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An Explanation of the CAGED System

The CAGED system is a method of visualizing scale patterns on the guitar based on the open position shapes of five chords, C, A, G, E and D. For instace, here is a diagram of the E chord in the open position, juxtaposed with a G chord in the third position which uses the same pattern or form, and the G Major scale, played in second position, using the E form. On the G Major scale, the notes highlighted in green show how the shape of the G chord, based on the open position E chord, is the basis for this scale. Play the E chord on your guitar, followed by the G chord in the third position. Next, play the G major scale, beginning with the second finger note on the sixth string (the G root note). Each time you get to a green highlighted G note, pause, repeat the note, and then continue. This will help you to hear the tonality of the G major scale.

E Major Chord      G Major Chord      G Major E form

                   E chord - Open Position                     G chord - Third Position                 G Major scale - Second Position


A CAGED system scale form can be moved on the fretboard to modulate between keys. For example, when this G scale is shifted one fret higher to the third position, the root note falls on Ab and so the scale becomes an Ab Major scale. If moved to the seventh position, the root note falls on the eighth fret C note and the scale is then the C Major scale.

The following chart illustrates all five of the CAGED forms in the key of C. Viewing these scales in surcession makes it easier to see how the C Major scale can be learned across the entire fingerboard. In each form, the red notes on the chart show the Major scale root notes, while the green notes show the minor scale roots. Thus, if you begin your scale on one of the green notes, you will hear a minor scale. Wow! Now you can learn major AND minor scales across the entire fingerboard. Start practicing scales!

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Caged Scales chart