The Correct Use Of The Guitar Octave Pattern

Tommaso Zillio

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One of the first thing that you may have been shown on your guitar fretboard is the "octave pattern". This is a very simple pattern that shows two notes that are one octave apart (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, go immediately to the video below).

You may have been shown the octave pattern as a trick to remember the notes on the fretboard. Proponents of this system will tell you that you need to learn only the notes on the 6th and 5th string, and then using the octave pattern you will be able to find all the other notes. This was also the very first way I was taught... but it didn't take me much to realize that it wasn't a good way.

And the reason it didn't take much is... because I was never able to make it work. At the time I thought that this was because I wasn't good enough, but I have seen that this system is not giving good results with my students either.

The obvious problem there is that finding the notes using the octave pattern is a multi-step process: find the note you want on string 5 or 6, apply the octave pattern once for string 3 or 4, apply it again for string 1 or 2. This is a very slow procedure to apply in any real-life playing situation. Also, it is completely unnecessary: we have seen in a previous video the method for learning all the notes on the fretboard in a permanent and usable way.

So what is the real use of the octave pattern? The octave pattern can be used in many other ways, along with all the other interval patterns. Rather than detailing all of them here, I have created a video where I show one simple example of use of the octave pattern in the context of lead guitar. I've hear many great players using it this way (and so did you) and I'm sure you will find a way to apply this trick to your own solos.

As you see, you can apply the procedures explained in the videos in just few minute with your guitar. The possibilities for creative soloing (or rhythm playing) are limitless. Have fun with it, and if you do something original with it feel free to send it to me, I'd be curious to hear it.

And if you need any help in learning the scales on your guitar, click here:


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