If im playing a c major scale ( c d e f g a b c) but not starting on c and starting instead on the low e string (bass) (e f g a b c d e) is the first e called the tonic of the scale or in this case is there a name for the starting note at all?
Using C D E F G A B C in that order constitutes the C major scale. Here, C is the root, or home note.
Cycling through the same notes, but starting on a different one from C will produce what's known as a mode. E F G A B C D E. The one using E as its root is known as E Phrygian, or sometimes (confusingly) the Phrygian of C. By playing around with these notes, but using E as the home note, a minor, maybe Spanish feel is given to the melody, in comparison to the C major feel when the same notes centre around the root C.
Tonic is reserved for the first degree or note of the major and minor key. Thus the tonic of C major or C minor is C.
EDIT: After a bit more homework, I found that the 'tonic' of a mode can be described as the final.
There's a difference between "starting" the song on a particular note and the tonic of the song.
The major scale is composed of the following tones between notes:
- Whole tone (major 2nd)
- Whole tone (major 3rd)
- Half tone (perfect 4th)
- Whole tone (perfect 5th)
- Whole tone (major 6th)
- Whole tone (major 7th). From here it's a half tone more to get back to the tonic note
If we place this progression with tonic on
E, look which notes are the result:
Step Distance against previous note Relationship to Tonic Example on C Example on E 1 - Tonic C E 2 Whole tone Major 2nd D F# 3 Whole tone Major 3rd E G# 4 Half tone Perfect 4th F A 5 Whole tone Perfect 5th G B 6 Whole tone Major 6th A C# 7 Whole tone Major 7th B D# (8) Half tone Tonic (octave higher) C E
Step Distance against previous note Relationship to Tonic Example on C Example on E 1 - Tonic C E 2 Half tone Minor 2nd Db F 3 Whole tone Minor 3rd Eb G 4 Whole tone Perfect 4th F A 5 Whole tone Perfect 5th G B 6 Half tone Minor 6th Ab C 7 Whole tone Minor 7th Bb D (8) Whole tone Tonic (octave higher) C E
If you note, this progression on
E has the same notes that
C on major, but the scale is actually different as it has different steps and intervals. All intervals from the major scale (except 4th and 5th) are major while all intervals on phrygian scale (except 4th and 5th) are minor. This makes both scales completely different and thus the resulting sound experience changes dramatically.
So, if a song has these notes:
C D E F G A B, which scale are we playing? Is it
C major or
E phrygian (or other modes like
A minor, or
B locrian?). This is what I meant with the first question.
The key of a song is not the first note that is played, or root position of the scale we are playing on the guitar, it's the note that when played the sensation the listener gets is a rest, like feeling back at home. This is very intertwined with the chords progressions and how they build tension (chords that are not tonic) and release (chords that are tonic) and it might get some time to get used to it, but it gets a lot easier with practice.
This means that it can be both, depending on which note the key is. If it's on
C then it will be
C major, if it's on
E then it will be
E phrygian, if it's on
D it will be
D dorian, etc (for each mode).