The CAGED system for guitar

Welcome to my approach to learning the CAGED Guitar System for guitar. There are many sources of information regarding the CAGED System for guitar. Many of these have value and in reality the System itself is really nothing new. My approach to the CAGED System for guitar builds on these resources but refines it and makes the whole system easier to understand. Anything that is less complicated and easier to learn must be good-Right! Many tutors that I have seen have seen approach the CAGED Guitar System for guitar by relating the System to the various Chord Shapes associated with it and this is the traditional approach.  What I mean here is that the patterns are named after the chords that the notes in the pattern are associated with. Don’t worry if you cannot understand anything I am talking about yet it will become clearer as we go on.

Doing this they  tend to  go on to confuse the student by having 2 names for what is essentially the same shape pattern by having one name for the minor and another different name for the major shape , both of which are totally different. So for instance they will have 2 totally different Patterns/Shapes for the E Form Pattern depending on whether it is  Major or Minor. Personally find this confusing and it distracts from the usefulness of the CAGED System for Guitar.

 With my System you only have to learn one Shape associated with the E Form and also for each other respective letter of C-A-G-E-D. This has to be easier to associate only one shape with each one of these 5 letters. In my method for the caged system for guitar you only have 5 shapes/patterns in total and it is where you place these shapes that determines whether or not they are Major or Minor Scale patterns. However if you already know the CAGED SYSTEM FOR GUITAR and are happy with it then possibly this new approach is not for you. However if you are currently struggling with some aspects of it’s teaching or are completely new to it and want to learn a new streamlined approach to the CAGED SYSTEM FOR GUITAR then read on and you might actually like my methods.

So what exactly is the Caged System for Guitar and how will it help you?

Well as I said it is already there and people are using the Caged System for guitar to play guitar scales in patterns and to use the notes in these scales to find the major and the minor chords. this is what the Caged System for guitar is used for. The caged system for guitar is a useful method to firstly find major and minor scale patterns and secondly to locate chords in the patterns.

My system uses only one name per shape but shows you how to alter the series of notes in the pattern to make the same shape in either Major or Minor formats. I believe that this makes it quicker to learn and easier to both remember and apply. Hence there is only one shape for the G Shaped Pattern and one for the C Shaped Pattern. It is where you place these patterns that makes them either Major or Minor. Just to outline this if you placed the starting note of the G Shape pattern on the VI (6th) note of a major scale you would get a  major scale if you follow the G Shape pattern. But if you placed the starting note of the G Shape pattern on the Root note of the Key you wanted to use, say for instance the Key of A,  you would then be playing a Minor scale in the  Key of A with the notes of the pattern. This is basically how my Caged System for guitar works.  You will notice that I have been using the uppercase spelling to spell out  Caged system. There is a reason for this that you need to adopt straight away. Caged is not like a cage for an animal. Caged system for guitar means that each letter of the word refers to a precise pattern. So C of Caged is a C pattern, A the nex letter refers to a A shape Pattern. and so on and so forth. So when I say Caged system for guitar I actually mean a C Shape pattern, followed by an A shape pattern of notes, followed by a G Shape Pattern of notes and so on. The System repeats back to C again after passing D and this will be reflected on the guitar’s fretboard as you will see. So from now on instead of referring to the caged System for guitar I am going to refer to it as the C-AGED  System. This will become clearer as you get used to it.

One of the problems with the traditional approach is that it makes you first think of where the respective chords will be found on the fingerboard and this doesn’t make it easy to deal with. My system makes you think of the scale first and where that is before you have to work out where the chord is in the pattern. I think that the mental processes well at least for me are quicker this way at least when you first begin to use the CAGED SYSTEM for GUITAR. How it relates to a specific Chord Shape such as the C Shape or G Shape Chord with specific fingerings associated with these chords is too cumbersome requiring a lot of mental agility switching between scale and chord and making associations. Not that it’s wrong I just find it awkward and believe most would. The problems with this method is that a C Chord Shape will change its name according to where you place this shape on the fingerboard. So a  C Shape Chord played at Fret 3 will sound like a C Chord but move this Chord Shape to Fret 7 for example and the chord will now be a E Chord. What happens, I have found,is that you can get confused about having to relate the Shape to the actual name of the Chord. You start to wonder why a D Chord is using a C Shape. Too much name shifting to do.

For my CAGED System for guitar I prefer to stick to a series of 5 fingering patterns each associated with a reference point in the CAGED guitar System. Once you have these in your grasp then Chord Building around these patterns comes as the very last discipline rather than the first as referenced above and as most tutors seem to be inclined to teach.

