The tonic note is the first note, or the home note, in any scale or key. Each scale has eight unique notes, and the last note is also the tonic note, an octave above the first note.
In solfege, the tonic is referred to as "Do". Here is the full solfege scale in a major key:
Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do
Notice how there are two "Dos" or two tonic notes, the first and the last.
In Western music notation, the most common key is the key of C. In the key of C, C is also the tonic note. Here is the full scale in the key of C major:
C D E F G A B C
Again, note how the first and last notes are both tonic notes.
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The first and last notes are the tonic notes, but there are also terms for each of the other six notes in each scale.
The seventh note differs in major and minor scales due to the interval change between note 7 and note 1. In major scales, there is only a half step between 7 and 1, which gives a feeling of a 7th note leading naturally to the note a half step up. In a minor key, there is a whole step interval between 7 and 1, and that leading feeling isn't there.
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The tonic and root notes are very similar, but not the same. When you refer to a tonic, you are talking about the scale and not chords in a scale. When referencing the root note, you are describing the home tone in a chord. A chord consists of 3 or more notes in a scale played together, usually separated by 3rd intervals.
The root and the tonic note will be the same if you are playing the 1 chord, but if you are playing any other chord in the scale, it will not be the same thing. For example, if you are playing the dominant, or 5 chord in a C major scale, you will be playing G B D. The root of the chord is G, but the tonic note in the scale is still C.
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