home > technique > playing octaves on guitar

Guitar Technique:
Playing Octaves on Guitar

Join the Members Area



Q: How Can I Master Octaves on Guitar?

There is a guitar soloing technique called Octaves that I know Santatna, Hendrix and Wes Montgomery have all used in their music. My problem is I cant seem to get Octaves to work in my own playing. Can you do a lesson about octaves? I would like to know the best shapes and a few ways that they can be used for playing basic melody, as well as, during improvised soloing work.
- Bryce Minneapolis, MN. U.S.A.

A: Thanks for writing in. Octaves are a very cool technique that will really beef up the tone of a melody line, (compared to only playing on a single-note). Once we add in an octave we not only generate a second note of the same tonal name, but we get the added punch of two pitches on different diameter string sets on the guitar. It is really this thickening of the sound that sets the octave effect apart from practically any other interval combination we can establish on the neck.

The best way to think about the most popular octave shapes on the guitar neck is to think about their roots being located on the 6th, 5th and 4th string sets. Each string will have a certain octave layout and once the shape for that particular string set has been memorized and is comfortable, it will be easy to quickly move them around the guitar neck.

Shape #1). Sixth String Root



Shape #1 off of the sixth string is the same template as the shape found off of the fifth string.

Shape #2). Fifth String Root

When we take the octave shape to the fourth string we see a change in the layout. This is because the 3rd string to the 2nd string is tuned with the interval of a major third and the other strings are an interval of a perfect fourth.

Shape #3). Fourth String Root

The octave shape off of third string is the same as the shape off of 4th string.

Shape #4). Third String Root


Octaves on Guitar Tab Chart
(Adobe PDF Document)
Octaves on Guitar Tab Chart
(Powertab Document)