What Is A Tonic Note? Tuesday August 10 2021, 5:12 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
What Is A Tonic Note?

What Does Tonic Note Mean In Music?

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:


Again, note how the first and last notes are both tonic notes. 


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Other Notes In The Scale 

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 second note is referred to as the supertonic note. 

The third note in a scale is called the mediant.

The fourth note is called the subdominant

The fifth note in a scale is the dominant note, which is very popular. 

The sixth note is called the submediant

The seventh note on a major scale is the leading tone, while it's called a subtonic note on a minor 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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Tonic Note Vs. Root Note 

Screen Shot 20210810 at 9.34.59 PM.png

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. 



In conclusion, the tonic note holds a special place in music as the first and home note in a scale or key. It is often referred to as "Do" in solfege and serves as the anchor for the entire scale.

While the first and last notes are both tonic notes, the other notes in the scale also have their own unique names, such as the supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, and leading tone/subtonic.

It's important to note that the seventh note varies in major and minor scales due to the interval change between note 7 and note 1.

The tonic note should not be confused with the root note, which pertains specifically to chords within a scale. While the root note of a chord may align with the tonic note in the 1 chord, it can differ in other chords within the scale.

Understanding the distinction between the tonic and root notes is essential for comprehending the harmonic structure of a musical composition.

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Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

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