Scale Shapes In CAGED System

author: scousertommy date: 03/09/2005 category: scales
rating: 7.8 / votes: 17 
This lesson pre-supposes that you know the tonal structure of the Major scale, the Nat. minor scale, the modes, and the theory behind them. Okay, I've seen other people with the major scale etc in their lessons, and several shapes of it in some lessons. There are 5 shapes in total, and just these 5 shapes encompass all 7 diatonic scales. (Excluding harmonic and melodic minors however). These 5 shapes, taught to me by my old guitar teacher, are the most convenient ones to use, and I'm pretty sure I haven't seen anyone lse at UG with these in their lesson. (Though the_strat_man did come close, to his credit). Also, remember that even though the shapes are named "E major" etc, this does not mean that this particular shape will only play a scale in the key of E major; they are entirely moveable, and this naming nuance is explained below. Without further ado, here are the shapes. 'R' signifies the root note, and the other numbers on each fret indicate which note from the scale it is, e. g. |-6-| = 6th note of the major scale. )
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|
|-5-|---|-6-|---|---|
|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
C major SHAPE
                                   
|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|     
|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---| 
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---| 
|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
A major SHAPE        
                     
|---|-5-|---|---|---|      
|---|---|---|-3-|---|       
|---|---|---|-R-|---|                
|---|---|---|-5-|---|       
|---|-R-|---|---|---|         
|---|-X-|---|---|---|       
A major CHORD SHAPE
(Here you can see why it's called the A major SHAPE, even though it doesn't necessarily play in the key of A. When you take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes from this scale you will get the A major chord shape, i.e. the fingering pattern used to play 'A major' in the open position).
|---|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|
|---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|
|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|
|---|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|
G major SHAPE

|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|
E major SHAPE

|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|
|---|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|
D major SHAPE
These shapes fit together so that you can switch between positions at any time while improvising, this will dramatically improve your improvisation if you learn the shapes linked together all over the fretboard. The shapes fit together in the order: Cmaj-Amaj-Gmaj-Emaj-Dmaj-Cmaj... etc over and over. For this reason, this system of playing the shapes linked together is known as the C-A-G-E-D system. Here is C major all over the fretboard, to give you an idea: (Sorry if this didn't come out so well, I wrote it on notepad originally).
| 3 |-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
| 7 |-R-|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|
| 5 |---|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|
| 2 |---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
| 6 |---|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|-7-|-R|----|-2-|---|
| 3 |-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|
  ^           ^       ^       ^     
open         3rd     5th     7th.....etc
                 fret
It is not easy to discern at first, but you can see that the shapes are all linked together in the order of C-A-G-E-D. (I included an extra C major SHAPE at the end here also; frets 14-18). If you know how modes work, then you should already be able to figure out how to play the shapes for the minor scale, or any other mode use the same fingerings, but with the Root note beginning in a different place). However, for your convenience, I have painstakingly written them out.
|-5-|-6-|---|-7-|---|
|-2-|-3-|---|-4-|---|
|-7-|---|-R-|---|---|
|-4-|---|-5-|-6-|---|
|-R-|---|-2-|-3-|---|
|-5-|-6-|---|-7-|---|
A minor SHAPE

|---|-7-|---|-R-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|-6-|
|-R-|---|-2-|-3-|---|
|-5-|-6-|---|-7-|---|
|-2-|-3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|-7-|---|-R-|---|
G minor SHAPE

|---|-R-|---|-2-|-3-|
|---|-5-|-6-|---|-7-|
|-2-|-3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|-7-|---|-R-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|-6-|
|---|-R-|---|-2-|-3-|
E minor SHAPE        
                     
|---|-R-|---|---|---|                    
|---|-5-|---|---|---|                       
|---|-3-|---|---|---|                       
|---|---|---|-R-|---|                   
|---|---|---|-5-|---|                  
|---|-R-|---|---|---|                    
E minor CHORD SHAPE
^ (The same principle applies here as did for A major CHORD SHAPE above).
|-2-|-3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|-7-|---|-R-|---|
|-4-|---|-5-|-6-|---|
|-R-|---|-2-|-3-|---|
|-5-|-6-|---|-7-|---|
|-2-|-3-|---|-4-|---|
D minor SHAPE

|---|-4-|---|-5-|-6-|
|---|-R-|---|-2-|-3-|
|-5-|-6-|---|-7-|---|
|-2-|-3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|-7-|---|-R-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|-6-|
C minor SHAPE
That's all, learn these shapes well, and I hope they will help you with your dexterity, your improvisation and soloing.
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