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Tonal Centre Fig 1

Fig.1 The Tonal Centre is the centring tone which all the others support.  It gives the song or phrase consonance or stability.  It is a larg part of what gives music a certain feel and makes it enjoyable to listen to.

-In lead playing, the Tonal Centre of a phrase is created simply by giving more weight (playing time) to a particular tone or group of tones (as would be the case for a chord).  By focusing on the Tonal Centre you can prevent your Leads from sounding like you are merely running up and down the scale notes.
-The tonic is the first scale degree of a scale and is also known as the Tonal Centre or final resolution tone.  The triad formed on the tonic note, the tonic chord, is thus the most significant chord. More generally, the tonic is the pitch upon which all other pitches of a piece are hierarchically referenced. Scales are named after their tonics, thus the tonic of the scale of C is the note C.
For example: If the note of a A Minor Pentatonic scale lead phrase begins on and repeatedly gravitates back to the Tonic note (take A as an example) then the Phrase will have a distinct  Am tonality (Key of Am).
Thus, you can persuade these notes to stand out and become the centre of the tonal progression as you play.  The phrase becomes anchored with these tones.
They can be emphasized even more by using playing techniques such as letting them hang longer or picking them louder.

-Defining the Tonal Centre as you are playing is an important skill to have especially for Lead Improvising
 If you are not contentious of your Tonal Centre, you are just Noodling with a scale and can not nail down a lead passage.

Video 1. A very basic example of creating a Tonal Centre around an Am Chord using the A & G notes.
In this comparison the 2 note (A & G) Riff is first anchored on the A Note and sounds like it belongs.
In the second half the Riff is anchored on the G Note and just doesn’t quite fit in (the Tone is not centred).

-The tonic is the first scale degree of a scale and the tonal center or final resolution tone.
The triad formed on the tonic note, the tonic chord, is thus the most significant chord. More generally, the tonic is the pitch upon which all other pitches of a piece are hierarchically referenced.
Scales are named after their tonics, thus the tonic of the scale of C is the C note and the Tonic Chord is the C Chord.
The tonic of the scale of A is the A Note with the Tonic Chord being the A Chord… etc.

-The notes of the Am Chord are A, C, E with the “A” note being the Root note of the Chord.
The Am Pentatonic scale contains these tones.  By gravitating back to the tonic”A Note” when improvising a Lead passage, and giving it the Lion’s share of play time the notes of a passage will be rooted in Am and fit in.

Video 2. Emphasizing the Tonic “A note” of the Am Pentatonic scale allows this passage to fit in nicely over the Am Chord.
The lead passage starts off on the G note and uses it as a passing note to add some flavour to the Lead passage.

One Scale with Two very distinct sounds.

This idea of using the Tonal Centre to define the sound (and feel) of a group of tones is demonstrated by using an “identical” group of notes to sound either Major or Minor.  
The Am Pentatonic scale can be used to demonstrate this.
If the A note is the focus of attention then the Pentatonic Scale will sound A Minor.
If the C note is the focus of attention (Tonic Centre) and less emphasis is placed on the A Note (treating it more as a passing note) then the scale will sound C Major.

Video 3. The Am scale shape is used to play both an Am and a C Major Lead passage.  The Tonal Centre of each Lead Passage is emphasized by starting and ending with the Tonic Note.
The Tonic Note is changed from the “A note” when playing the Am chord to the “C note” when playing the C chord.  This creates two very different sounds from the same Pentatonic scale .

An easy way to locate the Major Pentatonic Scale on the fretboard

Trick (Magic Hat)

TRICK: Move a Minor Pentatonic Scale down 3 frets to play the Major Pentatonic scale.

Finding the Major pentatonic scale

Fig.2. Move the “A minor scale” 3 frets down to play the “A Major scale” using the same fretting pattern.
Note: All the “A notes” (shown in blue) are the Root notes (Tonal Centre) of the scale.


Important Note: The Am Pentatonic shape may be moved down 3 frets to locate the A Major Pentatonic Scale but unless the Tonal Centre is exploited (the “Root” A note) this scale shape will still sound minor (F# Minor).
Note that the F# note may still be played in the A Major Pentatonic Scale but should be used as a Passing Note.

-When moved down 3 frets the new scale and its corresponding Major chord are known as the Parallel.

 

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