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Unlock the Fretboard with the CAGED System pt. 1

Are you more comfortable with some areas of the neck than others? Can you easily change keys? Do you connect chords with their scales? The CAGED system of thinking will make all of your playing easier. Once you know the chords C, A, G, E, and D you actually know enough about the fretboard to play in any key and with any scale.

There are only 3 Rules you have to know with the CAGED system:

  1. Every shape you play is moveable;

  2. Learning the notes on the neck will pay you back double in ease of playing and knowledge;

  3. Connect your ear to your hand – practice recognizing the sound with the shape of intervals and chords. Memorizing where the root, 3rd and 5th are in your chord shapes is a great start, especially for the C, A, G, E and D chords.

"On guitar, every chord, scale, melody, etc. is movable."

I explain this in the video link at the end of this lesson.

The CAGED system

This is a system that I learned at Musicians Institute which has also been published in many forms. The CAGED shapes are there on your guitar neck and you may have noticed some of these similarities before.

The idea is that you can cover the entire neck of the guitar with these five chord shapes: C, A, G, E and D. If you look at the root of each of these chords they all match up like puzzle pieces.

Let’s learn how to play a "C" chord on the entire neck as our example.

The “C” Chord Shape

Start with the C chord shape. There are two roots in this shape. One on the B string and one on the A string.

The “A” Chord Shape

The next chord is A. Its root is on both the A and G strings, so C and A have a root on the A string. That means that if you drag A up to C you have a new shape for C. In other words. The same chord SHAPE moved to a different POSITION makes it a different CHORD. Moving the A chord shape up to the 3rd fret makes it a C chord.

The “G” Chord Shape

Next up is G. This chord shape has the root on the G and E strings. The G string root lines up with the G string root in the A shape. That means we can drag the G chord shape up to fit with the A chord shape.

The “E” Chord Shape

Two more left. The E shape has the root on the E strings and the D string. Since both the G shape and the E shape have the root on the E strings E is our connecting shape.

The “D” Chord Shape

Last is D chord. D has a root on two strings, the D and B strings. Just like with the other chords. Since the E shape has a root on the D string, D fits nicely next.

Back Again

Since the D shape has one more root left over and the C shape had an un-paired root on the B string let’s connect them to complete the circle!

Shapes become Arpeggios

Fill in the chord tones and you can play the arpeggio up the entire neck.

This is what each chord shape looks like when you add the surrounding chord tones. These are 100% moveable shapes. If you know where the root is and the note your root is on then you can play any chord anywhere on the neck.

Exercise your chops on CAGED

In this video I introduce both the root, 3rd and 5th in the C, A, G, E, and D chords and also show how to connect the shapes to cover the fretboard.

In part 2 I will show how the CAGED system applies to minor chords, the major and minor scales and the pentatonic and blues scales.

By Mike Georgia for

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