SMG Guitar Lesson #2: The Five Octave Positions

Listen: 5 – P4 Octaves Exercise

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.

Listen: 7 – P5 Octaves Exercise

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)

Listen: 6 – P1-P5 Octaves Exercise in G

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”.

Listen: 8 – P1-P5 Octaves Exercise in E

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.


For the full program, The “Hello Guitar” Guide to Getting Started can be found here:

If you need help or have questions with this lesson, click on my name to email me: Robert Johnston


For the main web site, go here:

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  • Thanks Robert. Appreciate the lessons, very helpful…

  • David asks “Hello, I saw your videos on the octave positions, but how do you use them for a song and what are they use for?”

    Good question.

    – Because there are five ways to find octaves, there are at least five ways to play each chord. When composing music, I use this knowledge to find interesting chord voicings and create strong call & response chord progressions. For example, you can play a progression once through and then use different voicings the second time through to create more movement. You can even use your knowledge of chord inversions when writing guitar solos.

    Also when memorizing scale patterns, it’s important to remember which octave position the root note of the key is found in. – This becomes a strong “lock and key” approach to playing, unlocking the entire fretboard for any key you want to play in.

    Be sure to sign to sign up for my free newsletter and be on the lookout for upcoming lessons, where I’ll go into more detail about this technique. In the meantime, be sure to learn the five octave positions – because they’ll come in handy!

  • Mark Ayers Sr

    I just revisited learning the fretboard this morning, timely lesson from you. Thanks Robert.

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