The CAGED System


Every guitarist needs a solid foundation in organizing the materials of music on the guitar.

I recommend the CAGED scale system to my students as it is a system which thoroughly covers every area of the fretboard. If you have heard about the CAGED system, you may have heard criticisms about it being too ‘boxy’ and possibly restraining in some regard.

The truth is, there are issues and limitations to every system of fretboard organization.

I can promise you however, if you thoroughly and methodically master the CAGED system, you won’t become restrained. In fact, you will transcend limitations. You will feel completely at home in any area of the fretboard, and have the ability to play outside the shapes you began with. This is because the shapes are seamlessly connected and encompass the entire fretboard!

Virtually everyone will develop personal adjustments to any system but, this is an ideal place to start. The CAGED scale systems also makes navigating ii-V-I progressions highly intuitive.

 

Putting it all together…

There are 5 forms to the CAGED scale system, which all seamlessly connect in the order of the abbreviation C-A-G-E-D. Depending on what key you begin in, the form closest to the top of the neck could be either:

  • C, A, G, E or D.

The forms that would follow in each possible case:

  • C-A-G-E-D
  • A-G-E-D-C
  • G-E-D-C-A
  • E-D-C-A-G
  • D-C-A-G-E

The CAGED system is basically a cycle of 5 forms that would repeat endlessly if the guitar had an infinite octave range!

Within each form, we will cover 5 key elements:

  • The major scale
  • The major 7th arpeggio and chord (Imaj7)
  • The minor 7th arpeggio and chord (ii7)
  • The dominant 7th arpeggio and chord (V7)
  • The minor 7b5 arpeggio and chord (viiø7 in major, iiø7 in minor mode)

The first form we will analyze will be the A-form. In the key of C the A-form is the closest form to the top of the neck of the guitar (without using open strings).

Jump to each of the 5 forms with the links below, or simply scroll down the page.

After playing through and absorbing this material. Make sure to take a look at the CAGED II – V – I Primer, which includes a set of lessons on how to start improvising with CAGED system in a jazz context.

*The arpeggios indicate the root note with the red number.

**The red numbers on the superimposition chart are simply for showing the superimposition of the arpeggio over the scale form.

More on the CAGED system:

CAGED Scales and Modes
CAGED Arpeggios and Chords
CAGED II – V – I Primer

 


 

 A-Form of C Major

C Major scale

A form CAGED major scale

 
 

 

A-form C major 7th Arpeggio and Chord (Imaj7) 

A-form D minor 7th Arpeggio and Chord (IImin7) 

A-form G dominant 7th Arpeggio and Chord (V7) 

A-form B minor 7b5 Arpeggio and Chord

 

The figures (and links to figures) above show how the A-form minor 7th (ii7) chord and arpeggio fit over the A-form C major scale. They also show the same relationship between the A-form dominant 7th (V7) and the A-form of the C-major scale.

The following examples display the same relationships to their respective forms.

To learn more about arpeggios within the context of the CAGED system, take a look at the CAGED Arpeggios section of the Guitar Resources.

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G-Form of C Major

C Major scale

gformoverviewmajorscale

 
 

 

G-form C major 7th Arpeggio and Chord (Imaj7) 

G-form D minor 7th Arpeggio and Chord (IImin7) 

G-form G dominant 7th Arpeggio and Chord (V7) 

G-form B minor 7b5 Arpeggio and Chord


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E-Form of C Major

C Major scale

eformoverviewmajorscale copy

 
 

 

E-form C major 7th Arpeggio and Chord (Imaj7) 

E-form D minor 7th Arpeggio and Chord (IImin7) 

E-form G dominant 7th Arpeggio and Chord (V7) 

E-form B minor 7b5 Arpeggio and Chord 


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 D-Form of C Major

C Major scale

dformoverviewmajorscale

 
 

 

 D-form C major 7th Arpeggio and Chord (Imaj7) 

D-form D minor 7th Arpeggio and Chord (IImin7) 

D-form G dominant 7th Arpeggio and Chord (V7) 

D-form B minor 7b5 Arpeggio and Chord


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 C-Form of C Major

NOTE: Be sure to play this shape in open position as well. The reason this form is included an octave higher is so that you can see the overall shape better. This position also fits perfectly into open-postion. Make sure to work on it in both areas!

C Major scale

cformoverviewmajorscale

 
 

 

C-form C major 7th Arpeggio and Chord (Imaj7) 

C-form D minor 7th Arpeggio and Chord (IImin7) 

C-form G dominant 7th Arpeggio and Chord (V7)

C-form B minor 7b5 Arpeggio and Chord

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