[Sheet Music]

Lesson 18: Sixths/ Thirds and Octaves

On Sixths/ Thirds and Octaves

Sixths/ thirds and octaves are very guitaristic clichés. Nevertheless, they sound great when thrown in in the right place and when played well.


When playing sixths on the guitar, keep one finger the same throughout and change the other finger when you have to. This makes it easier to move the sixths up and down without slipping and without hitting a wrong note.

Check out the following riff from my Bb blues Pets ( you can find the entire lead sheet on my sheet music page). The first four bars and the last two bars are in the Bb Mixolydian mode, while bars 5 and 6 are in the Eb Mixolydian mode. Use the second finger on the lower note throughout.

Practice scales in sixths, particularly:

  • the Ionian and
  • the Mixolydian mode

Here's another great sixths exercise:


When playing octaves on the third and first string and on the fourth and second string, use the first and the fourth finger. When playing octaves on the fifth and third string and on the sixth and fourth string, use the first and the third finger. And if you want to sound like Wes Montgomery, you have to play with your thumb.

If you're a beginner with octaves, it may help to try to concentrate on where the higher note is and just let the lower note follow. Practice

  • scales in octaves
  • tunes in octaves
  • improvising in octaves

© 2004 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.