# CAGED system

markpetten
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Joined: 05/17/16
Posts: 60
06/01/2016 12:26 pm
Can someone explain the debate over the CAGED system? I have to buddies who were arguing over this last night when discussing my learning to play (I'm a total newbie and only been following guitar tricks fundamental course 1 for 2 weeks). One says it's the best way to learn and the other says it's total crap. I googled it and there is quite a debate about it online. Just wondering if some could give me an overview. It's a lot of info to absorb.
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,456
06/01/2016 7:44 pm
Originally Posted by: markpettenCan someone explain the debate over the CAGED system?

CAGED is essentially a way of visualizing chord shapes on the fretboard.

The trick to using CAGED is to realize that it consists of moveable shapes that can be any chord depending upon where you put the root note. The letters C-A-G-E-D refer to the open chord shapes. For example, this is the C major open chord shape. The numbers are scale degrees.
``` 3||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---| ||-1-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---| 5||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---| ||---|-3-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---| ||---|---|-1-|---|---|---|---|---|---| ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---| ```
With this in mind you can use that shape as a movable chord shape algorithm (similar to barre chords) & play any given major chord. The chord would then be named by the location of the root note, the 1.

So, this is a D major chord.
``` ||---|-3-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---| ||---|---|-1-|---|---|---|---|---|---| ||---|-5-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---| ||---|---|---|-3-|---|---|---|---|---| ||---|---|---|---|-1-|---|---|---|---| ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---| ```
Next the A, G, E, & D major chords can all be used as moveable shapes & they interlock across the fretboard. Further, you can use these moveable chord shapes as references for major scales as well.

This is the essence of the CAGED system.

Some people find it a helpful way to visualize and, or conceptualize scale & chord patterns on the fretboard. Some people don't. That's where most of the differences of opinion come into play.

We have material on CAGED if you are interested.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=772
https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=773
https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=775

I prefer this approach.

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=148

Learn how to visualize all 3 possible triad shapes (root position, 1st inversion, 2nd inversion) on all 4 sets of 3 adjacent strings (E-A-D, A-D-G, D-G-B, G-B-E). And then you are done. They all integrate seamlessly.

Like this:

http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=730
http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=731
http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=733
http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=734

It also works for minor chords.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=2161

I'm working on publishing the rest later this year. :)

If CAGED works for you, that's great. But two aspects of it always bothered me.

1. It can be confusing because it expects you to visualize, memorize and recall an open C major chord shape as any possible chord. In other words, what is the value in naming these shapes as concrete, static chords (C, A, G, E, D) when in fact they are movable, and therefore potentially any given chord, like an algebra variable?

I think it is better to simply memorize the chords tones as 1, 3, 5s in their general movable shapes. It means one less piece of superficial info that has to be understood, memorized and then stripped away in order to eventually be useful.

2. The D at the end is really redundant. And why start on C? And why use open chord shapes as standard measurement guides? I mean they are so inconsistent from each other. And I think CAGED suffers a bit from being slightly contrived. As if someone thought, "Well, we have to make an easy to memorize mnemonic device, so ...". So, since that sequence of letters happens to make a word, that is why the C shapes starts it; but not for any helpful musical or visual reason.

But, it's not as if CAGED contradicts my triad approach. They are simply two different ways of visualizing the same object: chord tones on the guitar fretboard. I personally find it more useful to look at the fundamental unit, the triad chord. If CAGED helps you (like it does many other guitarists), then use it as the helpful tool it can be.

Have fun with it & let me know how it goes for you!
Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
markpetten
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Joined: 05/17/16
Posts: 60
06/01/2016 8:10 pm
Thanks! I'm not there yet so I'll let you know how it works out for me. I'm taking the fundamentals course one step at a time and I'm only part way through fundamentals 1 at the 2 week point.
maggior
Registered User
Joined: 01/27/13
Posts: 1,723
06/02/2016 12:29 pm
When I first learned guitar, I learned my chord shapes and their names, and the A and E based barre chords. I understood the major scale to the point that you moved up one fret from an E to get an F and from a B to get a C...all the others required you move up 2 frets to get to the next note. Because of E and A based barre chords, I knew the notes on the E and A strings.

And that was about it :).

The net result was that my fretboard knowledge was very visual and EXTREMELY light on theory.

For somebody like me, the CAGED system was appealing because it fit into my understanding of things.

If you are following the program here and learning the notes on the fretbaord and how triads are put together, CAGED may not be as helpful to you. It doesn't have to be the "be and end all"...take from it what is useful to you.

The C and D thing that Chris mentions about CAGED confused me because they are really the same thing when you look at it.

I'll add that I find the moveable triad concept along with chord inversions to be a really powerful tool that can help both soloing and rhythm playing. You can take your cowboy chords and open the fretbaord wide open with them!
markpetten
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Joined: 05/17/16
Posts: 60
06/02/2016 2:47 pm
Thanks for the input. Like I said I'm just working my way through the fundamentals 1 course right now. Maybe I won't have to worry about this at all. I looked at the lessons Chris mentioned and I'm not ready to tackle them yet. Soon but not yet.
maggior
Registered User
Joined: 01/27/13
Posts: 1,723
06/02/2016 4:43 pm
Originally Posted by: markpettenThanks for the input. Like I said I'm just working my way through the fundamentals 1 course right now. Maybe I won't have to worry about this at all. I looked at the lessons Chris mentioned and I'm not ready to tackle them yet. Soon but not yet.

What you will find with a lot of this is that different players find different things that work for them and make sense. As long as you have an open mind and consider each perspective, you'll find what works for you...and what works for you doesn't have to work for everybody else. Sometimes considering a concept from different angles helps make sense of it also. I know that always helps me, and it's not just with guitar :).