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Home : Theory and Patterns : Octave Interval Fingerings
OCTAVE INTERVAL SHAPES


All pitches that have the same note name, in different high/low registers are called "octaves".  There are only 2 basic octave shapes on guitar fretboard:

R | |         | | | R
| | |   and   | | | |
| | R         | | | |
              R | | |

These shapes can be positioned on any string, at any fret, and the two notes defined by the shape have the same note name.

The first shape above is separated by 1 empty string and 1 empty fret, and faces RIGHT from the lower (thicker string) note.

The second shape is separated by 2 empty strings and 2 empty frets, and faces LEFT from the lower note.

IMPORTANT RULE:  Whenever the octave shape encompasses the 2nd and 3rd string, the top (thinnest string) note needs to be MOVED UP 1 fret.

By combining the 2 octave shapes and the 2nd-3rd string shift rule above, you can find all the possible positions of any note on the guitar:

R | | | | R
| | | | | |
| | R | | |
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
| | | | R |
| | | | | |
| R | | | |
| | | | | |
| | | R | |
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
R | | | | R    The entire pattern starts over here, 12 frets higher,
               and repeats infinitely up and down the fretboard.



MAJOR SCALES:

The major scale interval patterns found within the 2 basic octave shapes are as follows:

The "right" facing shape looks like this (notes in parentheses are optional or alternate):

(7)(3)(6)
 R  4  |
 |  |  7
 2  5  R
 |  |  |
 3  6  2
 |  |  |
 | (7) 3


The "left" facing shape looks like this:

 |  |  |  7
 6  2  5  R
 |  |  |  |
 7  3  6 (2)
 R  4  |  |
 |  | (7)(3)
(2) |  |  |

IMPORTANT RULE:  Whenever the octave shape encompasses the 2nd and 3rd string, the intervals on the 2nd AND 1st strings need to be MOVED UP 1 fret.

By connecting the 2 shapes above, along with the 2nd-3rd string shift rule, you can find every possible major scale fingering which can be played on the instrument, all the way up and down the neck:

R 4 | | 5 R
| | 7 3 | |
2 5 R 4 6 2
| | | | | |
3 6 2 5 7 3
4 | | | R 4
| 7 3 6 | |
5 R 4 | 2 5
| | | 7 | |
6 2 5 R 3 6
| | | | 4 |
7 3 6 2 | 7
R | | | 5 R    The entire pattern starts over here, 12 frets higher

You'll notice a few common patterns.  For example, the
intervals  R/4  2/5  3/6  5/R  6/2 and 7/3  are always on the same fret on adjacent strings, and 4/7 are always one fret apart (except on the 2nd-3rd string, where all the notes are split apart by one additional fret).  The intervals 7/R and 3/4 are always one fret apart on the same string.  All other intervals are 2 frets apart on the same string.  Equivalent intervals can be found 5 frets higher on the adjacent bass/thicker strings (except between the 2nd-3rd string, where the 2nd string note is shifted up 1 fret).
 
To clarify how the entire fretboard interval pattern is laid out, here is the entire diagram above, broken up into individual octave fingerings (and pieces of fingerings, where the entire octave fingering runs out of strings):

R 4 | | | |
| | 7 | | |
2 5 R | | |
| | | | | |
3 6 | | | |

| | | 2 | 7
| | | | 5 R
| | | 3 | |
| | R 4 6(2)
| | | | | |
| |(2)|(7 3)

