In the first 5 notes of the natural minor scale: C D Eb F G

I often see people add a chromatic note (Gb/F#) between the 4 and 5 degrees of the scale: so C D Eb F Gb G. Here's one example at 0:22 but I've seen this lick happen in many songs.

Does anyone know where that chromatic note comes from is it a blues thing or some other kind of reasoning behind it?


3 Answers 3


Yes. The ♯4/♭5 you refer to is usually derived from a blues influence (it's the note that separates the blues pentatonic minor from the pentatonic minor) in most popular styles of music. Of course, there can be plenty of other reasons to include that note (Secondary dominants and tritone substitutions, for example), but generally just playing a minor line and adding that note usually seems to tap into a more bluesy feel. There are some great posts on this site about the origins of the blues scales which I suggest you read.

The blues scales are a vestige of African music, I believe, and their music's notes were approximated into Western music, represented by certain chromatic notes.



Blues Scale Interval Structure


In this piece, which is essentially chromatic, it's used as a passing note. Something needs playing in that place which otherwise might be a space, so the note between two 'good' ones is played.

If you're asking specifically about that blue note it's just as often heard in major. Minor is a red herring. In fact, in blues, there are three notes which get used to make blues sound authentic. b3, b5 and b7. No-one said 'These are the notes which shall be used', they were the notes which happened to make a bluesy sound out of some diatonic melodies. The b3 in major is 'sweet and sour', the b5 is tritone to the root, and while it's being played, it's just between two really good, stable notes which will fit - the 4 and 5 of the key. Which way will it go? And b7 is so well known, it doesn't need explanation here.


Yes, I was thinking of the blue note (5b) at first. But this piece is not quite in a blues style.

In this case he is playing a G chord. (Well the blue 5th can appear in the V and in the I or as a passing tone V-IV, change tone sofisofisofi or chromatical approach to the perfect fifth.)

The F# could also be a chromatic approach passing tone (of Gmaj7 to G7)

In this example I hear a chromatic passage that could better explained (when played quite slow) a secondary VIIdim7.

C (F#°7/) G7

  • 1
    You mean I vii°/V V7? That would make a lot of sense...
    – user45266
    Mar 20, 2019 at 15:08

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