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Understanding Octave Centers

This guitar lesson is all about octave centers on the guitar. If you have never heard of octave centers before, it is basically a term used to describe the layout of all of the locations and octaves of one particular note on the fretboard. Learning how to tell where all of one particular note is on the fretboard can help you to navigate the fretboard more efficiently and memorize all of the notes on the fretboard fairly quickly. It is probably easier to show you than to try to explain, so let’s look at an example. Here is a picture of the guitar fretboard with all of the G notes up to the 16th fret indicated.

Start by playing the G note on the 3rd fret of the 6th string. Now go up two frets and over two strings. You should end up on the G note on the 5th fret of the 4th string. If you have a note on the 5th or 6th string and you want to the a note that is one octave higher than that note, all you have to do is go up two frets and over two strings.

If are playing a note on the 3rd or 4th string, the formula to find a note one octave higher changes a bit. To find the octave of a note on the 3rd or 4th string just go up three strings, instead of two, and over two strings. Play the G note on the 5th fret of the 4th string. Now go up three frets and over two strings. You should be on the G note on the 8th fret of the 2nd string. Knowing how to find a note one octave higher than any note on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th string is essential to visualizing the layout of the fretboard.

Understanding Octave Centers

Knowing how the guitar is laid out can really help you when you are trying to navigate around and keep track of where you are when you are soloing.  Knowing the layout of your octave centers is also very important when you start to learn the CAGED sequence for your chords, arpeggios, and scales.

Pick a note or two per week and go through your octave centers with those notes. Try to pick out all of those notes on the fretboard. For example, start with an open low E string. Use the up two over two and up three over two formulas to find all of the other E notes on the entire fretboard. This might be a bit overwhelming at first but if you take it one note at a time you will find that you will start to automatically know where the octaves of a given note are. Keep working on this faithfully for a few months and you will find that you will start to know most of the notes on the fretboard or at least how to find them.

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