| | R 4(6)|
| | | | | |
| | 2 5 7 |
| | | | R |
| | 3 6 | |

2 5 R | | |
| | | | | |
3 6 | | | |
4 | | | | |
| 7 | | | |

| | | | 6 2
| | | | | |
| | | | 7 3
| | | | R 4

| | | | R 4
| | | | | |
| | | | 2 5
| | | | | |
| | | | 3 6

| | 2 5 7 |
| | | | R |
| | 3 6 | |
| R 4 | | |
| | |(7)| |

3 6 | | | |
4 | | | | |
| 7 | | | |
5 R | | | |

| | |(6)| |
| R 4 | | |
| | | 7 | |
| 2 5 R | |
| | | | | |
| 3 6 | | |

| | | |(R)4
| | | 6 | |
| | | | 2 5
| | | 7 | |
| | | R 3 6

5 R | | | |
| | | | | |
6 | | | | |
| | | | | |
7 | | | | |

| | | R(3)6
| | | | 4 |
| | | 2 | 7
| | | | 5 R
| | | 3 | |

| | |(7)| |
| 2 5 R | |
| | | | | |
| 3 6 | | |
R 4 | | | |
| |(7)| | |

Again, all those little shapes fit together to cover the entire fretboard, in this compete interval fingering that covers the entire fretboard:

R 4 | | 5 R
| | 7 3 | |
2 5 R 4 6 2
| | | | | |
3 6 2 5 7 3
4 | | | R 4
| 7 3 6 | |
5 R 4 | 2 5
| | | 7 | |
6 2 5 R 3 6
| | | | 4 |
7 3 6 2 | 7
R | | | 5 R

This author prefers to think of the fretboard as being separated into 4 distinct sections, 2 (left and right facing) based around the 6th string root note, and 2 (left and right facing) based around the 5th string root note:

| | |(7)| |
6 2 5 R 3 6
| | | | 4 |
7 3 6 2 | 7
R 4 | | 5 R
| | 7(3)| |
               (two root 6 shapes)
R 4 | | 5 R
| | 7 3 | |
2 5 R 4 6 2
| | | | | |
3 6 2(5)7 3

3 6 2 5 7 3
4 | | | R 4
| 7 3 6 | |
5 R 4 | 2 5
               (two root 5 shapes)
5 R 4 | 2 5
| | | 7 | |
6 2 5 R 3 6
| | | | 4 |
7 3 6(2)| 7

It is suggested that you practice and learn these patterns intimately, so that you can play them quickly, and instantly name every single interval number in each of the positions.

The most important thing to understand about the fingering patterns above, and especially the complete fingerboard interval pattern it creates, is that they are ALL DERIVED ENTIRELY FROM THE 2 SIMPLE OCTAVE INTERVAL PATTERNS AND THE 2ND-3RD STRING SHIFT RULE.  If you ingrain only those two shapes and the 2-3 string shift rule, you can find *any* interval pattern possible on the guitar, anywhere on the instrument, in every position, throughout the entire range of the instrument.  There is very little to memorize, and the fingerings allow you to find notes in a way that makes the whole fretboard fit together logically and musically, both vertically across the strings, and horizontally up and down the neck.

The key to learning this large and daunting fingerboard pattern is to simply practice the 2 octave shapes on every string, combining them into larger 2 octave sections (the 4 sections above), as you learn the logic.


CONVERTING THE MAJOR SCALE FINGERINGS INTO OTHER CHORDS/SCALES:

The real power of the above fingering knowledge comes from simply understanding how to create other chords from the intervals of the major scale.

To find notes that fit over a minor chord, just flat (move down 1 fret) the "3" and "7" intervals.

To play notes that fit over a dominant chord, flat the "7" interval.

Over a m7(b5) chord, flat the "3", "7", and "5" notes.

Other intervals such as
"b6" ("flat 6"), "b5" ("flat 5", also called "#4", "#11", or the "blues" note), etc. always have the same characteristic sound over any given chord type.


