CAGED part V

Lastly we did some scale building and saw that the chord built on the VI degree of the scale is a minor Scale. We learnt that this chord is called the relative minor. In  Cmajor its a A minor chord.

So why is the relative minor so important?

Well its because the Relative Minor Scale has exactly the same notes as the ROOT (Note I ) Major scale. Therefore the Major Scale can be found from the Relative Minor. Every Minor Scale pattern can be thought of as a Relative Minor and therefore every Minor Scale can be used to find the notes in the Major Scale to which it is a Relative Minor Scale to. How does this help us I here you saying well it’s because of this rule that really you only have to memorize 5 Scale Pattern Shapes. Once you know these then you can find 2 scales one Minor and one Major with this information hence extending the amount of scales you know  from 5 to 10. Below I have written out the Cmajor Scale. The Relative Minor always occurs on the VI (Sixth) degree of the Major Scale so in the case on C Major the Relative Minor is A Minor. To find the A Minor Scale simply re-order the Notes in sequence starting from A  and up to the next A note. All the notes in A Minor Scale are taken from the C Major Scale they are simply presented in a new order starting and ending on the Note A.

Cmaj = C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C
Amin= A   B   C   D   E    F   G   A

Both have the same notes but in a different order.

Here are the 2 scales represented in Visual Tablature and Notation. You can see that both Scales use the same notes but start and end on different notes.




The real beauty of this is because if we take the C Major Scale starting on a C Note and then counting back 3 notes we come to A which is the VI (Sixth) degree of the C Major Scale. This is 3 frets back on the Guitar Fretboard. So for example we started on the 6th (lowest) string on the guitar at Fret 8 * which is the note C. Then count back 3 Frets towards the Nut then we will be on the Note A. If we build a Minor Scale Pattern Shape starting on this A note (this will be a G Shape Minor Pattern) then looking at this pattern we can see that we have all the Notes from the C Major Pentatonic Scale. Penta means 5 Notes. There are only 5 notes in a Pentatonic Scale as opposed to 8 in a full Major Scale. This is like have shorthand for the guitar. These are shortened scales and are very useful because they contain all the essential notes you need especially when just starting out. The C major Pentatonic only contains the  Scale Degrees  I , II,  III,  V and VI so these are C , D, E, G, A.

Here is a visual example of the description above


The C Note occurs at the 8th Fret

So we can see that the A Minor Scale Pattern contains exactly the same notes as the C Major Pentatonic Scale. So playing this shape we can either play against A minor Progression ( Chords of A minor and its associated chords) or we can play it against a C Major Chord or a Progression of Chords in C Major such as F or G Major chords as well. If we are playing against a C Major don’t forget that the Root Note of C  will be the second Note of this Scale pattern not the first. Here is a visual of what I mean by Switching the Root Note of the Scale you are using to make it fit better against the Major.


Looking at the Top Diagram if we start a Scale on the VI note A on the 6th String @ the 5th Fret then we will be playing an A Minor Scale treating the VI note as the Root. If we start the Scale at the 8th Fret -6th String C note we will be playing from the Cmajor pentatonic. In reality it does not really matter because all the notes come from the C Major Scale anyway and the A minor is the Relative Minor in that it has exactly the same notes. When using the scale you will find what sounds right when you play against either the Aminor chord or the Cmajor chord your ear will let you know the best notes to use.

In the Top part of the Diagram the Root Note has been shifted from the VI position to the next note in the Scale the C Note. Playing the Pattern from this note makes the scale better fit the C major Chord or Progression of Chords in C Major. This is what I meant by shifting the Root Note to C to better fit the chords you will be playing over. Starting on the C note on the 6th String at the 8th Fret. Play the following and you will be playing a Cmajor Pentatonic Scale ideal to play against a C Major or C Dominant Chord or a progression of chords in C Major.


