"Caged" Minor/Major Chord Utilization

Showing the "Caged" system for both Minor and Major chords, and how you can apply them to your playing.

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"Caged" Minor Chord Locating System

Much like the "Caged" system for a major chord, there is also a system of shapes, to help you find your minor chords all across the fretboard, in any area you want. The shapes for Caged minor are: Cm-Am-Gm-Em-Dm You can start on any of these shapes, but simply go up through the shapes, visualizing the Root and where it falls on the fretboard. Example in key of Am: Each of these chords is a different Am voicing in a different area on the fretboard. ( ) indicates the chord shape.
(Gm) (Em) (Dm) (Cm) (Am)
As you can see, the pattern follows the cycle forever, regardless of what shape you start on. Remember these are simply the "Chord Shapes" not, the chord name. By memorizing these chord shapes and where they are for a particular key, you are learning to visualize the fretboard and will be able to find extended voicings, and arpeggios much easier and faster.

"Caged" Major Chord Locating System

Much like the Minor Chord "Caged" system the major chord system follows the same formula with the use of the chord shapes. The shapes for Caged major are C-A-G-E-D Example in key of C: Each of these chords is a different C voicing in a different "zones" on the fretboard. ( ) indicates the chord shape.
(C) (A) (G) (E) (D)
For these voicings, you can simplify the chords down, just remembering to keep all 3 notes of the triad in the chord.

Minor And Major "Caged" Usage

By combining the voicings of the Minor and Major chords found in the "CAGED" system, you can see how it's very easy to cover a lot of chords in one small "zone" of the fretboard. Here's how we put it into use, to avoid stale chord progressions and overused voicings. Remember you can comp each of these chords down into smaller pieces. This makes finding extended voicings much easier Here's an example of how you can make a chord progression much easier. Say the progression is in the key of Am.
Chords making up Am.
| i | ii | III | iv | v | VI | VII|
| Am | Bm7b5| C | Dm | Em | F | G |
Ignoring the ii which is a m7b5 or half-diminished Chord, we see we have 7 total chords that fit into our "Caged" Minor/Major shapes. Lets make a progression that uses some of these chords and try to stay in the smallest possible "zone" on the fretboard. Also try to do this in different areas of the fretboard. Example: Using this progression, find the chords for the "zone" around the 5 fret.
Am - F - C - Em - Dm - G - Am

Am F C Em* Dm G Am
*Normally, you would most likely think to go up the the Em shape at the 7 fret. But stay in the same area, and you see how you really don't have to move much. Now you start to see how each of these chords is physically related to one another. These chord shapes can be simplified down to small triads which is another good excersise to work on.

Using "Caged" To Make Extended Voicings

As you may have started to figure out, by memorizing each of these shapes, you will begin to find small chord modulations which work with certain shapes. This will allow you to have a much better grasp on both extended chord voicings, as well as improvisation. Your ear will know what sounds good for a particular chord, and your progressions will begin to have a much better flow, and sound better. For example here's a pretty basic chord progression that works but doesn't sound like anything special with the voicings that are being used. Key: G
This sounds quite bland, and has been used millions of times. Lets find these chords in one specific "zone" at 5 fret.
That sounds better, but now lets extend these chords to implement more advanced voicings. Here's one possibility:
Cmaj7 Gmaj6 D7
Now apply this method of finding new chords and extended voicings, to better learn the fingerboard, and how chord relate to one another.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    great lesson, i've been having trouble with chord progressions and this really helped. we need more sensible theory lessons on hear. keep up the good work
    I think it would've been great if you could first explain what is the "Caged" thing first, as you start your article in a point where u assume that the reader already knows... Thanks anyway for the attempt
    It is physically impossible to play that Em in the first example... either the top or bottom 7 has to be skipped. Otherwise a solid lesson, thanks. Am - F - C - Em - Dm - G - Am Am F C Em* Dm G Am |-5---5-----7---5---7---5--| |-5---6---5---5---6---8--- 5--| |-5---5---5---4---7---7---5--| |-7---7---5---5---7--- 5---7--| |-7---8---7---7---5-----7--| |-5-----8-----5--|