Tech Tip:What is an Octave?

Take me to


Dennis Orlacker; New Hampshire


Q: I'm a bit confused on the subject of Octaves.....if I were to play the D string open, then go up to the 12th fret, and play that note fretted, I just played an octave higher, right? I would also like to know if that would be considered a half step or whole step above the open D, or does that even come into play here?


A: You are correct that the note on the 12th fret is an octave higher than the same open string.


The word octave comes from the root "octa" that means 8, like an octagon has 8 sides. The octave note you are playing is 8 scale degrees above the first note and is where the scale starts to repeat itself.


If you want to know how to find an octave using whole steps and half steps here is the formula. An octave is 12 half steps above; on the guitar one fret is a half step. That is why when you played the open string note, then a note on the 12th fret, you went up the neck 12 frets to find the octave.


Hope this helps!

Yours in Music
John McCarthy
Rock House