The CAGED System

Guitar playing done right can sound mystical and complex, leaving you with the feeling that you could never play guitar like that. It’s true that a great player adds verve and magic to the notes he plays, but being competent at licks, fills, and solos is much less complicated and much more attainable that one might think. 

Music is full of patterns. For instance, all of western music theory can be seen as one big pattern in a graphic of the circle of fifths. One such pattern is called the CAGED system. The name CAGED comes from the five open string chords, C, A, G, E, and D. They are basic chords that are typically learned first by a new student of the guitar. By learning each chord and how to move the chord shape up the fretboard, adding the index finger as a bar in place of the nut, each chord shape can be played in all twelve positions. The result in doing so is the ability to play SIXTY chords from only learning FIVE chord shapes. To a beginner, this should go a long way in helping to demystify the fretboard. 

This same approach applies to pentatonic and major scales. There is one scale shape for each of the chords, C, A, G, E, and D in terms of both the pentatonic scale and the major scale. These scale shapes can also be played in each of the twelve positions. This yields the ability to play sixty pentatonic scales and sixty major scales. Learning these scales and how to move between shapes will allow a player to access the entire fretboard in any given key. It is a highly efficient way to gain the ability to improvise and play in any number of musical situations.

Truman YoungComment