CAGED System for Guitar


The CAGED system for guitar is based on 5 primary chord shapes. The chord shapes are C, A, G, E, D. These chord shapes are linked together on the fretboard in predictable patterns.

The CAGED system allows you to visualize these chords (CAGED) on the fretboard based on the location of the root notes of the scale you are playing. The key to understanding the CAGED system is recognizing the root note placements to be found within each of the unique CAGED chord and scale patterns.

There is no mystery here. These patterns may already be familiar to you if you know the 5 basic patterns of the Major scale on the guitar. Look for the root note patterns and the linkage between adjacent shapes.

Understanding the CAGED system is NOT a master key to all the available doors of expression found on the guitar fretboard but it will get you through many of them.

CAGED root note patterns for Guitar


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Take the time to review the CAGED root patterns below. You can identify the CAGED shape by the root note pattern regardless of where on the fretboard the pattern is found. Notice how the leading root note (lowest numbered fret) and the exit root note (highest numbered fret) are linked to the previous and following CAGED shapes.


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C Shape
Root Pattern

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A Shape
Root Pattern

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G Shape
Root Pattern

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E Shape
Root Pattern

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D Shape
Root Pattern


CAGED Chord Tones for Guitar

The following diagram adds the chord tones to the scale patterns shown above. This is the equivalent of arpeggio shapes found within each of the CAGED shapes.


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C Shape Chord Tones / Root - 3rd - 5th - 7th

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G Shape Chord Tones / Root - 3rd - 5th - 7th

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D Shape Chord Tones / Root - 3rd - 5th - 7th

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A Shape Chord Tones / Root - 3rd - 5th - 7th

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E Shape Chord Tones / Root - 3rd - 5th - 7th


CAGED Scale patterns for Guitar

Adding the remaining notes to the chord tones pictured above. Actual scale name determined by root note positions.


C Shape Major Scale

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G Shape Major Scale

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D Shape Major Scale

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A Shape Major Scale

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E Shape Major Scale

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Examples of CAGED shapes sliding on the guitar fretboard,

The next series of diagrams and sliders is intended to show how the shapes are moveable on the guitar fretboard. You should practice to become knowledgeable and proficient with the location of the root notes, the chord tones, and the scale patterns within each of the CAGED shapes.

C-Shaped Chord and Scale Form


This diagram show the C Major scale in the lowest position on the guitar. This shape in this position is often referred to as an open C chord as it employs open strings in the chord shape. You will recognize this shape as one of the very first chord shapes you learned.

Please note the positions of the root notes found on the 'B' and 'A' strings. These are the markers that alert you to the presence of the C chord shape and the associated scale.

The image slider shows on the C shape can be moved and accommodate different scales identified by the position of the root notes. There are only 3 slides but you will get the idea being presented.



A-Shaped Chord and Scale Form


Please note the positions of the root notes found on the 'G' and 'A' strings. These are the markers that alert you to the presence of the A chord shape and the associated scale.

The A shape is directly linked to the C and G shapes as indicated by the name of the system: CAGED.

The image slider shows the A shape can be moved and accommodate different scales identified by the position of the root notes. There are only 3 slides but you will get the idea being presented.


G-Shaped Chord and Scale Form


Please note the positions of the root notes found on the 'G' and high and low 'E' strings. These are the markers that alert you to the presence of the G chord shape and the associated scale.

The G shape is directly linked to the A and E shapes as indicated by the name of the system: CAGED.

The image slider shows the G shape can be moved and accommodate different scales identified by the position of the root notes. There are only 3 slides but you will get the idea being presented.



E-Shaped Chord and Scale Form


Please note the positions of the root notes found on the high and low 'G' strings and the 'D' strings. These are the markers that alert you to the presence of the E chord shape and the associated scale.

The E shape is directly linked to the G and D shapes as indicated by the name of the system: CAGED.

The image slider shows the E shape can be moved and accommodate different scales identified by the position of the root notes. There are only 3 slides but you will get the idea being presented.



D-Shaped Chord and Scale Form