The CAGED System: Your Best Fretboard
What is the CAGED system?
The CAGED system is basically a
set of scale patterns derived from a bunch of open chord positions. The CAGED system
enables you to play the major scale in any key and across the whole fretboard by
memorizing just five patterns. Thats right. Just five patterns and you can play
scales anywhere on the neck. Notice I mentioned the major scale. Though you might object
that the major scale itself is pretty dull and rarely used alone and youd be
right remember that it is the big daddy of all scales in western music. Knowing
this scale off by heart is the first necessary step to mastering all other scales,
including pentatonic scales, modes, exotic scales, etc.
The basic positions
The CAGED system is mostly
regarded as a scale-related tool, but it is primarily based on these five open chord
positions, hence the name of the system.
The barred patterns associated
with these chords i.e. the same chords moved up along the neck
are just as important as their open counterparts since these are the chord patterns
that make it possible to cover the whole neck.
Also, they give you five
different ways of playing the same major chord along the neck. When you think of all the
variations you can get out of one single position (seventh, minor, sixth, etc.), this is
indeed no small advantage. For instance, here are the five chord patterns for F (notice
numerals alongside the patterns; they indicate fret numbers).
It is important you try using the
different positions in your playing to avoid getting stuck with just one fingering for a
given chord. The voicings of these patterns differ (the notes are not in the same order
and some are an octave up or down), and thus each chord has its own sound even though
they're all in the same key.
The major scale patterns
Here are the five major scale
patterns derived from the open CAGED positions, root notes are in red.
Thats it? Thats it.
Master those five patterns and you're well on your way to being a fretboard wizard.
Learning the patterns
Learn the patterns one at a time.
Dont try to cram them all into your head at once or youll mix them up.
Practice the C pattern in all positions along the neck, moving up one fret at a time to
the twelfth fret, then back down again.
(C, D, E, F, etc.), and name its function
while going back down the neck (root, second, third, fourth, etc.). Knowing the notes
individually will help no end once it comes to playing in real life scenarios, though you
obviously have to be able to rely on your ears too. To improve your pitch, try singing the
notes as you play the scale patterns. You'll be missing a lot if you just memorizes the
patterns themselves whithout understanding what goes on inside them.
Do this drill once a day for a
week, and then start on the A position, while still doing your C drill first. Then C, A,
G, and so on. There is no particular order in which you should learn these. Once you have
memorized each position separately, practice them together in all twelve keys. Also,
dont always start your drill in the same key, or in the same position.
Example: starting at the bottom
of the neck in the key of F, the pattern sequence is E, D, C, A, G:
Though this article is short it
contains information that won't be mastered in just a week or two, so be patient and take
your time. Most of all, practice using these patterns (the scales and the chords) in your
playing, or else there isn't any point to even start learning them.