For reference, here is a list of all the most common chord types:

CHORD TYPE:           INTERVALS:            SYMBOLS:

Power Chord           1    5                5
Major Triad           1    3    5           none  (just a root noot)
Minor Triad           1   b3    5           m, min, mi, -
Dominant 7            1    3   (5)  b7      7
Major 7               1    3   (5)   7      maj7, M7, (triangle) 7
Minor 7               1   b3   (5)  b7      m7, min7, mi7, -7
Half Diminished 7     1   b3   b5   b7      m7b5, (circle with line) 7
Diminished 7          1   b3   b5  bb7 (6)  dim7, (circle) 7
Augmented 7           1    3   #5   b7      7aug, 7(#5), 7(+5)


Add these intervals to the above 7th chords to create "extended" chords:

9 (is same as 2)   11 (is same as 4)   13 (is same as 6)   

Examples:              9          =    1   3  (5)  b7    9
                       min9       =    1  b3  (5)  b7    9
                       13         =    1   3   5   b7   13
                       9(+5)      =    1   3  #5   b7    9
                       maj9(#11)  =    1   3  (5)   7    9  #11


Here are some more common chord types:

"sus"       =  change 3 to 4
"sus2"      =  change 3 to 2
"add9"      =  1 3 5 9  (same as "add2", there's no 7 in "add" chords)
"6,  maj6"  =  1 3 5 6
"m6, min6"  =  1 b3 5 6
"6/9"       =  1 3 5 6 9
11          =  1 b7 9 11
"/"         =  Bassist plays the note after the slash

WHEN PLAYING OVER ANY CHORD, ** PLAY CHORD TONES ON ACCENTED BEATS **.  Other intervals can be added as passing tones on unaccented beats.  Often, scale formulas are used to determine which intervals can be safely added.  These chord-scale relationships are most common:

Over a Minor chord, play:

Minor Pentatonic, Dorian, Bebop Minor, Blues, Aeolian, Melodic Minor, or Harmonic Minor (depending on the chord progression)

Over a Major chord, play:

Major Pentatonic, Major, Bebop Major, Lydian (depending on the chord progression)

Over a Dominant Chord, play:

Mixolydian, Bebop Dominant, Major/Minor Pentatonic and Blues, Lydian Dominant, Diminished 1 fret higher than the root, Whole tone (depending on the progression)

Over Minor 7 flat 5, play:

Locrian

Scales can be confusing for players to learn.  They're really very simple.  The most important thing to notice with each chord-scale relationship is that the scale CONTAINS THE INTERVALS OF THE CHORD (i.e., dorian (1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7) contains the intervals in a minor chord (1 b3 5 b7).  The other intervals (2 4 6) are just added to form a complete set of notes.  The Minor Pentatonic, Bebop Minor, Aeolian, Melodic Minor, and all the other minor choices simply contain slightly varied passing tones (b6, for example, instead of 6).  That's all scales are - just the notes of a chord with a few additional passing tones.  All the complex names and fingerings patterns are really very simple when you see them in this way - simply slight variations on basic chord interval patterns.

The interval patterns of the most common SCALE types are shown below:

Major:           Minor Pentatonic:    Blues:            Major Pentatonic:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7    1 b3 4 5 b7          1 b3 4 b5 5 b7    2 3 5 6

Mixolydian:      Dorian:              Lydian:           Locrian:          
1 2 3 4 5 6 b7   1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7      1 2 3 #4 5 6 7    1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

Natural Minor (Aeolian):    Harmonic Minor:     Melodic Minor:
1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7            1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7     1 2 b3 4 5  6  7 (ascending)
                                                1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (decscending)

Bebop Dominant:     Bebop Major:        Bebop Minor:
1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7    1 2 3 4 5 #5 6 7    1 2 b3 3 4 5 6 7

Diminished:           Whole Tone:       Lydian Dominant:
1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 6 7    1 2 3 #4 #5 b7    1 2 3 #4 5 6 b7

Chromatic (every possible note):
1 b2 2 b3 3 4 b5 5 b6 6 b7 7


By learning the 2 basic octave fingerings and the 2-3 string shift rule, along with the formulas of all the common chord (and/or scale) types, you can easily learn and begin to play every possible type of harmonic structure, in every possible position on the guitar.  This entire process, however, is NOT necessary.  Simply knowing the basic major, minor, and dominant interval patterns is enough to play over almost any chord progression.  Learning the basic interval patterns, using the octave shapes and 2-3 string shift rule, can in fact be completed in a single day.  That goal is NOT attainable in any other way.

