking at it from the bass' perspective (root notes,) the progression goes 5 (A), flat 5 (Ab), 4 (G), 1 (D), 3 (F), 7 (Db), 2 (E).

The flat 5 is certainly a passing note from the 5 to 4. The use of the 7 (it is the 3 in relation to the 5 of the D) and the 2 (the 5 in relation to the 5 of the D) is to mimic the very traditional use of the dominant seven chord in order to create the illusion of pull back to the 1.

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