Octaves and melody

One of the techniques in jazz that I think is underutilized in acoustic guitar playing is the use of octaves. Listen to any of the jazz greats — Joe Pass for instance — and you’ll discover how often they use octaves.

It’s a great method for emphasizing the melody and is sometimes even easier than trying to pick out the individual notes.

In this lesson, I’m going to continue with “Norwegian Wood” by John Lennon (The Beatles) and illustrate octaves as a way to play the melody. It helps that I am playing in a quasi-open tuning of “Drop D” (D-A-D-G-B-E) which is great for the key of D.

I’ve charted out the melody here. The arrows indicate to follow along from left to right, top to bottom.

And you can follow along to the actual progression in a slow-motion video here:

One thing to note is that I am not playing with a pick. I am picking the individual strings with my fingers. Now, it is possible to do this with a pick but you need to be careful to mute the middle string between the two strings that are forming the octave.

This can be done by just resting your index finger of the fretting hand slightly on that middle string.

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I’m using Elixir 12-53 Nanowebs on my guitar. I find these strings last a lot longer than most and have a clear and bright sound. The link here is an affiliate link to Amazon, if you’re interested in trying them out.

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