More importantly, the 2 simple octave fingering patterns provide ways to play not only scales OR chords, but also complete chords AND pieces/parts of chords ALONG WITH scale fingerings, everywhere on the neck, in a way that tends to provide very musical results.  The simplicity, along with the actual musical sounds you create, the freedom to move anywhere on the fretboard, and the complete and theoretically solid understanding of the fretboard you develop leads to a total understanding of music in a way that cannot be grasped any other way.


HOW TO PRACTICE:

Practice this approach to learning intervals for 1-2 weeks using single scales over single chord grooves, or single scales over entire chord progressions.  For example:


Over an A7 chord groove

Play:  1 2 3 4 5 6 b7   (A B C# D E F# G)


Over an Am chord groove

Play:  1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7  (A B C D E F# G)


Over an A major chord groove

Play:  1 2 3 4 5 6 7    (A B C# D E F# G#)


Over:  I iii IV V I ii IV I      (chord progression)

Play:  1 2 3 4 5 6 7             (scale intervals over the same root note)

i.e., over  A C#m D E A Bm D A, play the notes A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#


Over:  I bVII IV IV bVI bIII V   (chord progression)

Play:  1 2 b3 4 b5 5 b6 6 b7 (7) (scale intervals over the same root note)

i.e, over A G D D F C E E, play the notes A, B, C, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, (G#)


Then move on to playing chord progressions, over which you change intervals relative a single root (key) note.  For example, against a blues progression in A (A7, D7, E7):


Over the A7, Play:  1 2 b3 3 4 (b5) 5 6 b7  (root note A)
                   (A B C C# D (Eb) E F# G)

Over the D7, Play:  1 2 b3 4 (b5) 5 6 b7    (root note A)
                   (A B C D Eb E F# G)

Over the E7, Play:  1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7        (root note A)
                   (A B C# D E F# G G#)


Finally, move on to playing individual interval patterns over every individual chord in progressions.  For example, against a blues progression in A:


Over the A7, Play:  1 2 3 4 5 6 b7   (root note A)
                   (A B C# D E F# G)

Over the D7, Play:  1 2 3 4 5 6 b7   (root note D)
                   (D E F# G A B C)

Over the E7, Play:  1 2 3 4 5 6 b7   (root note E)
                   (E F# G# A B C# D)


Playing in this way - picking out the individual notes of each chord in a progression, to form interesting musical phrases, textures, and rhythmic creations - is the ultimate goal of every musician.  Focusing on playing the chord tones (appropriate 1 (b)3 5 and (b)7 intervals), over each chord root, on accented beats, on syncopated beats, etc., is the most important goal.  Learning to add passing tones (2, 4, 6), and altered tones (b2, b5, b6, etc.) to add harmonic/melodic color, and working on combining melodic skips, jumps, and other near/far melodic movement patterns, rhythmic patterns, chord textures, note combinations, and other structural devices that appear in music that you know and like, to make new interesting music, is the final goal of this study.  Specifically working on developing speed and technical ability, to play all possible melodic movement patterns, arpeggios, note groupings, etc., on any given group of notes, should be a primary focus of your practice.

Here are the most common structural devices that can be practiced on any set of notes.

