Category Archives: Guitar

Guitar Block System: Block 3

This week, we’re on to the third block. This one spans a minor third, though. Done with the normal steps – now we’re dealing with bigger intervals! If you forgot what a minor third is, don’t worry – this interval can be found by traveling three half steps. For example, if you were to start on fret 4, you would go up to 7 or down to 1 in order to find the minor thirds.

Like Block 2, Block 3 is widely used. In fact, Block 3 and Block 2 go together quite well – you can combine those two blocks together and find both Pentatonic scales. In addition, Block 3 is heavily involved in playing the blues scale. I’ll discuss the pentatonic scales later this week and will get to the blues scale in the very near future.

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. 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 3 Example 1

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

Block 3 Example 2

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

Block 3 Example 3

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

Block 3 Example 4

Before now, I haven’t talked about what fingers to use on the fretboard. The reason is the fretting is pretty clear-cut in the first two blocks. However, this one isn’t so clear-cut. Some people might not like that, but I actually like the fact that we have options on fretting this one. Ultimately, you have two choices here: You can either stay fully locked in position and play fret 8 with your pinky finger OR you can stretch out a bit and play fret 8 with your ring finger. Take your pick… or try both!

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. 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 note.

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 for Block 4… and later this week for our first actual scales.

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

Like last week, this week’s block – Block 2 – is quite simple. This time, pick a note then move up or down a whole step. In fretboard-speak, skip the very next fret and go to the one after it (Example: If you’re on fret 4, the whole step up is on fret 6 and the whole step down is fret 2). Easy to use and great for warmups.

Unlike Block 1, however, Block 2 is widely used. The majority of scales used in popular song rely HEAVILY on whole steps, so most scale patterns I’ve found on guitar use this block at least once. In addition, power chords come from the block’s hand formation. If you want to play a lot of metal, get used to this one (OR you could just detune string 6 a whole step – that would work too. I’ll have a series of posts about alternate tunings later on).

Like last time, there are four ways to play this block as a simple exercise, all of which are written to start on fret 5. 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 Example 1

Next, you start at the string 1 (high E) and return to string 6 (low E):Block 2 Example 2

Now, head back up to string 1, but this time start on the block’s higher note:Block 2 Example 3

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

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 for Block 3.

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 1

This first block is by far the simplest. Pick a note, then move up or down a half step. That’s it! Just go to the next fret in whichever direction you feel like traveling and there you have it. This block doesn’t have much use in scales – not by itself, anyway – but it’s great for moving around on the fretboard, warmups, and for recovering from the wrong note you just hit (Am I speaking from experience here? You better believe it). I’m sure we’ll find other uses for it, too!

Here are four ways to play this block as a simple exercise, all of which are written to start on fret 5. 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 Example 1

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

Block 1 Example 2

Now, head back up to string 1, but this time start on the block’s higher note: Block 1 Example 3

Finally, return to string 6 while playing the higher note first in each block. Block 1 Example 4

There are also three ways to pick these exercises, if you so choose. First, down-pick every note. After that, you might want to try alternate picking – down then up. 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 note.

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.

A Note On Intervals

I know this post is a little long-winded, so here's a picture of a bunny.

I know this post is kinda long-winded, so here’s a picture of a bunny.

Before we get cracking in the guitar block system, let’s review a basic theory concept: INTERVALS. Why? Because they’re everywhere. When you move from note one to note two, that’s an interval. Guitars are tuned with two particular intervals. Even this guitar block system revolves around intervals. They’re everywhere!

So what is an interval? Well, the term Interval can be defined in five words: The distance between two notes. That’s easy enough, isn’t it? When you move from one note to another note, the distance you traveled to get to that second note is the interval. The guitar block system uses four specific intervals, so let’s talk about them now.

First up is the Minor Second, or, as it’s more commonly known, the Half Step. This is the distance from one note/fret to the very next note/fret. On guitar, that’s moving from, say, fret 3* to fret 4. On piano, this is moving from one key to the very next key.

Next is the Major Second, also known as the Whole Step. One whole step is equal to two half steps, skipping that weird note in the middle. On guitar, this is going from fret 3 to fret 5. On piano, this can be done by playing two white keys and skipping the black key in between.

Now for the thirds. The Minor Third is three half steps OR one and a half steps if you’re so inclined. Using the fret 3 example, this is now moving up to fret 6.

Lastly, the Major Third. This is either four half steps OR two whole steps, depending on how you’re feeling at the time. If you like the fret 3 example, then you’ll be traveling from fret 3 to fret 7. ALSO, the distance between String 2(B) and String 3(G) is a major third.

BONUS: The Perfect Fourth. One of three “perfect” intervals, so named because they give no indication if they’re major or minor. A perfect fourth is five half steps OR two and a half steps apart. With the exception noted above, guitars are tuned in fourths – therefore, the distance between two open strings (except for 2 and 3) is a perfect fourth. Using our favorite example, you would be traveling from fret 3 to fret 8. More commonly, though, you will wind up going from an open string to fret 5 on that same string.

Questions? Ask away in the comments. Otherwise, I’ll see you soon with the first block.

*If you wind up trying these fret 3 examples on string 1(High E) or string 6(Low E), your new buddy is called G. Elsewhere: Fret 3 is C on string 5(A), F on string 4(D), A-sharp or B-flat on string 3(G), and D on string 2(B).

The Guitar Block System: An Introduction

So you got yourself a guitar. Fantastic! Congratulations! And you would LOVE to be Big Mr. Shredder McGoo, but right now you’re… well… not. But that’s OK! I’m here to help. Introducing: THE GUITAR BLOCK SYSTEM!

Over the past near-decade I’ve spent teaching music, the biggest puzzle I’ve faced on guitar is scales. Try as we might, I’m convinced that there is no good, foolproof way of teaching scales on guitar. Even the simplest scale diagram can make a student go cross-eyed. What do we do? Well, I decided to  make my own system designed to teach the concept of scale playing: THE GUITAR BLOCKS.

After poring through books and wandering around on my own guitars, I’ve broken it down to ten (10) blocks – four of which contain two notes per string, the other six contain three. These ten blocks are found in all scales – Normal, Pentatonics (which will show up first), Modes, and even the weird ones. I’m going to introduce the blocks first then apply them to scales later on. I will also include some technical and melodic exercises as I talk about each block. The melodic exercises will serve as a way to introduce lead playing while the technical exercises can be used for warming up before you practice/record/rehearse/gig. They’re kinda like Legos, except they won’t hurt your feet when you step on them.

So there you have it. See you soon for the first block… and a little theory review while we’re at it.