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    The CAGED System for Guitar Playing: Learning the Chord Shapes

    by Simon Joseph James

    The layout of the guitar is such that it allows us to play the same chord in a number of different positions around the fretboard. This can be immensely useful for any kind of improvisation whether it be soloing or rhythm comping or a combination of the two. For instance, an A major chord can be played in 5 different positions and within that can be played any number of mini positions.

    This is the crux of the CAGED system that makes it easier to learn guitar solo techniques, whereby every open chord shape can be played in each of the five open chord shape positions.

    In the notation below you will see the 5 open chord shapes on the fretboard.


    The Open Chord Shapes

    open chord shapes for guitar  

    C Major CAGED Chord Shapes

    Let us take the first open chord, C Major, as an example. We are now going to play the same chord but in each of the remaining open chord shapes on the fretboard.

    c major caged chord shapes for guitar  

    The first chord is the open chord of C Major, nothing too complicated there. The second is another shape for the same chord. As it has a root note on the 5th string it can also be played in an A Major shape. If this is unclear at first try playing an open A Major chord and then moving the whole shape 3 frets up the neck until you arrive at C. You will begin to notice that all of the chords are movable on the guitar.

    The next shape for C Major is the G shape and as an open G chord has a root note on the 6th string, so must the G shape of C. This one starts on the 8th fret can be played by barring the 5th fret and building a G major shape chord on top as if the bar was the open strings when you play an open G. This is a slightly awkward chord shape to play but is useful in terms of locating the chord and scale shapes in this position on the neck.

    The following chord shape also has a root note on the 6th string and takes an E Major shape by doing a C barre chord on the 8th fret.

    Finally we have the D Major shape which takes up strings 1, 2, 3 and 4. Play this by fretting a C on the 10th fret of the 4th string and then making a D major shape on the first three strings.

    A Major CAGED Chord Shapes

    If you are comfortable with the C Major shapes let us move on to the next chord in the CAGED system. The notation below shows the same CAGED sequence starting from a different position, this time in A Major. Remember that the order of chords remains the same, G will always overlap with E etc.

    a major caged chord shapes for guitar  

    G Major CAGED Chord Shapes

    Now try the shapes for G Major:

    a major caged chord shapes for guitar  

    E Major CAGED Chord Shapes

    And now E Major:

    a major caged chord shapes for guitar  

    D Major CAGED Chord Shapes

    And finally, the shapes for D Major:

    a major caged chord shapes for guitar  

    Understanding the CAGED Chord Shapes

    The CAGED system can be quite difficult to grasp at first hand. I suggest that you work hard on the C major shapes above and keep playing them over and over in relation to the five open chord shapes until you begin to recognise those shapes around the fretboard. I strongly advise you not to proceed any further until you have grasped how the system works for this first set of chords. Notice how the chord shapes overlap on the fretboard and also how the order of chords always stays the same: CAGED.

    Once you become accustomed to visualising the CAGED chords across the neck like this you will find it very easy to locate the chord tones.

    Related Posts:

    1.Reasons To Work On Scales

    2.Playing On Adjacent Strings: Using Double Stops and 6ths

    3.Using Chord and Scale Shapes to Improvise

    4.Using the Major Scale to Improvise and Develop Melodies