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3 Minute Introduction

Five Degree Calculation Line

String Numbering Order

Cipher Demonstrations

Pattern of Unisons and Octaves

Fretboard Note Spellers

Musical number formula translation tables

Free PDFs -- Grids, Spellers, Cipher Formula

Pattern of Unisons and Octaves — Guitar


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The previous demonstration examples were limited to small (3 string) areas of the fretboard. As we enlarge the area, to include all six strings at once, the complete Five Degree Calculation Line, full fretboard patterns, and all available octaves of tones, many points of interest, each wanting attention, will arise simultaneously. Establishing priority among them and finding the best sequence to present them is not an easy task. There are hundreds of possibilities. One thing, however, will emerge and reappear in every future illustration or example, a common thread, regardless of the topic or sequence of presentation, that must be addressed at some point soon. That is; portions of the fretboard's large but invisible pattern of octave tones and unisons. We can't go much further in explaining how the fretboard works without bumping into the Pattern of the Unisons and Octaves.

THE most important fretboard pattern

The Pattern of Unisons and Octaves is by far the most important fretboard pattern a guitarist can and must learn. Unless one has a complete and thorough, memorized and automatic knowledge of it, he or she cannot hope to understand how the fretboard works — with or without the Cipher System.

In music, the octaves of the tonic or root of any interval, scale, or chord, are the landmarks, the starting and end-points, the boundaries within which our musical patterns occur and depend. Octave tones provide the context and the constants that our musical materials and systems require. Likewise, patterns of music on the guitar fretboard are dependent upon and designed around octave tones. But you have to work at it to see them. On the piano keyboard, the layout of black and white keys provides immediate visual recognition of the octave tones of all tones. Repeats in pattern, the octaves, are easy to see. Consequently, the locations of octave tones on the keyboard are taken for granted. The fretboard, on the other hand, provides no clue to the locations of octave tones. Due to it’s visually neutral and unchanging grid, the fretboard's octave patterns must be sought out, memorized, and mentally superimposed upon the fretboard whenever and wherever needed. Furthermore, unlike the keyboard, the fretboard offers two or three different places to play any given octave of any given tone. That is, the fretboard offers unisons for nearly all tones as well as octaves. The fretboard's Pattern of Unisons and Octaves, therefore, cannot be taken for granted it must be illuminated and consciously studied. The Pattern of Unisons and Octaves is the key to obtaining the big picture of how the fretboard works. We really have no choice but to use it as our vehicle for gaining that insight. So taking time to learn about it here and now is not a sidetrack. It’s the right track, and at the right time.

First, I want to make sure that you understand why the Pattern of the Unisons and Octaves is so important, and that we establish sufficient need, reason, and reward for you to take it’s study seriously. This section is a reproduction in full of the 30 page section in the upcoming book devoted solely to this topic. [Note, this depth of coverage has never been done before, anywhere.] We’ll start by jumping ahead of ourselves a bit and look at two revealing illustrations.

Ultimately, knowledge of the Pattern of Unisons and Octaves has only one use. That is; to help us locate and then select from among the many optional places on the fretboard to play any given tone — any octave, any unison, and every location of it. The first need for that knowledge is to help us locate and select our first tone, the starting-point of any musical material: the tonic of a scale, the root of a chord, or the key-center of a composition. Tonics and roots are the foundations upon which all other patterns are built.

To give you some idea of the many options, and optional places, the fretboard offers us at any given time we’ll isolate a single interval, the Major Third, constructed from every “A” note on the fretboard. The Major Third of A is C#. See Figure 1.

In this large-area illustration, spanning 15 frets or more, we find that there are many possible places to play an A note on the guitar fretboard and as many instances of C# notes. Consequently, there are at least eleven (encircled) places and ways to play an A Major Third interval on the guitar.



Figure 1




We haven’t yet examined any details about the Pattern of Unisons and Octaves but it should be clear that we can hardly begin to construct fretboard patterns without first knowing the many locations of a given tonic or root. It follows that we must know twelve patterns of unisons and octaves, one for each tone of the chromatic scale, meaning one for each key, just to began. All patterns of unisons and octaves, however,  are nearly identical. So we only have to know one pattern, top to bottom, backwards and forwards, to know them all.

