Unlock The Fretboard With The CAGED System Pt. 1

Are you more comfortable with some areas of the neck than others? Can you easily change keys? Do you connect chords with their scales? The CAGED system of thinking will make all of your playing easier.

Ultimate Guitar
Are you more comfortable with some areas of the neck than others? Can you easily change keys? Do you connect chords with their scales? The CAGED system of thinking will make all of your playing easier. Once you know the chords C, A, G, E, and D you actually know enough about the fretboard to play in any key and with any scale. Keep these things in mind to get the most out of this system: 1. Every shape you play is moveable; 2. Learning the notes on the neck will pay you back double in ease of playing and knowledge; 3. Connect your ear to your hand - practice recognizing the sound with the shape of intervals and chords. Memorizing where the root, 3rd and 5th are in your chord shapes is a great start, especially for the C, A, G, E and D chords. I explain this in the video link at the end of this lesson.

The CAGED System

This is a system that I learned at Musicians Institute and has also been published in many forms. The CAGED shapes are there on your guitar neck and you may have noticed some of these similarities before. The idea is that you can cover the entire neck of the guitar with these five chord shapes: C, A, G, E and D. If you look at the root of each of these chords they all match up like puzzle pieces. Let's learn C on the entire neck as our example.


Start with the C chord shape. There are two roots in this shape. One on the B string and one on the A string.


The next chord is A. Its root is on both the A and G strings, so C and A have a root on the A string. That means that if you drag A up to C you have a new shape for C.


Next up is G. This chord shape has the root on the G and E strings. The G string root lines up with the G string root in the A shape. That means we can drag the G chord shape up to fit with the A chord shape.


Two more left. The E shape has the root on the E strings and the D string. Since both the G shape and the E shape have the root on the E strings E is our connecting shape.


Last is the D chord. D has a root on two strings, the D and B strings. Just like with the other chords. Since the E shape has a root on the D string, D fits nicely next.

Back Again

Since the D shape has one more root left over and the C shape had an un-paired root on the B string let's connect them to complete the circle!


Fill in the chord tones and you can play the arpeggio up the entire neck.
This is what each chord shape looks like when you add the surrounding chord tones. These are 100% moveable shapes. If you know where the root is and the note your root is on then you can play any chord anywhere on the neck.


Search CAGED Arpeggios to play the exercise on these chord shapes. All 12 keys are provided for FREE in the Rock Prodigy app. Here's a link to view a video of the exercise:
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In this video I show both where the root, 3rd and 5th are in the C, A, G, E, and D chords and also show how to connect the shapes to cover the fretboard.
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Part 2

In part 2 I will show how the CAGED system applies to minor chords, the major and minor scales and the pentatonic and blues scales. By Mike Georgia rockprodigy.com

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This is a great lesson and it really helped me look at the fretboard in a different way...just one question, and this might just because I'm a dumb mother****er, but the 3rd and 5th notes, what are those? Is there another lesson I should consult or should I just pack my guitar away for good?
    Rock Prodigy
    Thanks! That's a great question. Don't go packing up!! The 3rd and 5th refers to the interval from the Root (in C the root is a C). Sticking with C the third is E (C one, D two, E three). The 5th is G (E three, F four, G five). The major 3rd is four half steps from the root (four frets) and the 5th is 3 1/2 whole steps from the root (7 frets). This is what makes up a major chord. Let me know if this helps. Thanks again for checking it out.
    Don't troll, this is a really helpful lesson and I feel that my playing and knowledge has grown immensely from it.
    Rock Prodigy
    Thanks, glad it was helpful.
    Think you can do one on improvising Jazz solos?
    Rock Prodigy
    That sounds fun! I'll let you know when we get one up.
    Thanks! I play in a Jazz band and already have some experience, but I play more by 'feel' or by what I think sounds good. Not by thinking, I'm playing over a Gm, so I'll play a G, bend to A, Pick a D and trill that with an Eb. If you want any help I can offer what I do, but Like I said, I play by feel. I do know my theory and I can play by thinking the notes to play over what chords so I can help if you want.
    Rock Prodigy
    That sounds like a cool minor lick! Drop us a line through our website so we can keep in touch. www.rockprodigy.com