CAGED System

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Thread: CAGED System

  1. #1


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    CAGED System

    Hey long time no see

    I've been playing mostly by ear ever since I picked up guitar and I really want to make sense of it all. I've got all of the A major/minor pentatonic positions down and I've come across the CAGED system, but I'm hearing conflicting arguments for and against it. Basically the argument on for side boils down to "it'll open up your understanding of the fretboard and allow you to use it more cohesively, while the against side boils down to "It doesn't apply to other instruments and it only works in standard E tuning for the most part".

    Having very little knowledge on theory I feel like the truth is somewhere in the middle, should I think of it as more of a vehicle instead of a destination or end all be all solution to learning the fretboard?
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  2. #2


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    What's up, man?

    I've never seen an explanation of CAGED that, to me, actually adds much in the way of value to your understanding of the fretboard, over and above the "hey, arpeggios can be seen as patterns on the neck" thing. So, of the two, I'd say the former; it's a useful vehicle if it gets you to start thinking about arpeggios and triads and how all these various things fit together, but it's not really a magic bullet solution for anything.
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  3. #3


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    Quote Originally Posted by Drew View Post
    What's up, man?

    I've never seen an explanation of CAGED that, to me, actually adds much in the way of value to your understanding of the fretboard, over and above the "hey, arpeggios can be seen as patterns on the neck" thing. So, of the two, I'd say the former; it's a useful vehicle if it gets you to start thinking about arpeggios and triads and how all these various things fit together, but it's not really a magic bullet solution for anything.
    I'm doing well, I'll be taking the asvab to get into the navy next month and I saw it as a good time to start learning theory so I have something reliable to do in my off time. That's if they allow something like an acoustic at least to be brought on the ship.

    As for CAGED thanks for the added perspective, I'll strat learning it with it not being a magic bullet in mind, is there anything more ideal that you could recommend for getting a better understanding of the fretboard and theory?

  4. #4


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    Eh, I don't know if there's a "system" or anything to go about this - I'd just focus on learning the basics of harmony and how chords are constructed. Arguably CAGED all falls from that, given the tuning of the guitar, the number of strings (I'd argue it's no coincidence that there are five "forms" and the guitar has six strings with five distinct pitches) and western harmony's reliance on "tertiary" or triad-based harmony.

    Like, do you know how to harmonize a major scale into triads or 7th chords?

  5. #5


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    Quote Originally Posted by Drew View Post
    Eh, I don't know if there's a "system" or anything to go about this - I'd just focus on learning the basics of harmony and how chords are constructed. Arguably CAGED all falls from that, given the tuning of the guitar, the number of strings (I'd argue it's no coincidence that there are five "forms" and the guitar has six strings with five distinct pitches) and western harmony's reliance on "tertiary" or triad-based harmony.

    Like, do you know how to harmonize a major scale into triads or 7th chords?
    I have absolutely no idea, to answer the latter question. I know what a triad is made of, but harmonizing and 7th chords are completely new to me.

  6. #6


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    CAGED system is more work than it's worth. The one concept it taught me was that you can use basic chord shapes (imagine, in your head, a D chord or a C chord) all over the neck because you're hearing those notes relative to one another when you play those chords, so they'll really sound "good" anywhere.

    Coming from someone that was a late comer to theory and navigating the fretboard, I think you'd gain a better feel for the fretboard by practicing the major scale, first position, first octave. Instead of continuing the "box" like you usually see it written out, restart the scale as 3 notes per string again once you hit the octave. It moves you up the neck faster and you learn your intervals and why what note (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th,6th,7th) sounds like relative to the root. All other scales are just moving up a fret here or down a fret there, and when you have feeling for how the major scale sounds and feels under your fingers, the more exotic scales you can basically find on your own.

    There are a lot of good lessons out there for people with experience on guitar wanting to use theory concepts to help better navigate what they already know (as opposed to most theory lessons, which are designed for people starting from scratch or designed to apply across every instrument under the sun). If you remember the major scale and thus your intervals, you can carry that over to other instruments pretty easily (worked for me and piano).
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    I'v been wanting to learn more theory too. Just don't know where to start.
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  8. #8


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    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua View Post
    I have absolutely no idea, to answer the latter question. I know what a triad is made of, but harmonizing and 7th chords are completely new to me.
    Ok, I'll write up something for you at some point. But, for now, try this - play a C major scale up the neck on the A strng, 3rd fret C to 15th fret C. Then, go up a third, and on the D string, play a C major scale but from E to E. Now, play them both together. That's a C scale harmonized in 3rds. Now, do the same thing, but go up a 3rd (staying in the key of C) to G, and play a C scale G to G, open G string to 12th fret G. Play all three strings together, and now THAT is a C scale, harmonized into triads. Once you've gotten your mind around that, for bonus points go up another third from G to B, and play the C major scale from B to B, open to 12th fret. Play that whole thing at once, and you now have a C scale harmonized into 7th chords.

    That's basically a data dump version of diatonic tertiary harmony - you build chords by stacking thirds on top of each other from the same scale (a major chord is ropot-third-fifth, but since the major 3rd to perfect 5gh is itself a minor third, you could just as easily look at it as stacking a third on top of a third, as well), and you can harmonize a scale into chords by maintaining that third-to-third relationship but changing the quality of the thirds to fit the scale. Same is then true when you add another third to get 7th chords, a third higher to get 9ths, a third higher to get 11ths, etc.

    Sorry, that's a LOT in a small amount of space. I ought to do a video on this stuff, lol. It might be easier.

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