The AGED in CAGED (lesson)

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This lesson is part 2 of the CAGED series. If you haven't already, I suggest you check here for part 1.

In part 1 we learnt what CAGED stood for, and a little about what it can do for us. In this lesson we will complete the CAGED system with a tour through the remainder of the scales and chords.

The A Shape

In part one, we were looking at the C shape, the first shape in the CAGED series. We saw that the C shape gives us a major scale, and a selection of chords that can be played in the same position as the scale. Next, we are moving on to the A shape, the second CAGED shape - the A in CAGED in fact. What will we see?

Well, now we are basing our scales and chords around the open chord of A. To get the scale and chords that we desire, we need to move the A shape up 5 frets, to look like this:


Now, when we fill in the scale notes around the A shape, we find that we now have the option of playing our D major scale in a different position on the neck, like this:


This is exactly the same scale as we played before, except that since we have moved up the neck slightly, some of the lower notes are inaccessible, and we have a few higher notes. However, musically it is an identical scale of D major. So now, we know 2 places on the neck we can play this same scale.

Now, remember from the previous lesson, we are looking at how to play 3 chords in each of our scale positions: the D chord which is the root, and the associated G and A chords. Since we are working with the A shape, when we are playing an open chord of A, the chords we would use to make up our 3 chord example set are D and E, and as you might expect, we can make use of these chords in our D scale, using the CAGED A position to get those same G and A chords. We need to move those open chords up 5 frets to make up our set, like this:



The hard part is over now. Hopefully by now you can see that we are systematically working our way up the neck, and for each position we have a scale, and a set of chords that we can use in that position. The next 3 shapes are just more of the same!

The G Shape

Since we're getting so good at this now, I can introduce the scale straight away:


As you can see, it's a little further up the neck, but still musically the same scale. Our 3 example chords are based on the G shape, and are G, C and D, played up 7 frets, to look like this:




Once again, you can see that all of the chord shapes are made up of notes from our scale.

The E Shape

Moving right along, we hit the E shape next. The scale looks like this:


And our 3 example chords will be based on the E, A and B shapes, moved up 10 frets:



The A major chord is a little tricky since there is no natural open chord of B to use, so we will re-use the A shape and move it up 2 frets like this:


The observant amongst you will notice that we are playing an A shape 1 octave up here, to get an A.

The D Shape

And finally we arrive at the last shape - the D shape. The scale looks like this:


And the chords are based on D,G and A, but an octave up.




Now this seems a little strange - we are playing open chords an octave up - isn't that a little weird? Well not really. It is just a coincidence because we picked the scale of D which matches one of the CAGED shapes. This could happen with any of the shapes depending on the scale we are playing, or none of them if we pick a scale that isn't C,A,G,E or D - for instance a scale of C flat, so don't read anything significant into this.

Next Steps

Now we have had a tour of the CAGED system, what should you do with it? Well obviously, practice, practice, practice - but what should you actually practice? Here are a couple of ideas:

Firstly, as with any scale system you should practice all of the boxes until you are comfortable. The next step is moving between boxes. The way you do this is explained very well in Kris' pentatonic series - the same principles apply about moving horizontally, vertically and diagonally. The ultimate aim is that you move beyond the boxes and become comfortable playing runs of notes anywhere on the fretboard - this comes through a lot of practice, and initially knowing the boxes.

Another point to look into is use of chords. I gave 3 example chords for each position, but there is nothing magic about those chords, they were just examples. I hope you understood the principles well enough to apply them to any chord you are interested in. For instance, the chord of E minor can be played in any of the CAGED positions, can you use the principles we have discussed to find all 5 of them? If you practice this enough with many different chords, you will open up the fretboard to many different chord voicings and enrich your rhythm playing. Also, bear in mind that although I showed a lot of these chords with bars, you are free to play them in any way you please - maybe using just a few notes of the chord here and there as passing adornments to a lead line - the important thing is that you know where to find the notes and the chords.


That's it for now - enjoy learning the CAGED system and opening up that fretboard - if you have any questions or feedback, I'll see you on the forum!