What Is Guitar Octave

Are you a guitar player looking to expand your playing skills?

If so, learning about octaves is an important step. Octaves are a fundamental part of the guitar, and understanding them can help you become a better musician.

But what exactly is an octave? And why should you learn how to play them on the guitar? 

In this article, we’ll explore what an octave is, why players need to understand them, and how you can start incorporating them into your playing.

So let’s get started!

What’s An Octave?

An octave is an interval of eight notes, spanning twelve semitones, that’s used to create a heptatonic scale. It’s the same note played at a higher or lower pitch.

When playing guitar, you use the same fingerings for each octave, just up (or down) the fretboard. This makes it easier to play scales and chords across different pitches.

Octaves are also used in songs to add depth and texture, as well as in solos to create interesting melodic lines with wider intervals than single notes can’t provide.

What’s Octave Playing?

Octave playing is playing two notes simultaneously, twelve semitones apart, to create a unique sound. This technique became an essential part of jazz improvisation and has been popularized by jazz guitar legend Wes Montgomery.

To master it, you’ll need to be able to move two fingers at the same time while keeping your hand in the same position. It may take some practice, but once you’ve figured out the fingerings and guitar diagrams, you’ll be able to craft beautiful melodies using this versatile technique.

What is The Range of a Guitar?

The range of a guitar is identified by the Octave Identification System or Scientific Pitch Notation, which labels each pitch with a number.

For example, the lowest E note on a guitar is labeled E3 and the highest E note is labeled E6.

This system works similarly for pianos, where C1 is the lowest C note and C8 is the highest C note.

Knowing this range can help you understand how to play different notes on your guitar and create more complex melodies. With practice, you can use this knowledge to become an expert at improvising solos or creating intricate chord progressions.

How many octaves have a guitar?

The guitar can have up to four octaves, depending on its number of frets.

Standard tuning guitars have three octaves between the open string 6 (E) and the 12th fret of string 1(E).

Electric guitars with 24 frets offer an extra octave, while 22-fret models provide just one whole step less. Playing beyond the 12th fret is possible but may require some practice to get used to.

Why Learning Octaves Is Important?

Octaves are an important part of guitar playing as they provide a reference point on the fretboard. By understanding how many notes are in an octave and where they are located, you can quickly identify notes and chords without having to count up from the open string.

The 12th fret is the octave of the open string, meaning that when you play it, you hear a note one octave higher than the open string.

This means that there are thirteen notes in an octave instead of eight – each separated by one fret (a half step).

Knowing this will help you navigate your way around the fretboard with ease and confidence.

How to learn guitar octaves

To learn guitar octaves play an open string and then play the 12th fret. You’ll hear how they’re similar yet slightly different – this is because you’re hearing a higher version of the same note at the 12th fret – an octave above the open string.

To become familiar with guitar octaves, start by playing all thirteen notes in a single octave from low to high. This will help you to memorize where each note lies on your guitar neck, giving you another reference point when navigating around on your instrument.

As you get more comfortable, try adding bends and slides between notes within an octave to make interesting sounds that really bring out the character of each individual note within an octave.

Guitar octave shape on one string

one octave lower


The octave shape on one string i created by playing the same note on one string twelve frets higher.

This is an important concept to understand when learning guitar. By moving up 12 frets, you can create an octave of any note on any string.

To practice this skill, find a note and its octave at the same fret of the same string.

You’ll begin to recognize the similarities and differences in tone between them as you become more familiar with this concept.

Octaves offer a great way to add depth and complexity to your music while remaining simple to learn.

Guitar octaves on adjacent strings

guitar chord shapes


Adjacent guitar strings are the strings that are positioned next to each other on a guitar, both in terms of physical placement and pitch.

Moving a note up or down 5 frets can help you find the octave of the note on the next string.

For example, if you start with an E note at the 12th fret of string 6(E), then move it down five frets to the 7th fret of string 5 (A), you’ll have found the octave.

Similarly, you’ll find its octave if you start with a G note at the open 3rd fret of string 3(G) and move up 8 frets to reach string 2(B).

This method applies to any adjacent strings.

We remind you to add either 7 or 8 frets depending on which strings you’re moving between.

Guitar octave shapes skipping over strings

Guitar octave shapes skipping over strings can be a great way to add variety and complexity to your playing.

There are five main shapes you should know: the 6-4, 5-3, 4-2, 3-1, and 6-3 octaves.

Each shape has its own unique sound and feel that can help you create interesting musical passages.

6-4 Octave Shape

play the open string

The 6-4 octave shape is a basic power chord that uses two notes: the root note on string 6 (E) and its octave on string 4 (D), two frets higher.

It means that if you know the fret position on string 6, you can easily find the corresponding octave note on string 4.

Knowing this shape helps you connect chords and switch between keys more smoothly.

5-3 Octave Shape

5th string

The 5-3 octave shape is when playing a note on the 5th fret of string 5 (A), and you can find the same note an octave higher by playing it on the 3rd fret of string 3 (G).

By using this 5-3 octave shape, you can create a harmonically pleasing effect and add depth to your guitar playing. It’s a useful technique to incorporate into your playing style and can be applied in various musical contexts.

