I made a chord progression of Gm, F#aug, A#/F, E7b5, and then Gm, F#aug, A#, and finally C7. I thought it has a rather "spooky" sound to it but I realized it didn't fit any scales. I first I thought it was G minor, but obviously not. If I use Gm natural, no F#, and I use Gm melodic or harmonic no F. Then I thought maybe C blues. Nope. Even more "outlandish" Scales don't have the notes E F F# G, like double harmonic, overtone, and neapolitan. So when stuck in a scenario like this, which scale should I choose? I'm not looking for an opinion based answer, just some pointers on the best-course-of-action for something like this, no matter what non-related chords I'm dealing with.

  • 2
    It looks very much like you're pulling F major with a chromatic bass, the more so that B♭ (not A♯) is being held through the entire progression. You aren't stating F major outright, but that isn't necessary to imply a tonic. A chromatic line doesn't necessarily mean that you are slipping far from a key.
    – user16935
    Sep 4, 2016 at 1:38
  • @Patrx2: right, though I don't feel this points to F as the tonic – the g-minor environment is too strong, even the C₇ has more plagal than dominant character. I'd thus label it as g-dorian (which, as a scale, of course contains the same notes as F-ionian). Sep 4, 2016 at 10:31
  • @leftaroundabout, it depends to a certain extant on the rhythm, but, if you allow that the augmented chord is best described as running a chromatic passing tone between Gm and B♭, then a pair of ii-IV-V7 (or substitute) phrases is what you are getting here, and those are fairly classic half cadences. The G environment isn't very strong at all compared compared to the F inference (in fact, it's really quite weak). I'll reiterate - you don't need to state the tonic explicitly to imply a key strongly, if the progression is strong and conventional within that key.
    – user16935
    Sep 4, 2016 at 12:26
  • @Patrx2: it sure depends on the rhythm etc., but I hear an implied gm chord throughout pretty much that whole chord sequence: B♭ and D are in literally held in all the chords save the C₇, and the G itself is merely silent because that voice does the chromatic descent. Sep 4, 2016 at 12:34
  • @leftaroundabout, it's the combination of root progression and the descent away from G that vitiate G's claims. With a different inversion of the voices, you would have a classic 6-5 appoggiatura to a B♭ chord, thus you can make at least as valid a claim that B♭ (which is present as an inverted pedal throughout, including over C) and D are implying a missing fifth, F. The dominant substitution in the first phrase reinforces this by emphasising the leading tone and undercutting G again (this time with G♯ rather than G♭) in a different voice. Thus G is not merely silent, it is supplanted.
    – user16935
    Sep 4, 2016 at 13:06

1 Answer 1


There are two false assumptions you have about this progression and music in general. The first is that there has to be a scale to fit a given progression. This is not the case at all and a lot of more complex pieces of music use many different scales especially as the harmony weaves between different ideas. One example that has a similar progression is the verses of Spanish Castle Magic which the melody comes from the progression itself rather then a scale.

Second, these chords are very related and make a nice descending chromatic line with a large amount of common tones between the chords. A good chunk of the confusion is due to how you notated the chords as how they are named obscure the nature of this progression. If you instead call the progressions a Gm, Gb+ Bb/F E7b5 and Gm, Gb+, Bb, C7 you can see what is going on much better.

V:1 clef=treble
"Gm"[G _B d] "Gb+"[_G _B d] "Bb/F"[F _B d] "E7b5"[E ^G _B d]|"Gm"[G _B d] "Gb+"[_G _B d] "Bb"[F _B d] "C7"[c E G _B]||

As you can see, in the firs progression you always have a Bb and D in your chords and in your second progression. I can very much see this as being in one of the modes of F major as the only two notes outside of it are Gb and G# and the E7b5 and C7 will pull you towards an F tonic if you let them resolve.

  • 1
    I've heard this called a "line cliché" (the descending pattern). And another great example (in the exact same key) is "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" (George Harrison).
    – user45266
    Sep 19, 2019 at 3:51

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