The Five Positions of Octaves Given any note or chord, there are only five positions on the guitar neck from which it can be played. This is an incredibly useful tool considering that there are over 600 chords and over 250 different scales that can be played on the guitar. Yet, everything you will ever do on the guitar boils down to understanding these five simple positions. These are the five positions from which a given root note is played with at least one other octave. (Root notes are the notes that define a chord or scale at its foundation. For example, in the C Major chord, the root note is the note C, from which, the rest of the chord gets its name.) In this book, I have labelled these as positions one through five. Add them to your warm-up routine and spend as much time as needed to get familiar with them. We’ll be using these positions quite a bit throughout this book as we learn how to construct numerous scales and chords. Position 1 occurs when the root note is located on the top, bottom, and fourth string.
Most beginner guitar instruction will teach scales and barred chords in position one, where the root note is the lowest note found on the sixth string. The root note two octaves above, is found upon the same fret on the 1st string. This relationship provides an excellent foundation and frame of reference.
Helpful Tips for position 1; • There is one fret in between the root notes on the first and sixth strings and the root note on the fourth string. • There is one string in between the root note found on the 6th string and the root note found on the 4th string • There are two strings in between the root note found on the 4th string and the root note found on the 1st string. • The notes on the top and bottom string of a fret are always the same root note. • In the open position, the notes E, F, and F# occur in position 1
(Disc 1 /Track 2)
Position 2 occurs when the root note is located on the fourth and second strings.
(Disc 1 /Track 3)
Helpful Tips for position 2; â€˘ There are two frets and one string in between the root note on the fourth string and the root note on the second string. â€˘ In the open position, the notes D and Eb occur in position 2 Position 3 occurs when the root note is located on the second and fifth strings.
(Disc 1 /Track 4 - 5)
Helpful Tips for position 3; • Notice how this position seems to fall upon a reverse diagonal • The two notes are two strings apart with one fret in between • In the open position, the notes B, C, and C# occur in position 3
Position 4 occurs when the root note is located on the fifth and third strings.
Helpful Tips for position 4 • The two notes are one string apart with one fret in between • In the open position, the notes A,Bb, and B occur in position 4
Position 5 occurs when the root note is located on the third, first, and sixth strings.
(Disc 1 /Track 6)
Helpful Hints for Position 5; • Position 5 is similar to position 1 in that there are three root notes occurring in this position, two of which occur on the 1st and 6th strings, two octaves apart and upon the same fret. • There are two empty frets in between. • Position 5 is the position just behind position 1 before the 5-position cycle repeats. • In the open position, the notes, G and Ab occur in position 5
Moving up the neck with any given root note, these positions will cycle from one through five before the pattern repeats.
The 5 Octave Positions on the Fret Board (example octaves of G)
(Disc 1 /Track 7)
The five positions are not fret-number specific, meaning that they are found on the neck anywhere a given root note may be found. For example, position 1 for the note F occurs on the 1st and 13th fret, while position 1 for the note D occurs on the 10th and 22nd frets. Position 1 for the note E is located in the “open”. (Disc 1 /Track 8)
Helpful Tips for the 5 Octave Positions; • Cycle through these 5 positions as part of your warm-up routine. • Practice playing all five positions with all 12 notes of the chromatic scale • Remember these 5 simple positions for when we study scales, intervals, and chord inversions. We’ll refer to them frequently throughout the book.
What is a blues scale? A blues scale is a type of six-note scale used frequently in rock, Jazz, R&B, and blues music. It is based upon the five notes of the pentatonic scale with an added “blue note” located in between the fourth and fifth intervals. The Blue note contributes to the scale’s characteristic “bluesy” sound, though sounds best when used sparingly. On the musical compass, a blues scale is constructed by turning the note wheel to the desired root note position and selecting the intervals Root, minor 3rd, 4th, flat 5th, 5th, and dominant 7th.
For example, in the key of G Blues, these six notes would be G, Bb, C, C#, D, and F.
Because there are five positions for finding octaves on the guitar in standard tuning, there are only five blues scale patterns, which occur in order from one through five and are connected to one another through a common root note. (Note: If you do not have the five positions memorized, you may want to review them.) The benefit of memorizing the five blues scale patterns is that it the only note you have to figure out is the root note of the key, and you’ll already know where to find the other surrounding notes instantly. For example, in the key of G, the root note is, of course, G. Simply knowing where you can locate the note G in any octave position, anywhere on the guitar, will be all the information you’ll need to play in the key. These patterns will occur in the same form and sequence in all keys, although they will be found in different locations on the guitar depending on which key you’re playing in. For example, in the key of G Blues, the position one pattern will always be found between the fourth and sixth frets. However, in the key of C Blues, the same pattern is only located between the seventh and eleventh frets. In other words, the location of the patterns is not necessarily fret specific, but depends on what key you’re playing in. It’s also important to remember that you can play in all positions in each key. Keys aren’t restricted to one location on the neck. Rather, each key consists of a specific sequence of notes spanning the entire fret board in all five positions. Eventually, you’ll learn how to play riffs that move back and forth amongst multiple scale patterns, but it’s important to stick to one at a time at first as you learn them first individually. As you learn each of the five blues patterns, take care to memorize where within each pattern you can find the root note, the blue note, interesting fingering patterns that make each unique, and also the similarities between them.
