Fretboard 101: The Five Octave Patterns
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Learning the five octave patterns is the easiest way to see how the notes are laid out on a guitar. You’ll be able to find your way around the neck, play with more confidence, and broaden your creative palette as a rhythm and lead guitarist.
Octave: Many musical scales in the West use eight notes. The distance between the first and eighth note is called an octave.
This octave distance can be broken down into 12 semitones (on a guitar, each fret is one semitone.) You can hear an octave by playing the open 1st string (high E string) and then the same string at the 12th fret: that note is also an E, but an octave higher. Also: playing any note an octave higher will double it’s frequency vibration rate.
Octave Pattern: The shape created on the fretboard when you locate a note and find its closest octave on another string.
WHY LEARN OCTAVES?
– The fretboard will be less intimidating when you play or write a solo, riff or fill.
– Playing a melody in octaves creates a sonic change—the notes get thickened up. This can raise the energy in a song or solo. You can also emphasize a melody this way. Try using an effects pedal for even greater contrast.
– If you want to learn scales, knowing where the octaves are makes it much easier to learn and remember them.
– If you’re not big on scales, you can instead improvise around the notes of the chords you’re playing. The octaves can be really helpful guideposts.
– It helps you break away from just playing open chords and barre chords. It lets you easily locate smaller chords (on fewer strings). Smaller chords can open up space in a song arrangement, make for more creative guitar parts, and better complement the bass, keys, or other guitars.
THE FIVE OCTAVE PATTERNS IN C
Grab your guitar. We’re going to locate every C on the guitar with the five octave patterns. Some patterns include two C’s, others three C’s. Notice which strings are included in each pattern. Some have a two-fret distance between the C’s (use your index finger and ring finger to play them); others a three-fret distance (use your index finger and pinkie). Once we’ve played through all five patterns, they’ll repeat again in the same order until we run out of frets. Notice how all five patterns overlap each other.