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I've got 2 octave(?) related questions. One about starting on the A string and one about starting on the E string.

  1. Regarding the A string: there's a specific part of a Strokes song called "Reptilia". What are the octavey things that are being played during this video at 1:08?

    (its the first break in the song with one isolated guitar before the chorus starts) They're not traditional octaves as they're more than a single string apart. What would you call these?

  2. Regarding the low E string, I've been messing around with the following pretty shapes that were inspired by fingering the above shapes. They all follow a similar pattern (just moving the bass note around):

    • 3rd fret on the E string and 4th fret on the G string

    • 5th on the E string and 6th fret on the G string

    • 9th fret on the E string and 10th fret on the G string

Similarly I can find other spots on the fretboard that seem to fit (the 7th fret E string for example) but I have to adjust my finger so that the G string is also on the 7th fret.

Thanks guys. Hopefully that made sense. I hear these types of voicings in songs from Foals, Daughter, Frightened Rabbit, and The Strokes. If you need more examples let me know.

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These shapes in both your E string and A string questions are minor and major tenths. A 10th is a 3rd interval but with an added octave separating the two notes.

  1. The TAB helps and shows the starting pair of notes is, low to high, B and D so it is a B with a minor 10th above it. The second pair is F# and A, another minor 10th. Even though they are not complete chords because they don’t have a 5th they sound like B minor and F# minor chords. The third and fourth pair are major tenths, G and B, then A and C#. These two sound like G and A major chords. The rest of the pattern is made up of the same 4 shapes in a different order, 3,4,2,1.

  2. Regarding the E string shapes, they too are 10ths, in your case G and B, A and C# and C# and E#, all major 10ths. The one where both notes are on the 7th fret is a minor 10th, with B and D notes.

The 10ths are fingered differently with the low note on the E string as opposed to the A string because of the major 3rd tuning between the G and B strings. The guitar part on Blackbird by the Beatles is made up almost entirely of major and minor 10ths alternating with the open G string, it’s worth a listen.

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  • Somewhat reminiscent of Walk on the Wild Side? – Tim Apr 17 at 9:58
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    @Tim, That has the 10th sound for sure, it’s actually both upright and fretless basses overdubbed. Classic recording. – John Belzaguy Apr 17 at 15:42
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They are not octaves, because they are not playing the same note.

They are thirds (spanning more than one octave of course), a type of dyad for the purists. They are used in countless riffs and songs (Scar Tissue by RHCP and Blackbird by The Beatles, first that I can think of besides what you mentioned).

Among with power chords and already mentioned octaves, they are staples of the rock and metal rhythmic repertoire because they are easy to strum with energy, leaving enough space for other instruments.

While you can have just one type of octave (i.e. perfect or just), you can have minor and major thirds - like in chords, because it's the third that gives a chord its major or minor quality.

You can see how they are a portion of the corresponding bar chord:

Minor shape

-x------
---o----
-----x--
-----x--
-o------
--------

Major shape

-x------
-----o--
-----x--
-----x--
-o------
--------

Apply same reasoning to question 2 : ))

You may ask: how to write a meaningful sequence of thirds? It's exactly like chords, harmonised major scale is the keyword for starting (full of resources on this site already).

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  • “not playing the same note” – better say pitch class. And, the standard term for that interval is tenth, though they are of course very related to thirds. – leftaroundabout Apr 18 at 7:58

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