4-2 Octave Shape

4th string

The 4-2 octave shape is a guitar technique where you can play a note on string 3 (G) and find its higher octave by moving two frets up on string 2 (B) towards the guitar body.

It’s important to remember that when you move any shapes across strings, specifically from string 3 (G) to string 2 (B), you need to raise the note by one fret to maintain the octave relationship.

For instance, if you play a note on string 3 (G) and want to find its octave, you would move up two frets on string 2 (B). By doing this, you are essentially playing the same note, but at a higher pitch, keeping the octave intact.

In the context of the 4-2 octave shape, if you play a note on string 4 (D), its octave can be found three frets higher on string 2 (B).

3-1 Octave Shape

string sets

The 3-1 octave shape is a guitar technique where you can play a note on string 3 (G) and find its higher octave by moving three frets up on string 1 (E).

This is called the “forward-facing” octave shape.

It keeps the pattern consistent because the notes don’t cross over to other strings.

You can also form a different octave shape by skipping two strings. When you skip from string 3 (G) to string 1 (E) for the octave, you’ll find the octave note in a lower fret compared to the forward-facing style.

Using the 3-1 octave shape technique allows you to play the same note in different octaves and adds variety to your guitar playing. It’s a fun way to create different sounds and explore new melodies and chords.

6-3 Octave Shape

guitar fretboard

The 6-3 octave shape is a guitar technique that allows you to play an octave using string 6 (E) and string 3 (G).

When using the 6-3 octave shape, you start with a note on string 4 (D). To find the lower octave of that note, you move 5 frets lower on string 3 (G). This creates the first ‘backward-facing’ octave shape.

Also, any note played on string 6 (E) will have its octave three frets lower on string 3 (G). This means that if you play a note on string 6 (E), you can find its octave by moving three frets lower on string 3 (G).

For example, if you play a B note at the 7th fret of string 6 (E), you will find the same B note at the 4th fret of string 3 (G). This follows the simple rule of the 6-3 octave shape.

5-2 Octave Shape

music theory

The 5-2 octave shape allows you to play an octave by moving across string 5 (A) and string 2 (B).

If you play an E note on string 5 (A) at the 7th fret, you can find its octave by moving two frets lower on string 2 (B). In this case, the octave of the E note will be located at the 5th fret of string 2 (B).

4-1 Octave Shape

guitar fretboard


The 4-1 octave shape lets you play an octave by moving between strings 4 (D) and 1 (E).

To find the octave of any note played on string 4 (D) using the 4-1 octave shape, you simply move two frets lower on string 1 (E). The shape used for this octave is the same as the 5-2 octave shape.

For example, if you play a note on string 4 (D), you can find its octave by moving two frets lower on string 1 (E).

However, it’s important to note that there is no backward-facing octave shape from string 3 (G) in this context. The 4-1 octave shape specifically applies between strings 4 (D) and 1 (E).

Two-Octave Shape

2nd string

Mapping out two-octave shapes across the fretboard can be a great way to gain an understanding of musical harmony, almost like constructing a bridge between notes.

For example, playing the same note on string 6(E) and 1(E) produces a richer sound than just one note alone.

The two-octave shape is essentially twice around the musical alphabet, with a two-octave distance between open string 6(E) and 1(E).

This means that any note on string 6(E) will be in the same fret on string 1(E), so if you know the notes on one string you also know everything on the other.

Knowing this shape can help you to create more complex melodies and harmonies as well as giving you access to different voicings of chords. It’s also an important part of understanding how octaves link up across the entire fretboard, which forms the basis for many guitar techniques such as CAGED system.


Octaves are a great way to add interest and diversity to your playing.

Just remember that with patience and practice, you can master this skill in no time – allowing you to craft beautiful melodies that captivate your audience.

So don’t be afraid of challenging yourself: take up the gauntlet of mastering guitar octaves today!


Are there different types of guitar octaves?

Yes, there are different types of guitar octaves. The most common is the standard octave, which is a two-octave range from the open strings to the 12th fret. Other variations include baritone and extended range guitars with more than two octaves.

How can I use guitar octaves in a song?

You can use guitar octaves to create interesting harmonies and textures in a song. Try playing the same notes an octave higher or lower for a unique sound. Experiment to find the perfect combination of tones for your song!

Can I use guitar octaves to play melodies?

Yes, you can use guitar octaves to play melodies. You can achieve this by playing the same notes at a higher or lower pitch than the original note. Strumming up and down the strings in octaves produces a fuller sound that is perfect for creating catchy and interesting melodies.

How can I practice playing guitar octaves?

Practice playing guitar octaves by starting with simple two-note patterns. Focus on accuracy and timing, gradually increasing speed as you become more comfortable. Use a metronome to help keep your tempo steady. Experiment with different fingerings and positions to find what works best for you.

Can I use guitar octaves to play chords?

Yes, you can use guitar octaves to play chords. Octave playing involves fretting two notes in unison at different frets on the same string. This technique can add texture to your chords and make them sound fuller. Try experimenting with different octave shapes and positions for a unique sound!

Leave a Comment