Using The Octave Pattern In Real-Life Guitar Playing Scenarios

The octave pattern is not as user-friendly for learning to play the notes on a fretboard as many teachers would like players to think. So what are the real uses for the pattern? And how can it be applied to real life uses?.

A common lesson you may have learned when learning to navigate a guitar fretboard is the "octave pattern." This easy-to-master pattern is used to find two of the same notes in different octaves: if you've never learned what this is, then feel free to skip straight to the short video below.

This common technique may have been shown to you to help you finding and remembering where notes are on the fretboard. Some people idolize this system, noting that when using it, all you have to learn is the notes on the low E and A strings and then simply apply the pattern to find the rest. Initially, this was the way that I was taught as well, but it wasn't long before I realized there had to be a better way.

The reason that it didn't take much was that I wasn't actually able to use it in real life. Initially, I thought it was just me, that maybe I was the one who wasn't good enough to use it. But later in life even my students haven't been able to achieve the results they are looking for either using this method.

The reason that it doesn't work is that it requires more reasoning than other methods: first you have to find the note on the low E and the A string, and then use the pattern to find the note on the D or G, and then again to find it on the B or high E string. For most performers, this just isn't fast enough. Not to mention the fact that it's completely unnecessary - in a previous video, I have shown a better method for learning all of the notes in a real-life, usable way.

So what can we actually do with the octave pattern? There are many other ways to use the pattern, and along with any other interval pattern for that matter. Rather than going through them all here, I recorded a video that will show an example where the octave pattern can be used for lead guitar players. I've seen this method used by many famous players, and in fact, I'm sure you have as well; so I'm sure you will find a way to use it in your own solos.

This process can be applied very quickly into your own playing. There are endless possibilities for creative playing, both lead and rhythm. So just sit down and apply it to your own playing, and if you come up with something truly unique, feel free to send it to me - I'd be happy to hear what you come up with.

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio