I'm trying to learn music theory via bass tablature. I started by looking at Muse's Muscle Museum and translating the tablature into notes, and trying to define more music theory information about the song from my findings.

I noticed the song is in the key of F# minor, as it contains all of the constituent notes in the key of F# minor (F♯, G♯, A, B, C♯, D, E).

I was confused to find that in the song, during the transition between verses, the bass riff contains an F note. I was confused by this as the F note is not in the key of F# minor.

Under what conditions would this be allowed in music theory? How is this concept defined theoretically? By my count, there are additional notes in the scale now,(the F). I'm curious if I'm over-thinking things by suggesting there's a theoretical convention for improvisation like this, or if there is in fact a name for techniques like this.

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    Respectfully, you asked a question and got some solid answers. If you want to ask another question, acknowledge one of them as the official answer and start a fresh thread. Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 6:00

4 Answers 4


It's 'allowed', normal and commonplace to use notes that aren't in the prevailing scale or chord.

But this F is really an E♯, which IS in the scale of F♯ minor, in two out of three of its common forms, melodic, harmonic and natural. The book dumbs down E♯ to F.

  • I think F# natural doesn't contain an E#
    – BiAiB
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 16:15
  • Indeed. That's the one out of the three common minor scaleforms that doesn't. The other two, melodic and harmonic, do. Like I said.
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 13:05

The proper scale for minor keys is not natural minor but harmonic or melodic minor. Harmonic minor has a raised 7th to create a leading tone. This is crucial to create a proper resolution or cadence to the minor chord. The melodic minor also has a raised 6th to get rid of the minor third created in the harmonic minor scale and create a scale with proper "steps", whole and half. In classical music the melodic minor scale is played with raised 6 and 7 when ascending but natural minor descending.

Also, from a strict music theory point of view that note would be notated as an E# (even though it is enharmonic to F) because E is the seventh degree of F# minor.

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    The idea that any particular form of the minor scale is more "proper" than another is pretty odd. And the big gap in the harmonic minor scale is an augmented second. But otherwise this answer is correct.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 1:15
  • Perhaps, by proper I meant that you do not have a cadence to the one chord with is needed for harmony. I older classical guitar method books the melodic minor is NOT called melodic it is called simply Minor whither the other two are given special names, harmonic and natural. This would indicate historically that the melodic minor was in some sense more "natural".
    – user50691
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 1:25
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    @ggcg Surely you must acknowledge that the "natural" minor scale is the only true and "proper" minor scale being the Aeolian mode, and that the harmonic and melodic variations are simply permutations of that mode. Suggesting the harmonic version is more "proper" would be like saying "the blues scale" or "the bebop scale" are more "proper." It's ultimately up to the player and the circumstance to decide. Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 5:59
  • Have to agree that 'proper' isn't the proper word here. Natural minor is actually a natural start point, from which the other two have been bastardised.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 8:58

or if there is in fact a name for techniques like this

Oh yes, there is. Enharmonic equivalents.

eg1 eg2 eg3

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    'There is another'? 'There are others...'
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 8:55

In minor key music the sixth and seventh scale degrees are sometimes raised depending on the harmonic and melodic context.

The sixth and seventh are raised from the key signature.

In F# minor you have F# C# G# in the key signature for the complete scale tones: F♯, G♯, A, B, C♯, D, E.

The D and E are the sixth and seventh degrees.

They get raised to D# and E#. One or the other, or both, may be raised depending on the musical context.

When raising tones apply an appropriate accidental to the correct letter and don't re-name to avoid enharmonically tricky spellings. Example, in G# minor the key signature gives an F# for the seventh degree. To raise it make it double sharp: Fx. Enharmonically that looks like G natural but you should spell it Fx so that scale and chord tones will remain clear (especially on staff notation.)

  • If I'm understanding correctly, the harmonic context raises the sixth while the melodic context raises the seventh?
    – dan-0
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 17:40
  • In simple terms, the harmonic context that involves the raising of tones is raising the seventh for the the dominant chord, the sixth is raised for melodic reasons if one want to avoid an augmented second between unaltered sixth and raised seventh. Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 18:04
  • The best thing to do is get a college harmony textbook and read the part about minor key harmony. Give yourself time to absorb the info, because it is more complex that basic major key harmony. Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 18:05
  • Also, look at real music scores to solidify your understanding. Bach's Two Part Inventions is a good source with several minor key pieces. Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 18:07

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