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Unlock the Fretboard with the CAGED System pt. 2

In part one of “Unlock the Fretboard with the CAGED System” I went over the basic idea of the caged system. C, A, G, E and D lay out across the fretboard to cover the whole neck of the guitar and you can shift them to play in any key.

We then filled in all of the surrounding chord tones to make our major triad arpeggios.

For pt. 2 I’d like to talk about how these arpeggios become scales and what the minor shapes are.

Check out this video overview of the material in this article.


Add the 2nd and 6th to the major triad and you have pentatonic.

Add the minor 3rd to pentatonic and you have blues.

and add the 4th and 7th to pentatonic to make the major scale.


The same thing applies to minor. The root and 5th are the same. The 3rd, 6th and 7th are minor. (flat them by moving them down one fret).

Minor Chord/ Arpeggio (flat 3rd)

Minor Scale (add a flat 6th and flat 7th in addition to the flat 3rd)

Major Meets Minor

We can look at the relationship between major and minor in two main ways. Let’s see if I can make this easy…

Relative Minor

The minor scale is the major scale! Start from the 6th note of the major scale and you have the natural minor scale (also called the Aeolian mode). Check it out:

Back To Back

See Rock Prodigy Lesson 7: Whole Half for info on how whole and half steps lay out, up a string and across strings.

Put them next to each other and we see that the major scale is WWH WWWH. And starting on the 6th degree of the major scale we have WHW WHWW.

Which gives the minor scale three different notes from the major scale. The 3rd, 6th and 7th are flat.

Shift The Shape

Congrats if you’re still here. It’s a lot, especially if it’s new to you. OK so, if major and minor are the same shape that means we can shift from major to minor in two ways.


One way is by playing a different CAGED shape in the same spot. Since minor is just a mode of major then our major CAGED shapes work for minor. Here’s what happens, all of our major CAGED shapes shift over one to become the equivalent in minor. To get the C shape for minor, use the CAGED shape before it for minor. I know it’s kind of confusing at first. Let’s keep going. To get CAGED minor use D-CAGE major shapes. Check it out.

C-Cm Shape

Our Cm shape is the same as the D major shape.

D – Dm Shape

Our Dm shape is the same as the E major shape.

A – Am Shape

Our Am shape is the same as the C major shape.

E – Em Shape

Our Em shape is the same as the G major shape.

G – Gm Shape

Our Gm shape is the same as the A major shape.


The other is by shifting a major CAGED shape up three frets to make it into a minor key and back to make it major again.

Note: This all also applies to the pentatonic and blues scales. Minor pentatonic is: R-b3-4-5-b7-R Minor blues is: R-b3-4-b5-5-b7-R

Change Key

Learn the notes on the neck and shift the shape to play in any key. The CAGED system shapes help with finding the notes on the neck as well. Check it out:

Once you are comfortable with the concepts in this blog try this exercise to practice the scale shapes.

By Mike Georgia for

Major Roundup

Minor Roundup

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