Monthly Archives: September 2013

Guitar Block System: Block 1-2

Hey, did you like last week’s block? Did you like the “minor” sound to it, but wished you could have something that sounds even more “minor” than that? Well, you’re in luck. This week, we move the half-step earlier in the block, giving us a shift from minor to Phrygian mode (natural minor with the second degree lowered). I’ll talk about modes in depth later, but I must mention that I like to call Phrygian mode “The Heavy Metal Mode”. For a quick example to show what I’m talking about, check out the opening riff to Megadeth’s “Symphony of Destruction”.

There are four ways to play this block as a simple exercise, all of which are written to start on fret 5 (side note: there are more than 4 ways to play the three-note blocks. We’ll talk about the others later). If you need a bit of direction on how to read these, see the Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide at the end of this post.

First, go from string 6 (low E) to string 1 (high E):

Block 1-2 Example 1

Next, start at the string 1 (high E) and return to string 6 (low E):

Block 1-2 Example 2

Now, head back up to string 1, but this time start on the block’s higher note:

Block 1-2 Example 3

Finally, return to string 6 while playing the higher note first in each block.

Block 1-2 Example 4

There are three ways to pick these exercises, if you so choose. First, down-pick every note. After that, try alternate picking – down then up (a little trickier now, since every other string will start with a note picked up, but still highly worthwhile). Lastly, as a real test of your fretting abilities, only pick the first note of each block then either hammer-on (first two examples) or pull-off (last two) to the other notes.

As mentioned before, there are other ways to play these three-note blocks. If you REALLY want to test your fretting hand, play these exercises again, switching the second and third note in each block (5-8-6 for the first two examples, 8-5-6 for the last two).

Exercises are great, but feel free to have some fun with these, too. Experimentation is highly encouraged. And above all, pay attention to what you’re doing – Your next mistake could easily turn into your next riff. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide: String 1 = E, 2 = B, 3 = G, 4 = D, 5 = A, 6 = E. In tablature, string 6 is at the bottom of the staff while string 1 is at the top. The numbers on the lines tell you what fret to play and the lines themselves tell you what string to play.

Guitar Block System: Block 2-1

This week, I’m going to talk about a common  guitar fingering pattern: Block 2-1. So common that it already showed up last week, this block simply starts on a note, moves up a whole step, then up a half step. If you want your line to have a “minor” sound/feel, then this is a fantastic tool. In fact, if you play this block on consecutive strings (provided not on strings 2 and 3), then you get the first six notes of the natural and harmonic minor scales (we’ll get to those later).

As before, there are four ways to play this block as a simple exercise, all of which are written to start on fret 5 (side note: there are more than 4 ways to play the three-note blocks. We’ll talk about the others later). If you need a bit of direction on how to read these, see the Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide at the end of this post.

First, go from string 6 (low E) to string 1 (high E):

Block 2-1 Example 1

Next, start at the string 1 (high E) and return to string 6 (low E):

Block 2-1 Example 2

Now, head back up to string 1, but this time start on the block’s higher note:

Block 2-1 Example 3

Finally, return to string 6 while playing the higher note first in each block.

Block 2-1 Example 4

There are three ways to pick these exercises, if you so choose. First, down-pick every note. After that, try alternate picking – down then up (a little trickier now, since every other string will start with a note picked up, but still highly worthwhile). Lastly, as a real test of your fretting abilities, only pick the first note of each block then either hammer-on (first two examples) or pull-off (last two) to the other notes.

Exercises are great, but feel free to have some fun with these, too. Experimentation is highly encouraged. And above all, pay attention to what you’re doing – sometimes the best ideas emerge from mistakes and accidents. This block, in particular, can be quite fruitful for new ideas. See you next week!

Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide: String 1 = E, 2 = B, 3 = G, 4 = D, 5 = A, 6 = E. In tablature, string 6 is at the bottom of the staff while string 1 is at the top. The numbers on the lines tell you what fret to play and the lines themselves tell you what string to play.

The Guitarist’s Best Buddy: The Blues Scale

Last week, I teased a scale with the 1-1 Block. I’ve decided not to keep you waiting, so here it is: The Blues Scale! Based on the minor pentatonic, it adds a note a tritone away from the root to make things interesting (This is also one of the “blue notes” in the context of the major scale. See? Jazz Theory really is a thing!). It’s easy to understand, simple to use, and acts as a good confidence builder by helping you make some “cool” sounds early on in your playing career. Worked for a 12-year-old me, that’s for sure…

The blues scale consists of four blocks. I have already taught three of them (Block 2, Block 3, and Block 1-1) and the fourth is an essential one I’ll get to next week. Every block starts on fret 5 here (That’s another nice thing about the blues scale – no position changes required), so you’ll easily figure where that fourth block is. Here you go!

Blues Scale Example

Usually, in guitar scale books, an extra note is added on the top string for the sake of uniformity. If you wish to add it, then move on from that last note in measure two to Fret 8 – completing Block 3.

So there you have it. It’s a scale that, despite its name, winds up in all sorts of contemporary music from… well… Blues to most Rock sub-genres. As an example of the latter, check out the middle of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” – specifically, the riff going into and out of the first guitar solo. Also, to go back a little further, most (if not all) of the King Crimson classic “21st Century Schizoid Man” is based on the blues scale. I could name more, but then I’d be typing all day. So… get searchin’ and you’ll find plenty of examples on your own. Have fun and I’ll see you next week!

Guitar Block System: Block 1-1

This week, we start the second group – the three-note blocks! What better way than to start simple. This one is basically a Block 1 and another Block 1 mashed together. On your journey through Block 1-1, you play completely chromatically and only cover one whole step.

Now, is this block useful? Oh yeah. It’s the focal point of the next scale I’m going to talk about, for one thing. The other thing is a lot of people like to use short chromatic runs in their riffs and solos… generally only about three or four notes. Well, here you go! Have fun and experiment away.

As with the preceding blocks, there are four ways to play this block as a simple exercise, all of which are written to start on fret 5 (side note: there are more than 4 ways to play the three-note blocks. We’ll talk about the others later). If you need a bit of direction on how to read these, see the Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide at the end of this post.

First, go from string 6 (low E) to string 1 (high E):

Block 1-1 Example 1

Next, you start at the string 1 (high E) and return to string 6 (low E):

Block 1-1 Example 2

Now, head back up to string 1, but this time start on the block’s higher note:

Block 1-1 Example 3

Finally, return to string 6 while playing the higher note first in each block.

Block 1-1 Example 4

There are three ways to pick these exercises, if you so choose. First, down-pick every note. After that, try alternate picking – down then up (a little trickier now, since every other string will start with a note picked up, but still highly worthwhile). Lastly, as a real test of your fretting abilities, only pick the first note of each block then either hammer-on (first two examples) or pull-off (last two) to the other notes.

Exercises are great, but feel free to have some fun with these, too. Experimentation is highly encouraged. And above all, pay attention to what you’re doing – sometimes the best ideas emerge from mistakes and accidents. See you next week!

Handy Dandy Little Reading Guide: String 1 = E, 2 = B, 3 = G, 4 = D, 5 = A, 6 = E. In tablature, string 6 is at the bottom of the staff while string 1 is at the top. The numbers on the lines tell you what fret to play and the lines themselves tell you what string to play.