The CAGED System for guitar is a very useful tool for finding scales and switching between scales. It is also useful for Chord Building and there are Chord Shapes built around the various patterns of the CAGED Guitar System. However my approach to it is slightly different to how I have seen others teach this system. I prefer to look at the CAGED SYSTEM like this.

C_A_G_E_D-rawYou will see that I have hyphenated the letters that’s because each letter has a respective Shape (pattern of notes over the strings) associated with it. Here is an example of a G Shape Pattern of notes.


This is how I would represent this pattern on the C-A-G-E-D System Grid above


As you can see this G Shape pattern of notes can be represented as either a Major Pattern or a Minor Pattern: this all depends on where you are playing the pattern on the neck. However at this point  all you need to know is that the above pattern of notes can be both a Major or a Minor Scale of notes.

Lets me just give you 2 graphics to illustrate My Full CAGED System for guitar. On each of the letters of the C-A-G-E-D Guitar System for guitar there is an associated pattern of notes. Either a C pattern of notes or an A pattern of notes or a G pattern of notes etc. So far I have only shown you the G Shape Pattern of notes (see above). But there are 4 more patterns to learn . The C Shape pattern, the A Shape pattern, the E shape pattern and the D Shape pattern. You will notice all these letters correspond to the word CAGED which I like to spell out as C-A-G-E-D ,which makes sense because it separates each letter of this word into separate entities where each letter represents a particular shape. These patterns/shapes can be either Minor or Major depending on where you play them. So here is the Full Grid represented. So there is only 5 Shapes to learn and these shapes have 10 possible applications. It is important to note that each pattern has both Major and Minor scale possibilities.



This is the point where many tutors introduce you to all these shapes in one go. With my CAGED System for guitar there are only 5 different shapes with a different pattern of notes each of these Shape patterns is represented by the letters on the Grid. C-A-G-E-D. So a there is a C-Shape, A-Shape, G-Shape etc.

Some Tutors I have seen like to suggest there are actually 10 patterns 5 for the minor and five for the Major but this is confusing for students. It is far simpler to remember only 5 Shapes for the CAGED  System for guitar and make some simple mental adjustments as you will see later to make each pattern either major or minor.

So to recap in my CAGED system for guitar approach there are only 5 Shapes to learn and these fingering patterns each represents one of letters of the C-A-G-E-D System Grid. These finger patterns can be either Major or Minor.

Applications of my CAGED System for Guitar

One of the most useful things about using this system is that it easily allows you to switch from playing in a Minor Scale to a Major Scale or visa versa. This is a technique commonly used by Blues and Rock players (for example Angus Young and BB King). This system allows you to easily find both the major and minor scale patterns for the Key that you are playing in. These patterns will be in close proximity to one another and each respective pattern can be found easily by referencing it to the C-A-G-E-D Grid. However before we get into this in detail there are a few simple concepts to digest.

This is really all you need to know right now- so make a start on the next part CAGED Guitar System Part 2 Next Lesson >

However there is one last concept that we will be returning to at the end of the lessons. This is described below. It is not important for you to know or understand this at this stage in the lessons but it is something that I will be returning to at the end of the lessons and it is an important part of my approach to teaching the CAGED guitar system for guitar.

Additional information about my CAGED System for Guitar

The First Rule is that the Major Shape Pattern will always be in front of the Minor Shape Pattern on the C-A-G-E-D Grid above. It is important to remember this rule when you wish to switch between major and minor scales in a single Key. So think of each letter as one component of a Grid. Each letter has its own identity and its own shape associated with it. Then on this Grid I superimpose an Indicator Symbol indicating if the pattern is either  a Minor Pattern or a Major Pattern. See this below. As mentioned before all the elements of the C-A-G-E-D can be either Major or Minor but for this rule we are using one of each. One  Major and one Minor Indicator.

C_A_G_E_D-2So what we have here is telling you that When a G Shape Pattern is being played as a Minor Pattern the next Major Pattern closest to it will be a E Shape Pattern. Here is another example to reinforce your learning.

C_A_G_E_D-3This is telling you that when you are playing an E Shape Minor Pattern the next closest available Major Pattern is a D shape major pattern.

Lastly this system repeats as you get to the end so when you are playing a D Shape Minor Pattern you have to go back to the beginning of the C-A-G-E-D grid and you will see that the Major pattern closest is the C Shape pattern. See Below.

C_A_G_E_D-4The thing to remember and take from this is that the Major pattern will always be a one step ahead of the Minor pattern on the Grid ( C-A-G-E-D ).

We will see why this is in further articles. A full explanation will be given and we will begin to explore the 5 Patterns associated with each of the Grid letters CAGED I hope you enjoyed this article as an introduction to my teaching methods regarding the CAGED System. So we have made a start on the CAGED System. Further explanations to follow shortly.

CAGED System Part 2 Next Lesson >

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