Technical development: CAGED chord system Pt.1

30 Jan

Hi There,

In one of my earlier blogs I stated that at Jsmusicschool the 5 essential cornerstones of learning guitar are:

1. Technical

2. Theory

3. Performance

4. Improvisation

5. Aural Perception

In the first Technical blog, it was explained how you can integrate a good picking technique and warm up exercise into your daily practice sessions.

Now it’s time for one of the most important parts of becoming an accomplished guitarist.

The CAGED system is a way of integrating all your scales, chords and arpeggios together in a way that’s holistic and organised.

In simple terms there are 5 key chord shapes, C, A, G, E and D.

These 5 shapes allow you to play any type of chord in 5 different positions on the neck.

This in turn will provide you with a wealth of options when playing and writing songs.

Let’s take Major chords as an example.

What you can do is take your common C,A,G,E and D major open chords and learn how to move them up the neck to create 60 chords in total.

C major has an open G (3rd) and an open High E (1st) string when you play it.

  • The correct way to finger the open chord is by using your 3rd, 2nd and 1st fingers.
  • Now, free up your first finger by playing it with your 4th,3rd and 2nd fingers
  • This means you can ‘barre’ the G and E strings with your first finger when you move the chord up the neck
  • -From the photo below you can see that the C major chord can be moved up 2 frets so that the root note is on the 5th fret A string. This is one of your common ‘barre chords’
  • As you can see from the picture you can play C major in 5 different shapes across the neck, all with different tonal qualities for different uses.

  • Have a look at the other picture showing how to play F#major in the CAGED shapes
  • There are 12 keys in music so 5×12 is 60 chords!

This can then be applied to all your other types of chords , Minor, Major 7, Minor7, Dominant 7 etc.

Thanks for reading


You can find me at @jsmusicschool on twitter for regular free tips.


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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in CAGED chord system


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