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Lesson 13 - Octaves

Next page:
Previous page: Lesson 12 - Modes Next page: Lesson 14 - Major Triads

Lessons of The Week was a series of guitar lessons circulated in "News", in the pre-web days of the Internet. 29 lessons were written before it died out, and I happende to write the first three. They represent a little bit of internet history, as they may have been the first guitar lessons written for the internet.

The lessons were all written in txt format - they were written around the same time as Tim Berners Lee were sitting in Switzerland specifing the first version of html. I have converted them to html, and may have added a few links from the lessons.

Lesson 13 - Octaves

Lesson: 13
Title: Octaves
Level: Beginner - Intermediate
Style: Theory
Instructor: Bill Quinn

Last time we looked at the Pentatonic Pattern. This time we will discuss 'octaves'. We will pick-up where we left off - with the Pentatonic pattern:

Here is a pentatonic pattern:

           E ||-----|-----|--O--|-----|-----|--O--|-----|
           B ||-----|-----|--O--|-----|-----|--O--|-----|
           G ||-----|-----|--O--|-----|--O--|-----|-----|
           D ||-----|-----|--O--|-----|--O--|-----|-----|
           A ||-----|-----|--O--|-----|--O--|-----|-----|
           E ||-----|-----|--O--|-----|-----|--O--|-----|

Another look at the pattern:

           E ||-----|-----|--1--|-----|-----|--2--|-----|
           B ||-----|-----|--4--|-----|-----|--5--|-----|
           G ||-----|-----|--2--|-----|--3--|-----|-----|
           D ||-----|-----|--5--|-----|--1--|-----|-----|
           A ||-----|-----|--3--|-----|--4--|-----|-----|
           E ||-----|-----|--1--|-----|-----|--2--|-----|

Remember last time, we said that each number represents a unique note in the pattern. Actually, this means that each number represents a unique note *name*. For example if we assume the '1' on the top string is a 'G' note, then the '1' on the 4th string (D string) is also a 'G'. *BUT* even though they are both named 'G' notes they are not the same note! They are octaves of one another.

An octave is a note that has the same *NAME* as another note but is higher/lower in pitch. Most people can just 'hear' an octave. For example when asked to hum something 'higher' the average person will hum an octave higher.

But as guitarists we need some nice tricks to help us remember where all of the possible octaves are. Again, we must be thankful for the nice way the fingerboard is designed, and that these 'octave patterns' are so easy to remember.

The following examples will show a few of the common patterns used to remember octaves. I will use the numbers found in the pentatonic scale to help all of this make sense:

      Pattern:                        Rule:

E|-----|--1--|-----|-----|      Play at the same fret on the top/bottom 
B|-----|-----|-----|-----|      string.
G|-----|-----|-----|-----|
D|-----|-----|-----|-----|
A|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E|-----|--1--|-----|-----|
      Pattern:                        Rule:

E|-----|-----|-----|-----|      Skip a string and skip a fret.
B|-----|-----|-----|-----|
G|-----|-----|-----|-----|
D|-----|-----|-----|--1--|
A|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E|-----|--1--|-----|-----|
      Pattern:                        Rule:

E|-----|-----|-----|-----|      Skip a string and skip a fret.  Same   
B|-----|-----|-----|-----|      above rule, just on different set of
G|-----|-----|-----|--3--|      strings.
D|-----|-----|-----|-----|
A|-----|--3--|-----|-----|
E|-----|-----|-----|-----|
      Pattern:                        Rule:

E|-----|-----|-----|-----|      Skip a string and skip two frets.
B|-----|-----|-----|--5--|
G|-----|-----|-----|-----|
D|--5--|-----|-----|-----|
A|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E|-----|-----|-----|-----|
      Pattern:                        Rule:

E|-----|-----|-----|--2--|      Skip a string and skip two frets.
B|-----|-----|-----|-----|      Same as above rule, on different
G|--2--|-----|-----|-----|      sets of strings.
D|-----|-----|-----|-----|
A|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E|-----|-----|-----|-----|
     Pattern:                        Rule:

E|-----|-----|-----|-----|      Skip two strings and down two frets.
B|-----|-----|-----|-----|
G|--2--|-----|-----|-----|
D|-----|-----|-----|-----|
A|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E|-----|-----|-----|--2--|
      Pattern:                        Rule:

E|-----|-----|-----|-----|      Skip two strings and down a fret.
B|--4--|-----|-----|-----|
G|-----|-----|-----|-----|
D|-----|-----|-----|-----|
A|-----|-----|--4--|-----|
E|-----|-----|-----|-----|
      Pattern:                        Rule:

E|--1--|-----|-----|-----|      Skip two strings and down a fret.
B|-----|-----|-----|-----|
G|-----|-----|-----|-----|
D|-----|-----|--1--|-----|
A|-----|-----|-----|-----|
E|-----|-----|-----|-----|

Why memorize these? Well, if you know your octaves, then you will quickly learn your note names. If you know the names of only the notes on your top string (E string) then by using octaves, you can find the name of any note on the neck.

Also, once you learn a nice 'lick' it will be easily transferred to other parts of the guitar neck using these sort of octave 'tricks'.

Finally, a lot of players play in octaves. In other words, a player will play 2 (or 3) notes at the same time to thicken-up the sound of a phrase. You will find this in jazz especially but also in other styles.

To help you learn your octaves, I will leave you with the some exercises:

1) Pick *ANY* note on the neck (randomly) and then play at least two different notes that are octaves of that same note.

2) Learn the 1st part of "Mary had a little lamb" and play each note on a different string. Can you play the 1st 6 notes on 6 different strings?

3) Practice this TAB, which is the Pentatonic pattern with octaves:

---------------------------------(5)---(8)-------------------5-----8------
---------------------(5)---(8)-------------------5-----8------------------
---------(5)---(7)-------------------5-----7-------------------------(5)--
---(7)-------------------5-----7-------------------------(5)---(7)--------
-------------5-----7-------------------------(5)---(7)--------------------
-5-----8------------------------------------------------------------------

This a cool 'lick' and is a real challenge to play at a 'rock-n-roll' tempo. This will also give you a good feel for which octaves are always in reach (i.e. no need to change hand position)

Next time we will look at all of the different places on the neck you may use the Pentatonic pattern. This will involve more theory and help touch into some of the 'mode' mysteries.

See ya!

Previous page: Previous page: Lesson 12 - ModesNext page: Lesson 14 - Major Triads Next page:

Previous page: Next page:
Previous page: Lesson 12 - Modes Next page: Lesson 14 - Major Triads