Knowing the locations of all tonics and roots is just the beginning of this pattern’s usefulness. Every tone on the fretboard, every scale-tone,  every chord-tone, has its own separate (though fundamentally identical) Pattern of Unisons and Octaves. That is; the pattern is universal. It is everywhere at all times. Multiple patterns of the Unisons and Octaves are anchored/rooted to different places on the fretboard, serving different tones, simultaneously. To illustrate how universal the pattern is, and to prove to you that it is indeed the single most important pattern a guitarist can learn, note the following, simplest way, to map out the entire fretboard for any given musical material. We'll use the A Major triad for our example:

By superimposing three complete and separate patterns of unisons and octaves, one for the root A, one for the third C#, and one for the fifth E, we will create a grand all-encompassing Major triad pattern in which every possible Major triad voicing (inversion-state and fingering) can be found and isolated. See Figure 2.



Figure 2




The pattern in depth

With that preview as proof and motive, we’ll return to the beginning and study this pattern in detail.

The Pattern of Unisons and Octaves is the most unique of all fretboard patterns. First, it is the largest, requiring a twelve fret area to complete itself once. That is; it spans the entire fretboard. It is also unique among fretboard patterns due to its limited membership. Ironically, even though it's the largest fretboard pattern, it only contains one thing; every location, octave, and unison, of a single tone. e.g. all and only E notes, or all and only A notes, etc. Also ironic, considering its importance, the pattern is not meant to be played, per say. The Pattern of Unisons and Octaves is primarily a reference pattern, one of the handful, including the tuning pattern, and now, the Five Degree Calculation Line.

The Pattern of Unisons and Octaves can and should ultimately be conceptualized as a single thing, THE pattern, that can be moved up and down the fretboard and aligned to represent any desired tone. However, due to its large size, the pattern never presents itself exactly the same way twice within the first twelve frets. It splits or divides at a different point for each of its twelve possible alignments. In practice then, the Pattern of Unisons and Octaves is not a single thing. Rather, there are twelve Patterns of Unisons and Octaves, one for each of the twelve tones of the chromatic scale, and all of them, though nearly identical, are slightly different. Furthermore, any complete pattern can be broken down into smaller subsections of pattern common to all complete patterns. In every day applications, those common pattern fragments, of two to four tones each, are the things we rely on most. THE Pattern of Unisons and Octaves, then, encompasses not one, but many things. The details of which are explained in the following pages.

In the course of this discussion we will also examine the Pattern of Unisons and Octaves in light of the Cipher System. At that point we will link the Five Degree Calculation Line to the Pattern of Unisons and Octaves. The marriage of those two reference patterns provides a leap in understanding of how the fretboard works. In combination, they reveal how all tones on the fretboard are laid out. That is, where everything occurs and why — the ultimate and total big picture revelation. With respect to the Pattern of Unisons and Octaves alone, we will learn: where the members of the pattern occur, which of them are octaves tones and why, and which are unisons and why. Before we apply the Cipher System, however, we'll acquaint ourselves with some of the fundamentals of the pattern.

We'll begin with a conceptually ideal complete Pattern of Unisons and Octaves, one that is not split, divided, or fragmented. ( Page 2)






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© Copyright 2002   Roger Edward Blumberg


All  text, images, system components, devices, key terminology* and logos, on this web site are copyrighted [physically at the U.S. Library of Congress]. Reproduction in any form without written permission from the author and creator is prohibited.

[*including but not limited to: The Cipher System, The Cipher, Music Theory Cipher, The Guitarist’s Music Theory Cipher, Blumberg’s Music Theory Cipher for Guitar, Cipher Formula, The Five Degree Calculation Line, Perfect-fourth Calculation Line, The Seven Degree Calculation Line, Perfect-fifth Calculation Line, Fretboard Navigator, Counting Grids, The Pattern of Unisons and Octaves, Rooting-Center, The Fifth String Pattern Shift, The Third String Pattern Shift, Commonsense String Numbering Order.]

Thank you.

© Copyright 2002   Roger E. Blumberg












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