Guitar Soloing and the Caged System


BigScaryGary
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Joined: 03/07/14
Posts: 7
BigScaryGary
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Joined: 03/07/14
Posts: 7
05/03/2017 12:57 pm

Hi all,

I don't know where else this is, so I'd like to start a thread asking about soloing and the caged system to help each other understand it better, and maybe this can even branch out into a class (I would love a comprehensive caged course, and would definitely go full access for it!).

I used to be a Full Access member until I got to a point where I didn't know where to go to learn new things. I wanted to focus on soloing and bought a book from Amazon. Despite it having over four stars on reviews, I'm missing the concept. I'm hoping I'm not the only one struggling with this.

So, I know the concept of the caged system is that in most scales, there are only 5 truly open chords: C, A, G, E, and D. The premise behind caged is that every chord has its own position of each of these shapes in the different places on the neck. So if the rhythm section is playing an F chord, and I'm soloing at a certain spot on the neck, I can pick one of these shapes that matches with where I want to play the F, and play licks based on that shape. Then when the rhythm section switches to an A chord, rather than me moving to a different place on the neck, I just use one of the five chord shapes that matches with the A chord at my finger position, so the soloing blends more. Is that correct?

Where I'm getting lost is that the book I'm trying to use starts with the minor pentatonic scale, and their shapes don't look anything like C, A, G, E, and D; and it doesn't explain how these are used to build licks. I don't understand when you stay within the chord shape and when you move out of it, and how you quickly figure out which shape to use.

For those who are still struggling with caged and soloing, what are some questions you have? Maybe we can help each other out. For those who figured it out, what helped you really "get it"?


# 1
maggior
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maggior
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05/03/2017 3:56 pm

Personally, I think you are making it too hard on yourself. Though you can change the scale you play over each chord in a song, usually solos are played from the scale that represents the key that all of the chords fit into. CAGED could be used then to help you target chord tones.

Usually, improvised soloing is introduced with the minor pentatonic scale. When used over the chord progressions used in a lot of rock or pop music, there are no wrong notes. There are note choices that are better than others, but any note in the pentatonic scale will sound OK over any chord in the progression. Take the chord progression A, D, E and play Am pentatonic over it...and it works. For a different flavor, you can use A major pentatonic...A major pentatonic takes the Am pentatonic shape and slides it back 3 frets.

This is useful because it allows you start to explore improvisation without having to focus on note selection. You can focus on things like phrasing, rhythm, and dynamics.

You can then build upon this and start targeting chord tones, which may or may not be outside the pentatonic scale. Here you have to start being mindful of the "outside the pentatonic notes" you are playing because they may or may not work over the chord you are playing over.

That's one way. It has it's advantages and disadvantages. If you search "pentatonic rut" on the internet (or this forum), you'll get lots of hits. The danger of this approach is you can find yourself locked into certain scale shapes. I will say this though...when you think your soloing is stagnating...the answer is usually NOT a new scale, the answer is learning to use what you know more creatively.


# 2
ChristopherSchlegel
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Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,408
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,408
05/04/2017 2:44 am

Hey, Gary! Great questions & interesting topics. :) I'm going to try to tackle them one at a time.[br]

Originally Posted by: BigScaryGary[br]I'd like to start a thread asking about soloing and the caged system to help each other understand it better, and maybe this can even branch out into a class (I would love a comprehensive caged course, and would definitely go full access for it!).[br][/quote][br]Learning to play lead guitar (solos or melodic lines) comes down to 3 points.

1. Know what key you are in (what scale is being used for most or all of the notes in a song or chords you are soloing over).

2. Locate & target chord tones (rhythmically emphasize the notes of the chords in the chord progression as they change).

3. Build a repertoire of licks, tricks, fills & ideas that will form the vocabulary of things you can use to improvise & play on the spot.

I did a long blog post about soloing here.

https://www.guitartricks.com/blog/how-to-play-a-guitar-solo

So, when guitarists say they are using the CAGED system to play lead guitar what they mean is that they are using the CAGED shapes as visual reference guides to locate chord tones. What's not usually also mentioned is that they know what the key is & what scales surround those chord tone CAGED shapes. They kind of assume you should already know that part.

