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.

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