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How To Use Octaves To Increase Riff Potential

by Rich Freeman

Many guitarists are aware of the fact that octaves are played anytime a chord is strummed, but few take the time to study where the octaves are found across the guitar neck. In order to use octaves  to your advantage during songwriting, creating riffs, licks, improvising and soloing - You should begin to learn the most common places octaves are found. Today we will take a look at a few of the many and effective ways to utilize octaves. 

Please keep in mind that these are NOT the only places on the fret board where you can find octaves, this is just one of many different variations of how to utilize this cool technique. 

1. We will first look at how to find octaves when your root is starting on either the low E or A string.

  • When locating the octave with your root on the LOW "E" string, all you need to do is skip the string below it (A) and play the note on the D string which is 2 frets higher.  (See example 1 - Left photo) 
  • When locating the octave with your root on the Low A string, all you need to do is skip the string below it (D) and play the note on the G string which is 2 frets higher. (See example 1 - Right photo) 
  • The pattern below can be moved up and down every fret on both the E & A strings to provide you with the octave. Put your pointer finger on the lowest note and your ring finger on the octave.      
Example 1

Example 1

 2. Now we will look at how to find octaves when the root is on the D & G strings. The patterns for the D & G strings differ slightly than that of the E & A strings because instead of there only being 1 fret between the two octave notes, there are two.

  • When locating the octave with your root on the D string, all you need to do is skip the string below it (G) and play the note on the B string which is 3 frets higher. (See Ex. 2 - Left photo) 
  • When locating the octave with your root on the Low G string, all you need to do is skip the string below it (B) and play the note on the E string which is 3 frets higher. (See Ex. 2 - Right photo)
  • The pattern below can be moved up and down every fret on both the D & G strings to provide you with the octave. Put your pointer finger on the lowest note and your pinky on the octave.  
Example 2

Example 2


Now let’s see an example of how we can create a riff while incorporating what we have  learned. 

Ex. 1 - Here is a phrase using no octaves at all. 

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You can see that this is a cool phrase; however there could be more depth added to improve the sound.

 

Ex. 2 - Here we will simply add the octaves using the patterns we learned above. 

***Notice I am not applying octaves to the entire phrase, this is simply a preference so that the entire phrase isn't applying the same idea, which would make it sound boring.

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See how much cooler that riff sounds with the added octaves!! Simple ideas such as this can add a lot of potential to your guitar phrases and riffs.

Now that you have seen how to locate and implement the use of ocataves, I hope that now you will begin using this new perspective and incorporate octaves into your own guitar playing. The goal is to be strategic with your implementation of licks, phrases and different techniques.

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