Jazz Guitar Tips: One-Octave Jazz Guitar Scales

In this first of three articles on how to solo on jazz chord changes, we’ll look at a simple (but very effective) jazz guitar tip:

Use one-octave fingerings for your jazz guitar scales!

We know that, ultimately, in jazz improvisation, our improvised melodic lines should outline the chord progressions (more precisely the chord changes) as effectively as possible. In fact, the melodies from the solo should outline the chord sequence in a creative, yet grounded manner.

So, why one-octave fingerings? Simply put: I want you to fully grasp that you don’t need a whole bunch of complicated jazz guitar scales and arpeggios to outline chords effectively during your solos. In fact, the simplest jazz guitar scales will do it … and we’ll start with their one-octave version. So, watch this video:

“Octaves? Like Wes, right?!”

Nope. We are not going to imitate the great Wes Montgomery here. An octave is simply a musical distance. It’s the time it takes for a note “to repeat itself” so to speak.  In this lesson, we are going to focus on scales that are contained within the interval of an octave.


We solve the usual problem of “too much information” on your jazz guitar journey. Remember those “guitar neck” scales diagrams and posters … just a bunch of dots on a fretboard. 🙂

Plus, it’s easier to memorize musical materials (such as scales and licks) on one octave. You have to know what you are doing if you are dealing within this *constraint* of one-octave (yes, I mean the names of the notes). And thus, you get away from playing visually (by shape) and better connect everything withing your ears.

“But, don’t we need more than one octave?”


In fact, I’d like you to convince yourself of a simple idea. With just twelves notes (say, looking at the piano keyboard in the video, or using one guitar string from fret zero to fret twelve) we have …

… the entire musical universe! 🙂

Within the 12 notes of the chromatic scale we have all the major scales, all the chords, all the melodies … and everything that has ever been written using this musical system. Convince yourself, or write me an email. 😉

How to proceed?

So, back to this jazz guitar tip: you should apply this on the guitar fretboard ASAP. At this point, simply watch the video. We’ll play the C major scale together.

Also, now would be a good time to look at musical materials you already master (jazz guitar scales, licks, arpeggios, tunes, etc.) and try to confine them in one-octave fingerings. Easier said than done, I know …

A Little Help?

Of course, I’m not going to let you go on your own and find one-octave fingerings for the stuff you already know. 😉


The online course Jazz Guitar: Painless Scale Positions has been designed exactly to get you playing your jazz guitar scales in one-octave fingerings immediately. And this is done in all positions, in all keys … on the infamous II-V-I chord progression.

It sounds like a lot of material, I know. But this course has over 2.5 hours of video, 15 precise assignments for you to work on (with tons of PDF). We go through a lot, indeed! 🙂

Click here to check out the Painless Scale Positions course…


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