The Diagram underneath takes the theory to the next level and demonstrates just how useful these Scale Pattern Shapes are because if you play the Same Pattern but shift it up to start on the C note at the 8th fret then what you will be playing is a C Minor Scale or 5 notes from it. This scale C minor is the Relative Minor Scale of Eb ( E Flat). Counting up 3 notes from C or 3 frets on the guitar you get to the Eb Note. C is now the VI Scale Degree (6th Note) of the Eb Major Scale. So you can now play both the C Major Pentatonic Scale and C Minor Pentatonic Scale just by shifting the Scale Shape pattern up 3 frets. This is useful and often a technique used by Blues and Rock Guitar players. I will be going into more detail about this later on but for the moment all you need to know is how the system works and how to find the Relative Minor Scales and Major Scales.


  3. G-SHAPE MINOR * as above diagram8

Therefore if we go back to our CAGED patterns we only have to know one minor shape pattern for at the items on the C-A-G-E-D Grid to be able to know them for the Major scale as well.

How can this be true I hear you asking

Well since the A is the Vi note in the scale of C then to find C from the note A you would have to move up just 3 frets from A to get to note C (the Root Note ).See diagram below. A better method though is to remember that the VI note is 3 frets below the Root Note. So if the Key is C major. You are playing in key of C and you want to find its relative minor VI Note then just count back 3 frets to A. That is the relative minor note of  the C major Key. Always find your Root / Key note first.


This 3 note apart relationship is very important in my CAGED System concept and it allows us to us the same note pattern in 2 different places to get 2 scales one minor and one major for the same Root Note.

I am now going to introduce 2 new symbols to distinguish between the Root Note and the VI note ( the relative minor parent note).


Now we can clearly define the position of the VI relative minor in relation to the Root note. This is important.

We have already seen in lesson 2 and 3 that where we place the Root Note is important to distinguish what type of scale we are playing with the notes of the pattern. If you remember we placed the Root note over the note of Key that we wanted to play in and then we got a minor scale of notes. Then we moved the Root Note 3 frets back to play the Major Scale instead. So what we were doing in effect was moving the Root Note to the position of the VI note of a Major Scale and then the pattern played as a Major scale of notes. That is exactly what we are doing here but now you know the Theory of why we do this.

We are now going to fill in the first scale pattern we learned – The G Shape pattern and fill this in with the 2 new Symbols.



Because this shape starts on the VI note on String 6 Low E string we can assume that it is a minor scale- Remember the relative minor starts on the VI of the major scale. Also remember I said that the Minor scale had exactly the same notes as the major scale of which it is the relative minor. So by deduction we can see that this scale could also be a Major Scale if we started on the Root note instead of the VI. In fact the whole scale pattern is actually a Major Scale because the minor scale is the relative minor of the Major. The Major is actually the Parent Scale. So even though we can find a minor scale here the pattern starting on the VI note is simply the Major Scale of the Root Note. It is therefore more normal to start on the Root Note of the Scale. So going back to the C-A-G-E-D Grid the G Shape Pattern is represented here as follows in this diagram.


What I am trying to demonstrate here is that a Major Scale can be located easily by using the VI note of the scale and counting up 3 frets. Or an easier method is to select the Key you wish to play in lets say its a Key of D major this time. First you go to the D note (Root Note) at the 10th fret on the Low E 6th String and then count back 3 frets and you will have located your VI Note. You can then use the G Shape Pattern from this note to play in the Key of D major.

In the G Shape pattern you use the Low E 6th String to locate the Root Note because this is where it occurs in the Shape pattern. You could also do the same on the 3rd string or the 6th string because the Root Note also occurs on these strings as well. The principle is the same. Find the Root note ( the Key you wish to play in) on the fingerboard then count back 3 frets and locate your G Shape pattern there. You will now be playing in the selected Key. Play from the Root Note to the next Root Note and you are playing the Scale of that Key.

You will see that the other patterns have their root notes occurring on different strings but the principle is the same count back 3 frets from the root note and you have the VI note and there on the VI you can locate your Shape pattern. This is a great way to find Major scale patterns.

This will result in the patterns being Major Shape Patterns.

You may have noticed that the scale we have been using has only 5 notes not the usual 7 between the 1st root note and the next root note and also between the 1st VI note and the next VI note. This is because the scale patterns I have given you are based on the simplified Pentatonic Scale and not the full 7 note scale.


