Ive heard alot of people talking about it. Is it worth buying a book on it and really learn it. Im trying to find something that will make knowing the fretboard as common as tying my shoe. If the caged system isnt good, what works better?
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Well you don't really need an entire book on the subject, it's just a set of diagrams that when linked together will create a scale pattern that covers the entire fretboard. It's useful, but best learned with understanding "why" the pattern is created in such a way, as well as learning all the notes on the fretboard.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
I learned the fretboard through memorizing scale patterns and the octaves trick. only until recently have i realized what they meant by the CAGED system, and its ok.

essentially all you need to know is that certain open chord shaped fit into certain scale patterns, and those can be moved around the fretboard by manipulating where the root of the chord is. it's very simple, and shouldnt need a whole book. in fact, there should be a lesson on it here on UG.
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So what should be used to make the fretboard second nature other than just memorization?
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memorization and practice..... thats really all there is to it.
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Some pieces are only meant to be played by people with six fingers on their fretting hand. Sorry.
How much is the book? $10 yeah might be worth it, much more than that don't bother.

Basically what you want to do is this...

Pick a major scale to start with - C major as an example. Then find all the C notes on the fretboard. There are six strings so it here will be six root notes over twelve frets - one for each string.

Because of the way the strings are tuned the root notes will be two or three frets apart on different strings. Pair each root note with the next one along the fretboard. (Treat the root notes on the E string as one). This will give you five overlapping "root shapes". Like this...

From these root shapes we can form the basis of five C major chords across the fretboard (each of which is the same shape as the open chord shapes C A G E and D). The first shape will be the open C shape.

The next shape will be C major with roots on frets 3 and 5 the shape being similar to the open A shape.

The next C major chord at frets 5 to 8 resembles the open G shape.

Then the C major chord with roots on frets 8 and 10 is like the open E shape...

The final C major chord with the roots on frets 10 and 13 is similar to the open D chord shape...

These major chords are all made up of root thirds fifths and doubles of those notes. I have written the notes in so you can see the how they work (C is the root E the major third and G the perfect fifth) You can then fill in the rest of the scale using the major scale step pattern.
W W H W W W H.

Last edited by 20Tigers at May 15, 2011,
To find the major scale in other keys you use the same shapes simply by finding the root notes you want and moving all the shapes along accordingly. -Just move the root notes to line up with that key and the shapes will follow giving you the major chords and major scale with a different root note.
Here's each of the five major scale forms on their own with the roots in blue.
Form 1

Form 2

Form 3

Form 4

Form 5

The beauty of this system is that it relates root notes across the fretboard with the chord shapes across the fretboard and of course the major scale across the fretboard.

Each "form" covers five frets at the most. This means that each shape requires little hand movement along the fretboard. At first to play the scale you assign each fret to one finger or where needed either the pinky or index will get two frets.

Of course once you are comfortable in each of the shapes across the fretboard you want those shapes to melt together into one large scale across the entire fretboard. So after you have each form down on it's own start joining them together with runs that move between two or three shapes. Also practice your scales up and down one or two strings. This encourages you to think about the fretboard horizontally as well as vertically.

Best of Luck

EDIT: Oh and of course the last chord shape overlaps the first - everything simply repeats after 12 frets. So frets 12 to 15 are the same as frets 0 to 3 etc...
Last edited by 20Tigers at May 15, 2011,
I use the CAGED system for everything, i use it for navigation around the fretboard. It helps me visualize my scales, it helps me visualize arpeggios. It helps me coming up with my own chord voicings. But as soon as you know the CAGED system, just use it for navigation, dont get caught and only play in box shapes.