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What is the CAGED system?

Well the word CAGED is taken from the 5 open chords C, A, G, E, & D that you will have learned to play as a beginner.  These for the template that we will use to play the chord shapes across the fret board. It is the building block for guitars in standard tuning. The CAGED system is an essential method in learning the entire fret board. When we start to learn the guitar we tend to stick very close the nut and seldom move past the 5th fret into the scary world of the middle of the neck. As our learning progress we need to access higher notes on the fret board we need to learn a system that help accurately use these areas and expand our playing.

Its import to understand that the 5 chords mentioned are created through the intervals used to build a chord. This being the case a C Shaped chord can be moved up the fret board 11 times to play each root note position of all 11 notes. The intervals will remain the same only the position on the fret board will change.

Let’s start by looking at the key "C" root note position on the fretboard that we will use to play the five chord shapes. In the diagram below we can see the first "C" note closest to the open strings is the C on the A string. This same note can next be found as we move up the fretboard on the 8th fret of the Low E string. We then also have the next Octave of the "C" note on the 10th fret of the D string.

It is important that we learn the distances between these notes and the correct order in which they appear on the fretboard.


Root Note Positions C

Lets look at the "G" notes on the fretboard.

Root Note Positions G

If we look at the diagram we can see the octave notes from the "G" on the 3rd fret low E string and the 5th fret on the D string. The distance from each note are the same as the previous example of the "C" notes.

Let’s go back to the fretboard with the C notes indicated and let’s start to build the C chord triad in the CAGED system starting with the "C" on the A string.

The C Chord triad is C  E  G. these are the root note, Major 3rd, and the 5th from the scale of C Major.

The chord shape we create using these notes is what most guitar players would recognize as the standard beginner chord of C


C Chord Caged C Shape

Now let's build the chord using the A shape using the same 3 notes of C  E  G

C Chord Caged A Shape

 As you can see the root note is shared between the two shapes. A note to remember.

Now let's look at the G shape

C Chord Caged G Shape

We have now moved the root note to the low E string. We play the shape how the G chord but we must now bar across the D, G, & B strings, which was normally covered by the open strings. Also when we play the C note on the high string the whole shape can be quite hard play at first. So players omit the C note on the high E string.

The next shape is probably the most familiar of all the shapes that we have played before. This is the E shape although some think of it as a F chord shape. Again note that the G shape and the E shape share the same root note.


C Chord Caged E Shape

Finally let's look at the D shape.

C Chord Caged D Shape

With this chord shape we use the root note on the D string. Some players bar the first finger to play this chord. Others only play the chord using the G, B, & high E string. This still creates a Major chord triad with the root note appearing on the B string.

Now we have all 5 chord shapes you need to practice moving from each shape to another. Focus on the shaped root notes to help you remember.

Once you feel comfortable with the C root position move to the G root.

Note the sequence always remains the same so for G you would start with the G chord root note on 3rd fret low E string then move to the E shape, then D, to C, then finally to the A.

Please watch the video lesson as i walk you through the CAGED system hopefully by the end of the video you will have a much better understanding of how the system works.