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Michael Casswell Pro Concepts Season 3 - Part 11: Octave Lines

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 33 **

Hi everyone. In this Pro Concepts I want to talk about and demo using 'Octave lines'. One of the greatest exponents of this melodic guitar technique is George Benson. It's almost become one of his trademark lead guitar techniques when he improvises solos, and it's yet another sound you can add to your guitar playing once you are familiar with the mechanics and technique involved.

So hopefully you know what an octave is, but in case you don't, it's the same note 12 semi tones apart. So if you play your open E string, and then play the 12 fret on the E string, they are both E notes, except in a different register, or a different octave. By being able to play both notes at once throughout your chosen scale, you are using octaves. Being able to phrase these octaves as you would single note lines gives you another form of expression and a whole new level of 'cool'.

Some people use 1st and 3rd fingers to do this, and some use 1st and 4th. It makes no difference. I got into the habit of using 1st and 4th just to be able to easily cater for the three fret stretch on the higher strings. There are no rules, just use what is comfortable.  Also you need to learn to visualise the notes you can use from your chosen scale by either looking at your 1st finger whilst your 3rd or 4th is holding the octave, or looking at your 3rd or 4th finger whilst your first finger plays the octave. Once you can see the octave shape you can start to move about freely in a solo. It's much harder to see both fingers at once but that can also work. I think I actually lock on visually to my little finger whilst my 1st finger plays the lower octave unsupervised!

To demonstrate this, I have put our octave lines into a musical context based around Em. I you want to try what I'm playing, then listen a few times and it should stick in your head enough to play along with me. The chords for our A section are Em7 D/E Fmaj7/E and our line over this part is hopefully memorable and easy to play. Our B section  chords are C69 Bm11 and Am9. The line over this is trickier because there are some quick jumps to execute it and it is more complex.

My playing is more to showcase the sound of this technique rather than you to copy. Hopefully you will hear that it's an effective sound and worth putting some effort into perfecting your own octave lines in your own improvisations. I also think it can cross many music genres, so whether you are a jazzer, a rocker or a blueser, this technique will sound cool.

Have fun with it .


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