SCALAR "SEQUENCE" PATTERNS:

    4 notes descending    1 7 6 5  7 6 5 4  6 5 4 3 ...
                          1 7 6 5  2 1 7 6  3 2 1 7 ...
    4 notes ascending     1 2 3 4  2 3 4 5  3 4 5 6 ...
                          1 2 3 4  7 1 2 3  6 7 1 2 ...
    3 notes descending    1 7 6  7 6 5  6 5 4 ...
                          1 7 6  2 1 7  3 2 1 ...
    3 notes ascending     1 2 3  2 3 4  3 4 5 ...
                          1 2 3  7 1 2  6 7 1 ...
    3rds                  1 3  2 4  3 5  4 6 ...
                          1 3  7 2  6 1  5 7 ...
    skip down, ascend     3 1 2 3  4 2 3 4  5 3 4 5 ...
                          3 1 2 3  2 7 1 2  1 6 7 1 ...
    skip up, descend      1 3 2 1  2 4 3 2  3 5 4 3 ...
                          1 3 2 1  7 2 1 7  6 1 7 6 ...
    enclosures            1 7 2 1  2 1 3 2  3 2 4 3 ...
                          1 7 2 1  7 6 1 7  6 5 7 6 ...

BENDS:

    Slow:   bend-2  2  1  bend-3 3 2  bend-4 4 2 ...
    fast:   bend-release-2 pulloff-1 7 1   bend-release-3 pulloff-2 1 2


PEDAL TONES:

    1 7 1 6 1 5 1 4 1 3 1 2 1 1
    5 4 5 3 5 2 5 1 5 7 5 6 5 5
    etc...


ARPEGGIOS:

    1 3 5 7  3 5 7 1  5 7 1 3  7 1 3 5


ROLLS AND DOUBLE STOPS:

    Play TOGETHER combinations of any notes from a scale or chord
    Play ALTERNATELY combinations of any notes from a scale or chord

    ** This is perhaps THE most important melodic and textural device.
    ** It encourages melodic skips, instead of straight scalar sequences.
    ** It also encourages textural note combinations instead of single notes.


ADDED TONES:

    Based on the scale 1 2 3 4 5 6 7, here are added passing tones:

    1 b2 2 3  2 b3 3 4  3 4 b5 5  4 5 b6 6

Practicing the above mechanical patterns will provide endless melodic and textural material.  You simply need to apply preconceived rhythms to create musical phrases.


BONUS CLARIFICATION:  THE "CAGED" INTERVAL PATTERNS:

The "CAGED" shapes are often referred to as a way of understanding the guitar fretboard.  They are derived by filling out the intervals found in each of the common C A G E and D movable chord shapes (taken from the common open chord fingering), with the other intervals of the major scale.  The CAGED shapes are nice because they allow you to visualize intervals within common chords shapes, but they ARE NOT REQUIRED, if you learn the intervals within the 2 simple octave shapes.  The CAGED shapes can all be derived from the octave shapes.  They are included here simply to clarify what they are, since the terminology is so popular.  Learning these fingerings can be daunting even for experienced players (very often, to the point that they NEVER actually get learned by most non-professional players).  You do NOT need to learn them if you focus on learning the octave shapes!


    C         A         G         E         D

    ||||O|    ||||||    ||||||    |||O||    ||||||
    ||O|||    ||OOO|    |O||||    |OO|||    |||O|O
    |O||||    ||||||    O||||O    ||||||    ||||O|
                                                        362573   C   ||||||
                                                        4|||14       ||||O|
    C         A         G         E         D           |736||       ||O|||
                                                        514|25   A   |O||||
    362573    514|25    625136    14||51    251462      |||7||       ||||||
    4|||14    |||7||    ||||4|    ||73||    ||||||      625136   G   ||OOO|
    |736||    625136    7362|7    251462    362573      ||||4|       ||||||
    514|25    ||||4|    14||51    ||||||    4|||14      7362|7       |O||||
    ||||||    736||7    ||7|||    362|73    |73|||      14||51   E   O|||OO
                                                        ||73||       |||O||
                                                        251462   D   |OO|||
                                                        ||||||       ||||||
                                                        362573   C   |||O|O
(Look to the right to see how these shapes connect      4|||14       ||||O|
 together to form the complete fretboard pattern).      |736||   ||  ||O|||
                                                        514|25   \/  |O||||

Copyright 2004-2013 Nick Antonaccio, all rights reserved.