CAGED System

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The CAGED system is one useful way to visualize the fret board. There are many ways to visualize the fretboard; the CAGED system helps the guitarist to understand it through arpeggios.

Another one quality of of the CAGED system is that it unfolds across the chord progressions in a musical manner. It can be used to gradually ascend or descend a passage through an octave in a interesting fashion that captures the ear.

So, what is the CAGED system?

It is a way of playing arpeggios or chords across the fret board using the shapes denoted in the acronym, played between the 1st and 3rd frets. These different shapes remain the same in any key and can used to quickly map out the fret board.

‘C’ refers to the shape of the C major chord:

e|—————-|
B|—————-|
G|—0———–|
D|—2———–| This is the major third
A|—3———–|
E|—————-|

‘A’ refers to the shape of the A major chord:

e|——————|
B|——-2———| This is the major third
G|——-2———|
D|——-2———|
A|——————|
E|——————|

‘G’ refers to the shape of the G major chord:

e|—————–|
B|—————–|
G|—————–|
D|———-0—–|
A|———-2—–| This is the major third
E|———-3—–|

E refers to the shape of E major chord:

e|—————–|
B|—————–|
G|———-1—–| This is the major third
D|———-2—–|
A|———-2—–|
E|—————–|

D refers to the shape of the D major chord:

e|——2———-| This is the major third
B|——3———-|
G|——2———-|
D|——————|
A|——————|
E|——————|

To clarify, CAGED refers to the shapes of the namesake chords. However, the shapes above can also be applied to a single major chord, spanning the fret board. Let’s have quick look below on what that means.

Here are the CAGED shapes applied to the C major chord:

CAGED Shapes from left to right:
‘C’ ‘A’ ‘G’ ‘E’ ‘D’ ‘C'(Octave)

e|——————-|———-12—–|—————–|—————–|
B|———5——–|———-13—–|—————–|—————–|
G|—0—-5——–|—9—–12—–|—12———–|—————–|
D|—2—-5—5—|—10————|—14———–|—————–|
A|—3———7—-|—10———–|—15———–|—————–|
E|————–8—-|——————|—————–|—————–|

And here are the CAGED shapes applied to the G major chord:

CAGED Shapes from left to right:
‘G’ ‘E’ ‘D’ ‘C’ ‘A’ ‘G’ (Octave)

e|—————-|———-7——|——————|——————|
B|—————-|———-8——|———-12—-|——————|
G|—————-|—4——7—–|—7——12—|——————|
D|———–0—|—5————-|—9——12—|—-12———–|
A|———–2—|—5————-|—10———–|—-14———–|
E|———–3—|——————|——————|—-15———–|

Here is a simple demonstration of the CAGED shapes of the G major chord and the C major chord. It is used in an arpeggiated format over a I-V-vi-IV progression, in this case the chords in the backing music are G major – D major – E minor – C major.

The CAGED shapes of the chord G major lead to the D major. For simplicity’s sake, a G major CAGED shape is used over the Em Chord. The Em Chord then leads to another CAGED shaped of the C major.

Below are the tabs of the arpeggios played in the demonstration video. Are you able to spot which CAGED shapes are used?

e|——————–7————|—————————12—|
B|——————–8————|—————–12——13—|
G|—-4——7——7—–9——|–7—–10—-12—–12—|
D|—-5——7————10—–|–9—–12—-12————-|
A|—-5——7————10—–|–10—-12——————–|
E|———————————-|———————————-|

Here’s an exercise: Try to figure out the CAGED shapes of other major and minor chords. For minor chords, simply move the major third one fret away from your strumming/picking hand.

Once familiar with the shapes, figure out how they connect over a chord progression then play them against a rhythm or backing track; this to ensure that you can recall and play them in time. As always, remember to use your ears more than your sight.

The CAGED system can be combined with the pentatonic scale to make your playing more musical. It is recommended to be familiar with the CAGED system before learning about scales.

That’s all for this lesson on CAGED. Thanks for staying till the end. In the upcoming article, we will learn about pentatonic scales.