The Definition of "Root Note"

The root note is the pitch upon which a chord is based; the fundamental note on top of which the intervals of a chord are built. A chord is named after its root note (see keynote).

Look at the intervals in a G major chord:

  • Root: G
  • Major Third: B
  • Perfect Fifth: D

However, even though the root note acts as the tonal foundation of a chord, it’s not always the bottom note (or “bass”):

  • G Major Root Position:  G - B - D
  • G Major 1st Inversion:  B - D - G
  • G Major 2nd Inversion:  D - G - B

G remains the root in each chord inversion, despite its location. G major in the 2nd inversion has D as the bass, but this does not make it a D major chord (which would be D - F# - A).

Also Known As

  • la fondamentale; basso fondamentale (It)
  • la basse fondamentale (Fr)
  • Grundton (Ger)