Prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar.
In previous articles, we've discussed how the CAGED system lacks consistency (CAGED Sucks Part 1: Right Hand Consistency) and how it cuts the fretboard up in a weird way (CAGED Sucks. Part 3: The "Natural" Division Of The Fretboard). At this point, you might be asking: "If there are so many reasons why the system doesn't work, then why do so many people still consider it the best method?"
That question has no simple answer; and I'll be the first to admit it took me longer than expected to understand what is actually happening. I began realizing that the CAGED scales are not built for the reasons people say they like them - they're not easily accessible, mechanically consistent, memorable, or even easy to use for arpeggios (see (CAGED Sucks, Part 2: Scales-Arpeggio Integration). But they are REALLY good at one thing.
They are really good at making sure a player never stretches their fretting hand fingers.
You can see how this is perfectly consistent with the "CAGED vs the world" debate going on. Indeed this is one of the biggest objection used by people who have used the CAGED system when introduced to other systems: "I can't stretch my fingers enough to make these shapes." But when you consider how much of a drawback the CAGED system is for new players, this just sounds as an excuse. Because it is.
Learning to stretch over four frets is actually really easy - even for people with stumpy fingers - if you use the right technique.
Take a look at the video below for a demonstration of how to stretch your fretting hand effortlessly and be able to easily play the "stretchy" 3-notes-per-string shapes easily. Doing this properly is about putting your hand in the proper position rather than hand size, so that anybody, even those with small hands like mine, can achieve it. Take a look at the video now:
As you see, it's not advanced particle physics. Anybody can do it. Pick up a guitar, move your fingers into the proper location and feel how easy it is to stretch into these shapes. After this, you shouldn't have any more excuses to forego the CAGED system for good.
Part 1: Inconsistent Picking
Part 2: Scales/Arpeggios Mechanical Integration
Part 3: Why 5 Shapes and What Has the Tuning to Do With It?
About the Author:
Tommaso Zillio is a prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for music theory applied to guitar.