Making Music with Marshall

the caged system 

part one

Posted: 17th August 2021

When learning guitar one of the most difficult tasks is understanding the relationship between chord and scale shapes and your position on the fretboard. Learning what notes to play up and down the neck on each string is a skill that can take a lifetime to master! But what if we told you there’s a way to navigate the fretboard with ease and it’s based around the most common 5 guitar chord shapes? 

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Introducing the CAGED system

The CAGED system allows you to move up and down the fretboard with ease with chord shapes. Firstly, take the C Major chord shape and play it in the regular position on the first three frets (with your Root note on the 3rd fret of the A string). From here you can now move up two frets and play an A chord shape, this will now give you a C but in an A chord shape. Now if you move up to the 8th fret you can play a C chord in a G shape, move up two more frets and you can play a C chord in an E shape, and then lastly two more frets up you can play a C chord in a D shape.

C connects to A connects to G connects to E connects to D. Thus creating the CAGED system! Here’s an illustration showing the key of C up the fretboard with the caged system.

It’s important to note that although the shapes are the same as the CAGED chords, to play an entire chord a few extra notes are needed, these are illustrated below in darker colours for each shape

What’s great about this is that any chord you start on will follow this pattern and repeat it from the beginning. If you start with an A chord, the next shape will be G, then E, then D and then loops back around to C etc.. If you start with D, the next shape is C, then A, then G etc..! So you can start from any first position chord and move it all the way up the fretboard.

In Part 2 we’ll talk through the relative scale shapes for each position that will allow you to solo up and down the fretboard by using the CAGED system.