I did a couple of long posts on the CAGED system in these threads.

https://www.guitartricks.com/forum/thread.php?f=10&t=45572

https://www.guitartricks.com/forum/thread.php?f=36&t=38338[br][br]

Originally Posted by: BigScaryGary[br]I used to be a Full Access member until I got to a point where I didn't know where to go to learn new things. I wanted to focus on soloing and bought a book from Amazon. Despite it having over four stars on reviews, I'm missing the concept. I'm hoping I'm not the only one struggling with this.[br][/quote][br]No, you are not! It's a hard, tricky & huge topic that all guitarists have to struggle through to find their own way.

I encourage you to re-up your subscription in order to work through the Blues, Rock or Country courses because Anders does a great job of showing how to do all 3 points I mentioned above. Know the key, target chord tones, build licks![br] [br]I also have a big collection of tutorials aimed at these topics & skills. I think GT made most of the lessons in this one free! Check it out! It covers how to use the pentatonic box, but also how to target chord tones.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=217[br][quote=BigScaryGary][br]The premise behind caged is that every chord has its own position of each of these shapes in the different places on the neck. So if the rhythm section is playing an F chord, and I'm soloing at a certain spot on the neck, I can pick one of these shapes that matches with where I want to play the F, and play licks based on that shape. Then when the rhythm section switches to an A chord, rather than me moving to a different place on the neck, I just use one of the five chord shapes that matches with the A chord at my finger position, so the soloing blends more. Is that correct?[br]

[br]Yes, sort of. :)

But your question is a good example of where I think CAGED can hinder more than help. If the band is playing an F, then just target the chord tones of an F, the notes F, A & C. Why worry about trying to visualize how an F looks like a C in one part of the neck, but an A in another part of the neck, or a G in yet another part of the neck? Why not just learn what the basic major triad looks like, where the Fs are & play them?

In my estimation CAGED just puts a superficial layer of information in between what you need to see & what you have to play. I understand it has & can help some players![br][quote=BigScaryGary][br]Where I'm getting lost is that the book I'm trying to use starts with the minor pentatonic scale, and their shapes don't look anything like C, A, G, E, and D; and it doesn't explain how these are used to build licks. I don't understand when you stay within the chord shape and when you move out of it, and how you quickly figure out which shape to use.[br]

[br]That's because CAGED uses notes from the full 7 note diatonic major scale, not just the 5 note pentatonic scale. All those shapes are in there, but sometimes you have to add back in the diatonic notes. :) I also have tutorials on how to do that.

For now, try those free lessons. And also check out these YouTube vids I did that cover some of these topics: soloing, lead playing, improvising, building a melody, targeting chord tones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yWHuMaUMDQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqCvk3gFS0c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJuh1nj-VM0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJNeDP0hYdw

Hope this helps! Hang in there!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 3
BigScaryGary
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Joined: 03/07/14
Posts: 7
BigScaryGary
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Joined: 03/07/14
Posts: 7
05/04/2017 4:40 pm

Thank you both. It sounds like I should focus on pentatonic scales right now and build my skills there, and only see the chord shapes as a visual aid to "anchor" my solos. I really like how you explained it, Maggior.

Chris, I really appreciate your explanations. I'm going to watch those videos and learn more about building my licks and understanding the relationship of the scale itself to the chord progressions.

I really appreciate both of you.


# 4
maggior
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Posts: 1,723
maggior
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Joined: 01/27/13
Posts: 1,723
05/04/2017 5:43 pm
Originally Posted by: BigScaryGary

Thank you both. It sounds like I should focus on pentatonic scales right now and build my skills there, and only see the chord shapes as a visual aid to "anchor" my solos. I really like how you explained it, Maggior.

Chris, I really appreciate your explanations. I'm going to watch those videos and learn more about building my licks and understanding the relationship of the scale itself to the chord progressions.

I really appreciate both of you.

Chris' 3 points capture the essance of the whole thing. I came to guitar tricks wanting to learn how to solo better and it was Anders' blues course that Chris mentions that got me over the hump. Anders also responded to some of my questions in the forum here that helped me out tremendously. As you watch that course, you will be AMAZED at how much great music can be made from so little.

You're welcome...glad I could help in some way.


# 5

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