The Blues Scale – Intervals Exercise Take a look at the diagrams below. On the left side are the five octave positions and surrounding intervals. On the right side are the five corresponding blues patterns. Based on where the root note, (labelled “R”), is located within each position, observe how each blues pattern consists of only the intervals Root, min3, 4, b5, 5, and ∆7 In other words, although there are five separate patterns, they are all part of the same sequence of the six notes forming the blues scale.
Blues Scale Pattern 1 (Disc 1 /Track 9)
In the key of G blues, the blues scale in position one is located between the third and sixth frets.
G Blues in Position 1 (Disc 1 /Track 10) *The theme of these first five exercises is loosely based on the main riff from Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign” placed into a twelve-bar blues progression. I’ve deliberately included every note in each pattern to illustrate how you can move around creatively within each position. Try to locate both the root notes and blue notes, and visually reference each scale pattern as needed. Play each exercise at a slow to moderate tempo, making sure to alternate your picking. – Good technique is just as important as learning theory!
Blues Scale Pattern 2 (Disc 1 /Track 11)
In the key of G blues, the blues scale in position two is located between the fifth and ninth frets.
G Blues in Position 2 (Disc 1 /Track 12)
Blues Scale Pattern 3 (Disc 1 /Track 13)
In the key of G blues, the blues scale in position three is located between the seventh and eleventh frets.
G Blues in Position 3 (Disc 1 /Track 14)
Blues Scale Pattern 4 (Disc 1 /Track 15)
In the key of G blues, the blues scale in position four is located between the ninth and thirteenth frets.
G Blues in Position 4 (Disc 1 /Track 16)
Blues Scale Pattern 5 (Disc 1 /Track 17)
or 0 In the key of G blues, the blues scale in position five is located between the twelfth and sixteenth frets, but can also be played in the open position between frets zero and four.
G Blues in Position 5 (Disc 1 /Track 18)
It’s always important to take note of how a given key is played in the open range of the guitar – within frets zero and four. Ultimately, this gives you ideas of which open strings you can play off of as well as ideas for low-down and dirty blues riffs in the lower note range. In this case, the fifth position of G and the G blues scale fit perfectly in the open range. Here is the same exercise as before, only now it’s shifted down one octave. (Disc 1 /Track 19)
The Blues Shuffle (Disc 1 /Track 20) A blues shuffle is created by playing eighth notes as if they were a set of triplets (a group of three notes forced into the same amount of time as two would be) with the first two tones of the triplets tied together and played as one note. In general, the first eighth note in each group of two will seem slightly longer, while the second will seem slightly shorter. If you want to count this out correctly, you can steadily count each group as 1,2,3, while only playing only on counts one and three. Speed up this effect a bit and we have what is known as the blues shuffle.
A steady blues shuffle can be achieved by alternating your picking or strumming steadily up and down. If you already have a part of your body (in this case your right hand) that stays in motion and keeps the beat for you automatically, it’s much easier to focus less on timing and more on other elements of musical expression.
Call and Response Call and response is another technique used frequently in blues music that was developed by groups working in the fields. One workman would lead the song one line at a time (ex. “Black Betty where’d you come from?”), and the rest of the group would chant a response (“Bam-Ba-Lam”). This helped to keep the shovels and hammers in sequence and everyone working at a steady productive tempo. This concept has evolved so that we don’t necessarily need lyrics to create a call and response, but can have the same echoing effect through repeated musical phrases. Take a look at the following example
Good-Old-Fashioned Call and Response in A (Disc 1 /Track 21)
Notice how the last four bars of the song, the so-called â€œturn aroundâ€?, is where the chord progression changes more rapidly and the melody becomes more active as it prepares to return to the beginning of the song.
Blues Scale Pattern 1 (Disc 1 /Track 22)
or 0 In the key of E blues, the blues scale in position one is located between the eleventh and fifteenth frets and between frets zero and three in the open range.
E Blues in position 1 (play with Blues Shuffle feel) (Disc 1 /Track 23)
E Blues in position 1 in the open position (blues shuffle feel) (Disc 1 /Track 24)
Blues Scale Pattern 2 (Disc 1 /Track 25)
In the key of E blues, the blues scale in position two is located between the second and sixth frets.
E Blues in position 2 (blues shuffle feel) (Disc 1 /Track 26)
Blues Scale Pattern 3 (Disc 1 /Track 27)
In the key of E blues, the blues scale in position three is located between the fourth and eighth frets.
E Blues in position 3 (blues shuffle feel) (Disc 1 /Track 28)
Blues Scale Pattern 4 (Disc 1 /Track 29)
In the key of E blues, the blues scale in position four is located between the sixth and tenth frets.
E Blues in position 4 (blues shuffle feel) (Disc 1 /Track 30)
Blues Scale Pattern 5 (Disc 1 /Track 31)
In the key of E blues, the blues scale in position five is located between the ninth and thirteenth frets.
E Blues in position 5 (blues shuffle feel) (Disc 1 /Track 32)