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Root Note Misconceptions

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Some Valid Misconceptions about the Root Note:
Let us assume that one can play any frequency that one wishes on an instrument simultaneously, as in chords.
1. What if we play the notes of the C major chord as "G C E G c”? Is G then the root note? Or will the scale be called some "G - scale?" It seems plausible. Or, perhaps you are playing C major as "E G C e g" - is E the root?
2. One may think in another way. In the second series of notes, the only time that we encounter the note C, it is the second highest pitched note of them all. So is this "c" the root note just because the chord is called "C major" even though it’s not the lowest pitched?
3. Are both the Cs of C major, the root notes?
4. If we play the notes beyond an octave, say, like “E G c e g c'” are all the Cs of this C major chord, the root notes?
5. If we play it like "E G"? Where's the C? Is E the root here?

To clear these misconceptions, we must understand these following points -

1. That, a "scale" is not equivalent to "the notes of that scale starting at any other note contained in the scale other than the one after which the scale is named." So a C major scale must begin with the note C and must have the all of the following note structure: C D E F G A B c - and in that order. Hence, the chords must contain the notes in that order of pitch and not in any way we choose.

One may begin at, say C4 but one must stop at C5; or one may begin at C5 and must stop at C6.

2. That a scale may be extended beyond an octave without affecting the name of the scale. It is commonly done as a method of playing all those pitches on an instrument. For example, on a guitar, the note C may be played several times coming down from the 6th string to the 1st playing the notes of C major scale. That will not be playing just one scale of C major. It will be extending the scale above and below to include "notes of the same name" in the other contiguous octaves.

Thus a C major scale starting at C4 may extend behind into the C3-C4 octave and below, or the beyond the note C5.

What we refer to as a scale is a set of notes starting at one scientifically denoted pitch bearing a certain name, traversing the octave above (or below) in a particular way to reach a note having the same name at the other end of the octave. A scale is a method of traversing an octave of frequencies, where each note acts as a stepping stone. This makes it amply clear that the relationships between the root and the constituent notes will be hampered if we go and play pitches that are too far away from the root. If we play the C major chord, that was meant to be played with C4, E4 and G4, as C4, E4 and G5, we are not maintaining the root-third-fifth rule for the major chord. We are actually playing the root-third-thirteenth – this is not the C major chord.

3. When an octave is extended to notes with lower pitches (the ones coming before the 1st named note) the root note remains unchanged even though we are playing frequencies lower than it. The notes bearing the name of the root note that are of higher frequencies are not the root notes simply because they are of higher frequencies. Again, a scale can have only one root note. "Lowest" is an absolute term.

4. When the root note of a chord is the bass note (deepest or lowest note), the chord is in root position. This chord may also be described to be in its “normal” form, as opposed to “inverted” form.

When the expected root note of a chord is not the lowest pitch played in a chord, the chord is said to have been inverted.

This concept of a root note is useful in case of chords as well - especially guitar chords as well.

continued from...Continued...root note of guitar chords

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