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Theory Request #2 - The CAGED system for major scales

Andrei Moraru

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    1. Topics of discussion

    In this thread, we're going to discuss the CAGED system for major scales. So, let's get on the square and on the level.

    2. The CAGED system chord shapes

    So, the name CAGED system originates from the 5 open chord shapes (or forms) used in its name: C, A, G, E, and D. let's take a look at them:

    E|--0------0------3-----0-----2---|
    B|--1------2------0-----0-----3---|
    G|--0------2------0-----1-----2---|
    D|--2------2------0-----2-----0---|
    A|--3------0------2-----2---------|
    E|----------------3-----0---------|

    These shapes can be used to play any chord you might think of by moving up and down your guitar. Here is the C chord played using those 5 forms:

    E|--0------3------8-----8-----12---|
    B|--1------5------5-----8-----13---|
    G|--0------5------5-----9-----12---|
    D|--2------5------5-----10----10---|
    A|--3------3------7-----10---------|
    E|----------------8-----8----------|


    Basically, when someone tells you they play the A chord using the C form, it means that they are using the form of the open C chord, but instead of playing it as you see above, they play it like this:


    E|--9---|
    B|--10--|
    G|--9---|
    D|--11--|
    A|--12--|
    E|------|


    The same rule is applied for the other shapes as well. Hence why such chord shapes are known as movable shapes, because you can change the chord you're playing by moving up and down your instrument and using the same shapes.

    3. Arpeggio

    An arpeggio is obtained by playing the notes of a chord individually rather than together. Let's play the C chords from above as an arpeggio:

    E|--------------0---| E|--------------3---| E|-----------------8---| E|-------------------8---| E|----------------12--|
    B|-----------1------| B|-----------5------| B|--------------5------| B|----------------8------| B|------------13------|
    G|--------0---------| G|--------5---------| G|-----------5---------| G|-------------9---------| G|--------12----------|
    D|-----2------------| D|-----5------------| D|--------5------------| D|---------10------------| D|----10--------------|
    A|--3---------------| A|--3---------------| A|-----7---------------| A|-----10----------------| A|--------------------|
    E|------------------| E|------------------| E|--8------------------| E|--8--------------------| E|--------------------|



    4. The CAGED system for major scales

    In the examples above, we focused on playing the notes that were part of the chord shape. This time around, let's try adding notes which are still part of the chord, but not part of the chord shape. For example, let's try adding some extra notes around the open C form:

    01. C chord.png
    See how instead of playing only the notes from the shape, we also added some extra notes on the low E string and on the high E string? Now, let's take it an extra step further and insert the missing notes of the C major scale, which for this example would be D, F, A, and B:

    02. C major - C form.png
    And that's how you get the C form of the C major scale, using the CAGED system. Let's check out the forms for the other ones as well:

    03. C major - A form.png
    Next up, the G form:

    04. C major - G form.png

    Let's move on to the E form:

    05. C major - E form.png
    Finally, the D form:

    06. C major - D form.png
    Now, that about wraps it up. Get to playing and see you in the next poll.