8. Octaves

Although use of octaves has always been popular, sometimes they are only noticed when played in a line stretching over several measures. It’s easy to see why when considering they are 2 of the same note! Some players use them occasionally to ‘fatten up’ a line, or just instinctively play one here and there for no particular reason, since they pretty much “fit” anywhere.

Below is an example of a simple line over a few measures:

Here is the same line in octaves:

As you can see, the only real difference is the tonal quality, or timbre. The essence of the line itself is the same.

As with 6ths, the string crossing necessitates playing either with fingers (usu. Thumb and finger) or with pick and one finger

The best known guitarist to frequently use octaves is the late jazz legend Wes Montgomery, who made them a regular part of his lead lines. If your fretboard knowledge is lacking, knowing where octaves lie above and below any note you play on the guitar in the same position is a great way to improve it.  (See 23. Learning the Fretboard for more information).

© 2012 Jim Greenfield