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Octaves – beginner lead and rhythm guitar lesson

If you’re mostly a rhythm player, or (like me), mostly an acoustic player who strums open chords, octaves are a great way to start playing more lead guitar like things. Really, playing octaves is more rhythm guitar style-wise, but it sounds much more like lead guitar than strumming open chords, and it’s a great way to add some more melodic playing to your skill set.

Finger placement for A and G string octaves

A shape-ALTPlaying octaves is pretty simple – you just play 2 strings, and you move the shape up and down the neck. Here is a diagram showing which strings to play for an A-string and G-string octave.

I like to use my index (1) finger on the A string, and my ring (3) finger on the G string. Space your fingers so that you are two frets apart. For example, if your index finger is on the 2nd fret of the A string, your ring finger will be on the 4th fret of the G string.

You’ll want to mute all the other open strings, and it’s pretty easy to do that with your index finger if you lay it across the strings. The only notes that ring out are the A and the G strings.

When you strum the strings, you’ll hear the same note one octave apart. All you need to do now is move the shape around to create melodic lines.

Know your notes

In order to really make octaves work, you need to know the notes on the low E and A strings for the first 12 frets. Since we’re using an A/G string octave, let’s focus on the notes on the A string. Here they are according to the fret:

  • Open: A
  • 1st fret: Bb
  • 2nd fret: B
  • 3rd fret: C
  • 4th fret: Db
  • 5th fret: D
  • 6th fret: Eb
  • 7th fret: E
  • 8th fret: F
  • 9th fret: Gb
  • 10th fret: G
  • 11th fret: Ab
  • 12th fret: A

Notice that the scale starts over at the 12th fret. When you’re playing A/G string octaves, the note you’re playing corresponds to the fret you’re on (on the A string). In the video above, I use a simple example of playing an D – A – G progression. To play that, I went on the A string from the 5th fret (D) to the 12th fret (A) to the 10th fret (G).

As you learn scales, you’ll begin to understand how you can walk up and down in different keys.

Bonus tip

This same octave shape works on the low E and D strings as well – just use the E string notes as a reference for what octave you’re playing.

Octaves are a great tool, and a very easy introduction to more lead-type guitar. They work especially well if you’re playing rhythm or if you’re the only electric guitar player in the band and you need to cover both rhythm and lead type sounds.

Octaves Lesson

18 Responses to Octaves – beginner lead and rhythm guitar lesson

  1. Matthew Mar 12, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    Great tip, I often find myself having to really struggle filling in gaps in walk up or walk downs in songs and this is a simple way to fix those woes! Thanks man!

  2. Kevin Huntsinger Mar 30, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    I am interested in leading by electric and I have a HD500X.. What would you recommend as a clean lead rhythm patch as I am the only guitar player. Also, can you give us some pointers of set up and what it would sound like? Thank you for all that you do.

  3. Thabo Mar 31, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    Great tutorial.An eye opener to help me play in church and spice up my guitar playing.

  4. Brenda Apr 15, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    Thank you so much! I literally just started trying to transition from acoustic to electric… I am too comfortable with the acoustic (and the heavy strumming as you mentioned), but this stirs me in a right direction 🙂 THANKS!

    • Brian Apr 20, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

      Awesome – keep practicing, Brenda! Octaves are such a great tool, especially if you’re new to lead.

  5. Carlos Feb 4, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

    Hi Brian,
    I think the pads are amazing. Your lessons are educational.
    Keep up the good work. I am using the pads this coming Sunday at my Chinese church in Victoria bc Canada. I will let you know the response.

    Carlos chan

    • Brian Feb 29, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

      Thanks Carlos! Hope the Pads work well for your in your church.

  6. Russell Jul 10, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

    Awesome instruction! I have 2 electric guitars and I will be looking at using this technique! Thanks!

    • Brian Aug 2, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

      Thanks Russell – it’s an easy way to play something besides just chords all the time.

  7. Benjamin Dec 13, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    I want to learn from scratch an acoustic guitar
    Need your help big time
    Have no idea of the chords.
    I have a passion to play it in church
    How would you help me
    Thank you

    • Brian Jan 11, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

      Hi Benjamin – check out the beginner guitar course here on the site – should be exactly what you’re looking for.

  8. Benjamin Dec 13, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

    I want to learn so much just don’t have some one to teach me
    I need you help.

    • Brian Jan 11, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

      Hi Benjamin – check out the beginner guitar course here on the site – should be exactly what you’re looking for.

  9. joey Mar 27, 2017 at 1:46 am #

    awesome videos Brian.Thank you so much for making those videos that really helpful especially for beginners.

  10. joey Mar 27, 2017 at 1:48 am #

    i wish that you give us also some guitar tabs for more worship songs.

  11. Joshua Apr 19, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

    I just want to learn how to make my own solo in guitar. Can you help me?

    • Joshua Apr 19, 2017 at 8:51 pm #

      Im also guitarist in our church .

    • Brian Oct 20, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

      Hi Joshua – I’ve found the best way is to first learn scales, then start learning solos and lead lines from songs – pretty soon you’ll be coming up with your own melodies.

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