CAGED Chordsystem Explained for Beginners and Intermediate Students of the Guitar

CAGED is a system you may have heard of before in any of your searches for guitarinformation, but until now you may not have been aware of what the letters stand for.

CAGED symply stands for the Open Chords of C  A  G  E   and D.  The five open chords all put together into one, easy to remember, word.

The system is very useful for moving the open chords up- and down the fretboard. In one of the last articles of this blog I mentioned Rootnotes and how useful they can be. The CAGED system does not mean much if you are not aware of those Rootnotes.

Here are the Rootnotes for each open chord:  

                          C     Rootnotes are on 3rd fret A-String and 1st fret of B-String 

                          A    Rootnotes are on Open Ä-String and 2nd fret of G-String

                          G    Rootnotes are on 3rd fret of Low-and High E String and on the Open G-String

                          E    Rootnotes are on Open Low- and High E-String and on 2nd fret D-String

                          D   Rootnotes are on Open D-String and on 3rd fret B-String

As explained in previous articles on this blog, each chord can be moved up and down the fretboard, the chord will get its name according to the Rootnote of the chord. Just check where the Rootnotes are and you should be on your way to playing different chords using the shame shape.

                                      Putting CAGED To The Test with a Song:

A great way to improve your knowledge of the fretboard and to get better dexterity for each chord (moving open chordshapes along the fretboard will make them feel different, and some strings may not ring out because of the different wristpostion) is to play one song which uses only one chordshape for the whole song. Take a very easy song (most simple three-chord songs will do) make sure all chords are major and play each chord now using the same shape. You will need to move up-and down the fretboard, as the song will not hang on to one chord for too long.
Start with an easy chordshape.The D-shape should not to be too taxing for your fingers and wrist. Leave out the open D-string (you will need to barre the chord if you want to use this string as well) and simply concentrate on those top three strings of the chord.

Once you have played the whole song with the D-shape chords, start playing same song again, but now using –for example– only the A-shape chord. Once you have finished whole song using the A-shape chord move along to another open shape chord to play same song again.

Once you have moved through all the open shape chords with the same song, you will find the G-shape probably the hardest. Maybe leave out the G chord altogether until you can barre the chord properly. 

                                        CAGED Works for Single String Melodies and Solos as well: 

When you want to use the CAGED system for playing scales, simply choose a chordshape, and start playing scale from Rootnote and play all notes until you have reached next Rootnote. You have now played this scale in one octave. Play in this position for a while for your fingers to memorize the position and feel of the new scalepostion.

Take one song and start improvising over this song by just playing scale within one chordshape. Once you get a feel for this scale and the new shape, move on to next chordshape and do the same until you have covered all the open chordshapes and their related scalepositions. All in all this may take you some time, but it is worth exploring some of these ideas mentioned here. Make them work for the songs you already play and apply them to any new songs you plan to learn in the future.

Enjoy and hope to see you soon again,