This tutorial for intermediate guitarists provides a short introduction to the CAGED chord system. If you’ve been learning guitar for a while you might have heard of the CAGED chord system. In this tutorial you’ll to discover just what the CAGED system is and learn what it can do for your guitar playing. You’ll also see a few examples of CAGED chords and how to use them.
Why Learn CAGED?
There are two main reasons for learning how to use the CAGED chord system:
1. It offers you a means to play just about any chord anywhere on the fretboard without having to jump up and down from the low frets to the high frets.
2. You can play the same chord in several different registers and inversions to create different sounds for it.
Now you know why CAGED could be useful to you, let’s see what it is and how you go about learning it.
How To Play CAGED
The CAGED system takes its name from the five open chord positions it is based on. To play CAGED chords you take the open position C, A, G, E and D chord shapes and make them moveable.
To make these chords moveable you need to finger them so that the open strings become closed strings. These closed formations can then be moved around the fretboard. The easiest way to understand this is to look at the chord diagrams below that show the five shapes – C, A, G, E, D - in closed positions at the second fret. Note that the chord names all change because those shapes are all one whole step (or two frets) up from the open chords.
All of these shapes can all be altered or extended to create minor chords, 7 chords, 6 chords, etc. For example, think of the open chord shapes for Em, Am and Dm and see how they could be used with this system.
Tips To Practice CAGED
Now you know what the chord shapes look like, so all that remains is to head off to the practice room and get to work on them. Before you go though, a couple of words of advice from my experience.
The new fingerings of the CAGED system are pretty hard and will probably take a while to learn. Some of the bars and stretches involved are very hard to do, especially if you start at the head end of the neck.
Take your time to develop these and don’t force too much so you don’t injure yourself. I found it’s best to start higher up the neck where less stretching is required and work down from there.
It’s also a good idea to work through the patterns in different ways. This avoids boredom and you don’t force on the same stretches all the time. Here are a few ideas, I’m sure you can think up plenty more of your own.
1. Practice one chord at a time, play it in all its forms and positions along the neck.
2. Practice one fretboard position at a time, play all the forms and learn the names of the resulting chords at that position.
3. Practice common progressions using I-IV, I-IV-V chords in different forms and positions.
4. A challenging, but useful, way to practice following the cycle of fourths and cycle of fifths was suggested by reader Johnny Lee.
Photo by Dottie Mae.