Using the Fret numbering in the above diagram you can play either the A minor scale starting on VI note or the C major scale starting on the Root Note. Try playing this against chords of A minor and Cmajor.

Points to notice

When you are playing this Shape against an A minor Chord you should  notice that the scale feels right when you play it starting on the VI notes and possibly ending phrases on the VI notes. Conversely you should also notice that the Scale fits better and feels right if when you are playing a C Maj Chord you start at the Root Note and end phrases on Root notes. So the Shape Pattern has a dual purpose it can be Major or Minor depending on what chords you are playing it against. This demonstrates that the scale can be a Major or a Minor scale depending on which note you start and finish on. This will be useful later.

Play the Shape as a Minor Scale Pattern

Now consider if you wanted to play in a Minor Key you could exploit what is going on here. So for playing against A minor Chords you should have noticed that it was best to start phrases using the VI note of the Major Scale. So why not make the VI note the Root Note of the Scale for playing against the minor? Lets do it ! So now using the very same G Shape pattern but promoting the VI note to Root Note. Now the Scale looks quite different. It now looks like this.


So now we have made a Minor Scale using the same G Shape pattern by starting the scale on the VI note and simply promoting the VI note to a Root Note.

Therefore the G Shape pattern has 2 possibilities depending on where you place the Root Note. If you start the pattern intending the Starting note to be a VI note then the Root Note will be 3 frets above this and there you have a Major Scale starting on the Root note. But if you start the pattern promoting the starting VI note to a Root Note as above you will get a Minor Scale pattern to play against its respective minor chord. To find a major scale from a minor scale shape simply now move up 3 frets from the starting note. This is true for all minor scale shapes.

Here is the G Shape pattern for the Scale Key of A minor. A minor is the relative minor of the scale. So count up 3 frets from the start note A and you will have C as the starting note for the C Major Scale.


So now we have successfully made the G Shape pattern as a Minor.


Compare this with the image above where the G Shape was represented as a Major Pattern Shape. So You can see that the G Shape can be used as both a Major pattern Shape and a Minor Pattern Shape. This is true of all the remaining 4 shapes. So when I said there were only 5 shapes I was right. These shapes can be used in 10 ways and that’s the key to this concept. First make the Pattern Shape Minor by starting on the Root note (1st note of the pattern) and then shift this same pattern back 3 frets and you have the pattern starting on the VI note. In this pattern playing from the Root note will result in a Major Scale.

Many people including myself find it easier to remember the where the Root notes are by first memorizing the Shape patterns as Minor Shape patterns. This makes sense because the patterns start on the Root Note. I recommend this method to learn all five patterns as Minor patterns. So the remaining 4 patterns I will represent as minor patterns starting on the Root notes or at least showing you where all the Root Note positions are in the patterns. When you know where the Root notes are you can easily convert the patterns to Major shape patterns by just counting back 3 frets from the root note to locate the Vi and simply replicating the same shape starting on the Vi note that you have found. This will give you a major scale pattern if you start on the root note of the pattern that begins on the VI note.

So the same pattern can be used as either a Major or Minor. Consider now if we wanted to use the Shape pattern as both a major and a minor from the same root note. So for instance if  we would be wanting to play notes from both a C major scale and a C minor Scale. This is a common technique in Blues and Rock Music.

To play the notes from C major you would locate the G Shape pattern at the VI note for a major pattern ( the root note occurring on the 6th string @ the 8th Fret and the Vi occurring 3 frets behind it @ the 5th Fret Note A). But to play the same G Shape pattern as a C Minor Scale you would need to shift the whole pattern up 3 Frets to start at the Root note @ the 8th Fret. This is the C Note. Now play the G Shape pattern onwards from this note and you have the C minor Scale.


This is the key to switching between Major and Minor Scales as many players do in Rock and Blues Music. Later I will demonstrate the possibilities to do this without shifting the same Shape pattern back and forward as we have done here.

Next we will be looking at a the remaining 4  patterns and how they can be switched between Major and Minor.

there is more in the next Part coming soon.

Next Part VI >                                                            <Back to Part IV

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