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Octaves in Standard Tuning


Recall, that an octave is the shortest distance between 2 different pitches with the same name (same tone).

Looking at the fretboard with the chromatic scale applied.

E|-F-|F#-|-G-|Ab-|-A-|Bb-|-B-|-C-|C#-|-D-|Eb-|-E-|
B|-C-|C#-|-D-|Eb-|-E-|-F-|F#-|-G-|Ab-|-A-|Bb-|-B-|
G|Ab-|-A-|Bb-|-B-|-C-|C#-|-D-|Eb-|-E-|-F-|F#-|-G-|
D|Eb-|-E-|-F-|F#-|-G-|Ab-|-A-|Bb-|-B-|-C-|C#-|-D-|
A|Bb-|-B-|-C-|C#-|-D-|Eb-|-E-|-F-|F#-|-G-|Ab-|-A-|
E|-F-|F#-|-G-|Ab-|-A-|Bb-|-B-|-C-|C#-|-D-|Eb-|-E-|
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12

We draw another fretboard with only 1 tone copying from the above board

Ex. in E
E|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-E-|
 |---|---|---|---|-E-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-E-|---|---|---|
 |---|-E-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|-E-|---|---|---|---|---|
E|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-E-|
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12

This pattern shows several different octave patterns within standard tuning. Using the above pattern we can learn the names of the notes on the fretboard (below). We can use the pattern to create fretboard maps (next lesson), and we can use it to carve up the fretboard into zones (upcoming lessons).

Some of the notes above are the same notes (tones) on different strings. Below is the same boards as above (based on E) with numbers (where 1 = lowest E-open 6th string, 8 = 1st octave of that E, 15 = 2nd octave, 22 = 3rd octave, 29 = 4th octave)

15|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-22|
  |---|---|---|---|-15|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
  |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-15|---|---|---|
  |---|-8-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
  |---|---|---|---|---|---|-8-|---|---|---|---|---|
 1|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-8-|

Note: going from 1 to 8, or 8 to 15(15 to 22, or 22 to 29) is 1 octave.

Turning these into chord diagrams we have:

|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|-8-|
|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|



|-8-|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|


|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|-8-|
|---|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|


|---|---|---|
|-8-|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|---|



|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|-8-|
|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|
|---|---|---|


|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|-8-|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|


|---|---|---|-8-|
|---|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|


|---|---|---|---|---|---|-8-|(seperated by a P4)
|-1-|---|---|---|---|---|---|


|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-8-|(seperated by a M3)
|-1-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Note: going from 1 to 15, or 8 to 22, or 15 to 29 is 2 octaves.

|15-|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|

|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|-15|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|---|---|

|---|---|---|---|---|-15|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Note: going from 1 to 22 or 8 to 29 is 3 octaves , and takes up at least 1/2 of the fretboard, I will not go into this here (likewise 1 to 29 is 4 octaves and requires a 24 fret board).

Knowing the chromatic scale is
A,A#/Bb,B,C,C#/Db,D,D#/Eb,E,F,F#/Gb,G,G#/Ab
the tuning EADGBE and the octaves patterns , we can learn the names of the notes on the frets with some relation to the other frets. This will make learning them easier.

We can start by placing the chromatic scale on the 6th string.

E|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
B|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
G|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
D|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E|-F-|F#-|-G-|Ab-|-A-|Bb-|-B-|-C-|C#-|-D-|Eb-|-E-|
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12

and then using the octave pattern

|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|-8-|
|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|

Place the octaves of the 6th string on the 4th string. So by first learning the 6th string notes, we see that the 4th string has the same note names an octave higher two frets up. ( I recommend starting with just the natural tones: A,B,C,D,E,F,and G)

 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
D|---|-E-|-F-|---|-G-|---|-A-|---|-B-|-C-|---|-D-|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E|-F-|---|-G-|---|-A-|---|-B-|-C-|---|-D-|---|-E-|
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12

So E is on 6th string open, and its octave E is on the 4th string 2nd fret.

F is on 6th string, 1st fret, and octave F on 4th string 3rd fret.

(two strings over, 2 frets up).

We also note that the 6th string and 1st strings are exactly 2 octaves apart and have the same names of notes on the same frets. So if you know the names of the notes on the 6th string, you also know the names of the notes on the 1st string.

E|-F-|---|-G-|---|-A-|---|-B-|-C-|---|-D-|---|-E-|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E|-F-|---|-G-|---|-A-|---|-B-|-C-|---|-D-|---|-E-|
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12

Now, starting with placing the chromatic scale on the 5th string (A):

E|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
B|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
G|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
D|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A|Bb-|-B-|-C-|C#-|-D-|Eb-|-E-|-F-|F#-|-G-|Ab-|-A-|
E|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12

We note that there is an octave going from the 5th string to the 3rd string (2 frets up)

|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|-8-|
|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|
|---|---|---|

We can use this to help learn the names of notes of the 3rd string:

 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
G|---|-A-|---|-B-|-C-|---|-D-|---|-E-|-F-|---|-G-|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A|---|-B-|-C-|---|-D-|---|-E-|-F-|---|-G-|---|-A-|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12

We also note that there is an octave between the 5th string and the 2nd string (2 frets down)

 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
B|-C-|---|-D-|---|-E-|-F-|---|-G-|---|-A-|---|-B-|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A|---|-B-|-C-|---|-D-|---|-E-|-F-|---|-G-|---|-A-|
 |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12

We can (and do) connect these octave patterns to form larger (2 or more octave) patterns.
Some examples:

|-15|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|---|---|-8-|
|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|


|---|---|---|-15|
|---|---|---|---|
|-8-|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|

|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|-15|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|-8-|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|---|---|

|---|---|---|---|---|-15|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|-8-|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|

If we connect all the patterns we see the underlying pattern of the tuning we are using (note: some or all of these patterns might change with a different tuning)

|-O-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-O-|
|---|---|---|---|---|-O-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-O-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-O-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-O-|---|---|---|---|---|
|-O-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-O-|

We will study these shapes in more detail in future lessons on zone systems and other octaves, but it's important to note that the octaves connect and repeat in a regular pattern that is based on the tuning.

We note that the 12th fret is the octave of the open string. And we should note that the 12th fret is halfway between the nut and the bridge, and that by cutting the effective string length in half we raise the pitch an octave (the ratio between a pitch and its octave is 1:2).
We save the lessons on tuning theory (its problems, solutions, and comprimises) for a later date, but we note that there is an acoustical rationale for locations of frets, and subsequent locations of octaves.

Next lesson is on creating fretboard maps.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts
snglstringtheory@aol.com


Back to theFretboard lessons index
Next lesson - Creating fretboard maps
Previous lesson - chromatic scale applied to the fretboard
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Last updated February 9, 2003
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