Prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar.
Posted on Jun 16, 2016 09:42 am
"Programming languages teach you to not want what they cannot provide." (Paul Graham). When learning guitar, a scale system is just like a programming language.
Visualizing arpeggios and scales is a necessary skill for any guitar player. Do you possess this skill? If you can, what system did you use to learn this? If it's the CAGED method, then this article is for you.
Perhaps the most awkward lesson the CAGED system offers is the use of arpeggios/chord notes inside a scale. Which is funny, as integration of scales and arpeggios is THE most touted benefit of using this method... In other words the majority of people who picked up or were taught the CAGED system did it specifically to learn how to integrate scale patterns and arpeggios.
So it to be expected that people critiquing the system (yours truly included) receive a lot of interesting "feedback" when they comment negatively on this point. When this happens, the key to understand both the apologists and critics is that they have different understandings when they use the word "integration."
The CAGED system DOES incorporate the memorization of scale shapes and the positions of the chord notes inside them, which we will call the "visual" integration. But visual integration works in any system: no matter which patterns I use to play a scale, I am in principle able to point to the arpeggio notes in it.
What guitar players actually require, on the other hand, isn't simply visual integration: what is actually beneficial is called "mechanical" integration, meaning the possibility to fluidly move between a scale and an arpeggio as they play - and making sure that both the scale and the arpeggio patterns are playable. This is where the CAGED system falls short.
Of course, this is something that can be seen only when scales and arpeggios are actually played on a guitar fretboard, as opposed to just watching scale/arpeggio patterns on a piece of paper or on a computer screen. As such it is much easier to show this point practically than it is to explain in words, so be sure to watch the following video to see how this concept actually applies to guitar playing.
This example shows why mechanical integration is the best feature to have rather than a simple visual integration: it doesn't just help in real playing situations, it will help make all of your playing more consistent, and will help get results from your practice efforts much quicker than other methods. My previous video also shows a prime example of this: CAGED Sucks part 1: Right Hand Consistency.